Hartford Courant – Is Pelto A Spoiler In Race For Governor?


From the Hartford Courant comes their latest – a clear-cut, concise and to-the-point editorial;

Is Pelto A Spoiler In Race For Governor?

Former state representative and political consultant Jonathan Pelto has been a burr under the saddle of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ever since the first Democratic governor in 20 years took office in 2011.

The governor’s loudest, most relentless critic on the left could cause Mr. Malloy even more misery if Mr. Pelto’s petition drive to get on the ballot as a third-party candidate for governor succeeds. Mr. Pelto claimed last week that he and Education and Democracy Party running mate Ebony Murphy have already collected the required 7,500 signatures they need by Aug. 6 and “will be on the ballot.”

If that happens, many Democrats fear Mr. Pelto will be a potential “spoiler,” that he could throw the gubernatorial election to the Republicans in a close race by siphoning off votes from disenchanted schoolteachers and state workers that otherwise might grudgingly go to Mr. Malloy.

But isn’t that scenario really about giving voters more choices? You don’t have to approve of Mr. Pelto’s independent sally or agree with his positions to admit he’s using the rules as they exist. The barriers to mounting a third-party or independent candidacy shouldn’t be raised too high.

Such candidacies can give a cathartic option to voters dissatisfied with nominees produced by the two major parties — as Ross Perot’s surprising presidential candidacy did in 1992, or the choice that Rep. John B. Anderson of Illinois gave some 5 million 1980 voters unhappy with the fecklessness of Democratic President Jimmy Carter or the polarizing campaign of conservative Republican Ronald Reagan.

Instead of demeaning so-called spoilers, supporters of the major party nominees should help their own favorites make the most persuasive case.

And here is what Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading voice for public education said about the Hartford Courant editorial

It is funny to see the big-money corporate types behind Governor Dan Malloy criticizing Jonathan Pelto as a “spoiler.” These are the same people who love school choice. The just don’t like voter choice.

The Hartford Courant says quite rightly that Pelto is playing by the rules.

This is democracy, Governor Malloy and friends.

Jon Pelto is standing up for teachers and parents and everyone else who is not in the 1%.

Good for him!

You can find the complete editorial at:  http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-pelto-is-no-spoiler-20140707,0,1798206.story

And Diane Ravitch’s blog post can be found here: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/07/hartford-courant-pelto-is-no-spoiler/

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Is the Charter Movement Imploding? (by Diane Ravitch)


Using Connecticut as an example and featuring a recent Hartford Courant column written by Colin McEnroe, Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate, has entitled her latest blog Is the Charter Movement Imploding?

Ravitch writes,

In state after state, charter schools are proving that it is downright risky to turn public money over to deregulated corporations and unqualified individuals to run schools. The Detroit Free Press series on the scams, frauds, and corruption in many Michigan charters was an eye-opener for all those who are not part of the charter movement. The exposé of similar frauds in Florida by the League of Women Voters in Florida was enlightening to anyone other than free market ideologues. The same level of corruption–actually, even worse–exists in Ohio’s charter sector, where a small number of charter founders have become multi-millionaires, run low-performing schools, and are never held accountable.

One of the most colorful charter scandals occurred when a Cleveland charter operator was tried for funneling over $1million to his church and other businesses. The charter founder was a pastor, not an educator. His attorney said ““his client had good intentions when opening the school on East 55th Street but then got greedy when he saw easy opportunities to make money….”

The leader of California’s most celebrated charter school, with outstanding test scores, stepped down when an audit revealed that nearly $4 million had been diverted to his other businesses.

In Arizona, the Arizona Republic exposed charters that were family businesses, giving contracts to family members and board members.

In Chicago, the head of the city’s largest charter chain resigned after the media reported large contracts given to family members of school leaders and other conflicts of interest and misuse of public funds.

Last week, one of Connecticut’s most celebrated charter organizations was at the center of the latest scandal. Its CEO was revealed to have a criminal past and a falsified résumé. Two top executives immediately resigned, and legislators and journalists began to ask questions. No background checks? Accountability? Transparency?

