Ohio isn’t just a battle ground for President Obama, it’s ground zero for public education and our teachers.

Look at this mess in Ohio, all brought about by Michelle Rhee and her relentless demonizing  of teachers and bastardizing of teacher evaluation systems.

Michelle Rhee is the national education reformer most well-known for her cross-country tour promoting the anti-public education film “Waiting for Superman”, including an appearance at a screening with Ohio’s own John Kasich.  Prior to that, Rhee spent a couple of years at the head of the D.C. Public Schools, a couple of years promoting Teach for America, and she even spent a few years as a classroom teacher (TFA corps member).

These days, Rhee is the head of Students First, a non-profit organization that purports to promote public schools, but in truth only serves to promote charter schools, parent choice, and the dismantling of teacher involvement in the creation of employment contracts.  Strangely, Rhee is still a media darling and has even appeared on morning talk shows representing herself as . . . a Democrat.  Rhee’s political viewpoint and the work of Students First most assuredly do not represent the progressive educational perspective, but many media outlets still take Rhee at her word when she claims to be . . . a Democrat.

Now, here in Ohio, Michelle Rhee’s true colors simply cannot be ignored.  Rhee has chosen to fund multiple candidates in Ohio who are running for the Ohio House this year, citing their individual votes to support the Kasich budget that cut public education funding by $1.8 billion as a reason for Students First’s support.  Let me restate that: Students First supports these candidates because they supported Kasich’s budget that cut $1.8 billion from school funding.

Read the Whole sordid mess here:PlunderBund (http://s.tt/1rpCF)

Fordham Institute rates the DSEA 19/51 for strength of union. #netDE

News Journal Ed Board offers a facile and ignorant basis for supporting @GovernorMarkell for re-election

From today’s News Journal: http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20121031/OPINION11/310310013/Delawareans-should-re-elect-Markell-Denn?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Opinion|p


Gov. Markell also has taken on educational reform. Under him, Delaware was a big winner in the federal Race to the Top money. The administration instituted a new student assessment system and an evaluation program for teachers.

Will they work? His opponents say all he has done is create a bigger bureaucracy and a complicated system that is choking education in the state. But Gov. Markell didn’t make the Race to the Top rules and the student assessment system is a great improvement over what went before it. In addition, the administration managed to develop a teacher evaluation system with the help of the teachers union. That is something other states have failed miserably at.School improvements need time to develop.

Here’s the problem with their analysis: Race to the Top is a prescriptive, VOLUNTARY, federal competition. Saying that he didn’t make the rules is an answer to a question not asked. The correct question for Ed Board’s with intellectual curiosity would be “Why did we apply/should we have applied?” No doubt that News Journal would answer yes to those two questions given their amazing conclusion that “School improvements need time to develop” when no other sincere effort since 1983 has been given time. Truly amazing ignorance going on right there.  So the choking and the evaluation of success based on tests move on, damn the consequences, with the News Journal’s ignorant blessing. I hope you enjoy your future job applicants, here’s a preview:


Jack Markell has done some very good things for Delaware and has championed citizens with disabilities and he has supported progressive reforms in state hiring and discrimination. He’ll be re-elected easily. Preferably he could win his lame duck term without the News Journal Editorial Board’s blathering ignorance.

Originally posted on Change the Stakes:

The New York State Education Department has assigned 169 NYC schools to give “field tests” between October 23rd and 25th (for the list of schools, see Attention Parents – Get Ready for Another Surprise: More Tests in October.  Testing companies use these exams to try out questions for future tests, such as the ELA and math exams that will be given in April.

This will be the third time this year that our children have been subjected to experimental testing solely for the benefit of the state’s test development contractor, NCS Pearson, Inc., with out parent’s consent.

Field tests are not mandatory for children. They have no consequences for your child’s grades or placement. If your child does not take the test, s/he will not be asked to take a make-up exam.
If you share these concerns, please download the FAQs and Letters below and join with other…

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California Super gets it on RTTT. #netDE

From The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post:

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman has lauded Race to the Top as one of President Obama’s two most innovative domestic initiatives. As superintendent of California’s 12th largest public school district, I must respectfully disagree. I would argue that Race to the Top is hardly innovative – government using “carrot and stick” incentives to spur change is a centuries-old concept.  In fact, I would go a step further: Race to the Top’s heavy-handed, top-down mandates create division and derision within the public education community at precisely a time all sides should be coming together.

 No one would argue with Mr. Friedman’s assertion that “the only high-wage jobs, whether in manufacturing or services, will be high-skilled ones, requiring more and better education.” The need to prepare our children for college and 21st century careers should be our country’s top priority. Local school districts, states and the federal government should be working together to meet this goal. Instead, Race to the Top is dividing what should be a united front into “winners” and “losers.”

 On a local level, Race to the Top, while well intentioned, throws education stakeholders into enemy camps by prescribing the kind of evaluative system for teachers that must be put in place for a state to receive badly needed federal dollars. I am in favor of creating robust accountability models for teachers. I also back using accountability systems that create a culture of development and improvement…

For Secretary Duncan or the President to claim that Race to the Top has been a success because we have seen as much reform from those “who did not get a nickel as those got $100 million” ignores the needs of districts that cannot or will not run this race. Major urban school districts in California, a state where one out of eight American public school children live, have been utterly abandoned by this system of “winners” and “losers.” “Winners,” by the way, like Chicago. Would Mr. Duncan count the chaos in Chicago last month as a success? True, teacher evaluations there will change. But at what cost? How long will it take the wounds to heal? How can provoking a bitter battle among people who have to work together be looked at as anything other than negative?

 Race to the Top’s zealous and prescriptive focus on accountability, human capital and technology at the expense of capacity building, collaboration, teaching practice and social capital is like the game we sometimes see children play on a school yard. They stand in a circle and place their hands on top of each other, with the hand on the top eventually getting pushed down to the bottom. It’s a futile exercise. Being married to a former public school teacher, Mr. Friedman should know better.

 Jonathan Raymond


Sacramento City Unified School District

If only Delaware had leaders in Dover save for a few, bright progressives in Leg Hall that understood what this Superintendent clearly does. If only.

The Presidential Debate they do not want you to have or see. #netDE

Originally posted on The World of Special Olympics:

The following is a guest post in the form of an open letter from Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens to Ann Coulter after this tweet during last night’s Presidential debate.

Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow.  So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow.  I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you.  In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child…

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Move Chicago’s Schools forward.

Originally posted on Middle Grades Mastery:

One of the most important things about teaching middle school students is making sure they can use background knowledge and skills, along with the new knowledge they discover, to find patterns and make logical connections.  The best part of teaching is watching students reach those “A-HA” moments and create original thoughts and ideas.  It’s a practice that everyone should practice every day, everywhere.  Without evidence and sources, though, it’s just a conspiracy theory.  So, I will add those in a new “Resources” page over the next several days.

So here’s one.  While researching the issues with which I plan to approach educational leadership in the next few weeks, I saw a connection.  I’m sure there are people out there who research this stuff and make these connections all the time; I need to find their circles of influence and join them to learn more.  However, in my circles, the arguments…

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John Young:

this is what out policies have wrought. How terrible.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

A letter from a disgusted teacher:


Kris L. Nielsen
Monroe, NC 28110

Union County Public Schools
Human Resources Department
400 North Church Street
Monroe, NC 28112

October 25, 2012

To All it May Concern:

I’m doing something I thought I would never do—something that will make me a statistic and a caricature of the times. Some will support me, some will shake their heads and smirk condescendingly—and others will try to convince me that I’m part of the problem. Perhaps they’re right, but I don’t think so. All I know is that I’ve hit a wall, and in order to preserve my sanity, my family, and the forward movement of our lives, I have no other choice.

Before I go too much into my choice, I must say that I have the advantages and disadvantages of differentiated experience under my belt. I have seen the other side, where…

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Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Jersey Jazzman notes that several districts in New Jersey–all populated by black and Hispanic citizens–have been under state control for years.

The state has no intention of letting them have self-rule.

In many districts, especially where the population is non-white, privatizers insist on mayoral control or state control.

There is no evidence that taking away popular rule improves the schools.

It does make it easier, however, to privatize them.


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Hurricane Sandy track update. #netDE

Originally posted on the seventh type:

The new admission applications for Newark Charter School are out, with one troubling feature removed and new ones added instead.

Can you find your utility bills?
The previous requirement that you authorize NCS to rummage through your school records pre-lottery is fortunately gone. But now you have to include a current utility bill with your application to prove your address, or the application is rejected with no recourse.

So if you are planning to apply to Newark Charter, hang on to those utility bills. If for some reason you don’t get the utility bill directly, better go ask the person who does get it. And if you are on paperless billing like me, I guess you can just print out your statements from the web.