Colin McEnroe wrote in the Hartford Courant’s blog that hustlers were cashing in on the charter school craze. Not just in Connecticut, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, California, Ohio, Arizona, on and on.

McEnroe wrote:

“The message is always the same: The essential concept behind the charter school movement is that, freed from the three Rs — restraints, rules and regulations — these schools could innovate and get the kinds of results that calcified, logy public schools could only dream about. And they do … sometimes.

“But handing out uncountable millions to operators who would be given a free hand was also like putting a big sign out by the highway that says “Welcome Charlatans, Grifters, Credential-Fakers, Cherry-Pickers, Stat-Jukers, Cult of Personality Freaks and People Who Have No Business Running a Dairy Queen, Much Less a School.” And they’ve all showed up. This is the Promised Land: lots of cash and a mission statement that implicitly rejects the notion of oversight…..

“What else goes with those big bubbling pots of money? A new layer of lobbyists and donation-bundlers. The Free Press documented the way a lawmaker who dared to make a peep of protest against charter schools getting whatever they want suddenly found himself in a race against a challenger heavily funded by the Great Lakes Education Project, the “powerhouse lobby” of the Michigan charter movement. Jon Lender of The Courant recently showed how one family of charter school advocates had crammed $90,000 into Connecticut Democratic Party coffers.”

If there were more investigations, more charter scandals would be disclosed.

When will public officials call a halt to the scams, conflicts of interest, self-dealing, nepotism, and corruption?

There is one defensible role for charter schools and that is to do what public schools can’t do. There is no reason to create a dual school system, with one free to choose its students and to cherry pick the best students, while the other must take all students. There is no reason to give charters to non-educators. There is no reason to allow charter operators to pocket taxpayer dollars for their own enrichment while refusing to be fully accountable for how public money is spent. Where public money goes, public accountability must follow.

You can read Colin McEnroe complete commentary piece at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-80715880/

Diane Ravtich’s blog is at: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/05/is-the-charter-movement-imploding/

Madison Public School Superintendent Thomas Scarice makes national waves – again.


Thomas Scarice, the superintendent of Madison Public Schools in Connecticut, has been identified as a “Public Education Hero” by Diane Ravitch, the nations’leading public education advocate.  Scarice has been a leading Connecticut voice against “high-stakes test-based school reform.”

A few months ago, Thomas Scarice received national attention for a letter he sent to Connecticut State Legislators explaining why these “reforms will not result in improved conditions since they are not grounded in research.”

His latest commentary piece, “The greatest ‘crime’ committed against the teaching profession” was featured on Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post’s education blog this week.

Thomas Scarice writes,

On May 25th, 2006, former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were found guilty of fraud and conspiracy in perhaps the most high profile scandal of corruption as a consequence of high stakes measures.  Lay and Skilling fraudulently inflated the company’s stock price to meet the high stakes demands of Wall Street’s expectations.  Not only did Lay and Skilling conspire to inflate stock prices, but they also distorted standard accounting practices to solely meet targets.  The seeds of high stakes schemes yield corruption and distortion.

The Enron case does not stand alone in the history of corruption and distortion amidst high stakes indicators, such as stock prices.  As academic scholars Dr. David Berliner and Dr. Sharon Nichols demonstrate in their work, the annals of corporate history are tattered with similar cases of corruption and distortion driven by high stakes pressures.  High stakes accountability and incentive system failures, as well as blatant fraud, at Dun and Bradstreet, Qwest, the Heinz Company, and Sears auto repair shops, illustrate that such schemes inevitably bring unintended consequences.  As people, we are free to choose our actions, but we are not free to choose the intended or unintended consequences of such actions.  As author Steven Covey has written, “When you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other end.”

The ubiquity of this principle is evident in the fields of medicine, athletics, higher education, and politics.  Quite simply, as the stakes rise, so do the occurrences of corruption and distortion.  Sadly, education is not immune to this principle.  Over a decade of high stakes accountability schemes thrust upon students, teachers, and schools have yielded sordid tales of outright corruption and cheating scandals.  Although such acts of indignity garner ornate headlines and self-righteous accusations about the lack of moral character, to which there is truth, given the inescapable unintended consequences of high stakes schemes, such corrupt behaviors and distortions of a given professional practice are inevitable and of no surprise.  Yet, we march on in the high stakes test-based accountability era with the high probability that posterity will ask an indicting question of how a generation of educators could commit such offenses when they knew better.

Beneath the surface of these obvious problems lies a more insidious threat to the quality of public education for all children.  This threat begins with the redefinition of a quality education and ends with a decimating blow to the professional practice of education.  While frivolous topics related to the common core are debated in the open arena, e.g. whether or not the common core is a curriculum, a redefinition of quality education has destructively taken root.  This redefinition, one that feebly defines quality education as good high stakes test scores, and quality teaching as the efforts to produce good high stakes test scores, leaves well-intended educators consequentially conflating goals with measures.  Without question, measures, qualitative and quantitative, representing a variety of indicators that mark the values of an organization, are necessary fuel for the engine of continuous improvement.  High quality tests, specifically used for the purposes for which they were designed, can and should play a productive role in this process.  But, measures are not goals.  Regrettably, just as Lay and Skilling did in bringing a multibillion dollar corporation to its knees, in this era, the shallowest of thinkers have passively accepted the paradigm that measures are goals.

And finally, we are left with the greatest crime committed against the professional practice of education as a result of the corrosive effect of the high stakes testing era.  In an effort to thrive, and perhaps, just to survive, in a redefined world of quality education, a soft, though sometimes harsh, distortion of pedagogy, has perniciously spread to classrooms, just as the Enron executives distorted sound accounting practices to meet high stakes targets.  This will indeed be our greatest regret.

Corruption and distortion as a result of high stakes schemes sealed the fate of Enron and many other organizations like it.  History will tell the story about the future of the high stakes test-based accountability era and its unintended consequences.  And again, we march on in this era with the high probability that posterity will ask an indicting question of how a generation of educators could commit such offenses when they knew better.

You can read the piece on-line at the Washington Post by going to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/06/20/superintendent-the-greatest-crime-committed-against-the-teaching-profession/

Ravitch on Pelto:  “Hope every governor who abandons public education faces a similar challenge”


The nation’s leading pro-public education advocate has used her blog to tell her 80,000 readers about our work here in Connecticut.

Diane Ravitch’s latest piece is entitled, “Jonathan Pelto Mulls Third Party Challenge to Governor Malloy in Connecticut.”

Diane Ravitch writes,

Jonathan Pelto, ex-state legislator and prolific blogger, is deciding whether to mount a challenge to Governor Dannel Malloy, based in large part on Malloy’s embrace of the agenda of the privatization movement in Connecticut.

Pelto here describes reactions from friends and foes. 

In my view, this would be an honorable challenge.

Teachers and parents should not vote for a governor–whether it is Malloy or Cuomo–who consistently sides with the billionaires who seek to undermine public education.

Most children in both states attend public schools. Those schools need to be improved and supported, not placed in competition with charter schools that are free to choose students they want and free to push out those they don’t want.

I wish Jon Pelto well and hope that every governor who abandons public education faces a similar challenge.

Needless to say I am honored by her good wishes.

Stay tuned.

News about how to donate to the exploratory campaign effort will be available later today.

How to access and/or help collect petition signatures see we can get on the November 2014 ballot for governor will be posted within the next 72 hours.

Diane Ravitch on Bill Moyers Show


As Diane Ravitch explains on her blog,

“Bill Moyers is one of my heroes. He is one of the few people in the media who is as concerned about the privatization and monetization of the public sector as I am. He has a long memory, and he has not forgotten that a good society needs both a strong public sector and a strong private sector. Nor has he forgotten that the real civil rights movement was about tearing down the walls of a segregated society and creating equal opportunity for all, not the current effort on the part of billionaires to promote school choice and decimate public education.”

Here is the full interview as it aired on PBS. 

Or by clicking here: http://billmoyers.com/episode/public-schools-for-sale/#disqus_thread


Diane Ravitch Speech at the Network of Public Education Conference

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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/

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.

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