But most concerning is the possibility that families are living in some situation where they don’t receive utility bills directly, and don’t fit the white-picket-fence…

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Dear Delaware DOE, show us the peer reviewed research you assert in this press release. #netDE @GovernorMarkell

From the DEDOE:

28 top educators earn $10,000 incentives to continue driving student achievement in state’s highest-need schools

The Delaware Department of Education has named 28 educators who each have earned formal recognition and a $10,000 “retention incentive” as part of the first cohort of the state’s Talent Retention initiative. The initiative, part of the state’s top-ranked federal Race to the Top (RTTT) grant, recognizes some of Delaware’s highest-performing educators in some of the state’s highest-need schools. 

The financial award of $10,000 under year 1 of this initiative is a “retention incentive,” which recognizes the need for the educators’ contributions to continue in their schools and provides an incentive for at least two additional years (inclusive of the 2012-2013 school year). The award is distributed in two equal amounts in the fall of 2012 and the fall of 2013.

“These are teachers and school leaders who are driving improved student learning outcomes, often in the face of immense challenges,” Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said. “They are often working in environments with students entering their classrooms years behind their peers. Because of their dedication, mindset, hard work and talents, our children are succeeding.

“We are always thankful to have outstanding educators working here in Delaware and even more grateful that this first cohort has committed to continue working in their schools for at least two more years,” Murphy said. “Great learning happens because of great teaching. These educators are committed to ensuring every child in Delaware has that opportunity.”

In the first round of this initiative, the Delaware Department of Education, in collaboration with participating schools and districts, identified select top-performing principals, assistant principals, math teachers and English Language Arts (ELA) teachers in grades 3-10 based upon their student achievement results and their commitment to the state’s highest-need schools. The overall goal of the program is to recognize and retain educators as they continue to drive student achievement in their classrooms and school communities.

Initially 30 high-need schools were invited to participate in the initiative.

Six schools are represented among the 24 teachers and four school leaders who will be recognized this round: Capital School District’s Dover High School; Laurel School District’s Laurel Middle School; and four charter schools: Kuumba Academy, Academy of Dover, Prestige and East Side Charter. The state is working to identify the set of schools that will be invited to participate in the second year of the initiative as it expands to include additional grades, subject areas, program features and educator responsibilities.

The 24 classroom-based educators qualified in part because they earned an “exceeds” rating on the student growth component of the state’s educator evaluation system (DPAS-II) as well as strong marks in their evaluations.  Thus, their strength in planning and preparation, building a positive classroom environment, cohesive and rigorous instruction and overall professionalism combined with their student achievement results, all of which are required for program eligibility.  School leaders were selected based upon building-wide student achievement results.

As part of this initiative, DDOE will maintain communication with the selected educators as they mentor colleagues, serve on a program evaluation focus group and have their exemplary classroom instruction videotaped or cataloged for sharing with colleagues.  As the initiative evolves, these educational leaders will be invaluable resources for other educators who are teaching, or seeking to teach, in our highest-need schools.

The initiative is based on research that shows financial incentives are effective at increasing the retention of high-performing educators in high-need schools, which in turn is important for raising school-wide student achievement. The initiative complements the state’s Reward and Recognition school efforts, which provide school-wide financial awards (which also can be used for incentives) to top-performing schools. Seventeen schools received those awards earlier this month; two others were recognized for their Continued Excellence. Read more here.

Secretary Mark Murphy will meet with the members of the cohort at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29th for a roundtable conversation to discuss their strategies for success and answer questions about the program. Members of the media are invited to attend. Please RSVP to public information officer Alison Kepner at akepner@doe.k12.de.us for more details.

I sure hope the media who attend will ask critical questions like “how can you possibly call this an incentive when given after the performance? and What research proves your assertion that this program is actually rewarding achievement vs. test score improvement (2 different things)?”

My guess, no.

Another DOE press release intent on duping DE parents with lies and misdirection about how they are spending our tax dollars. Awful, but then what can you expect from a Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit (click here to see their ad for a thought partner in plotting the deployment of our human capital (odious term))that is drowning itself in Kool-Aid and clearly pushing a radicalized TFA agenda for solving inner city teaching problems? Not much I see.

Uh oh, where’s Delaware? #Sandy #Frankenstorm #netDE

Unsurpisingly, News Journal Editorial Board politicizes teacher of the year. #netDE

Rather than simply congratulate Delaware’s amazing Teacher of the Year, the News Journal Editorial Board wants to tell you, the reader, arrogantly, what you must not miss:

Pay close attention to one of the first comments John Sell made Wednesday after being named the state’s 2013 Teacher of the Year.The Sussex Technical High School English teacher said collaborative meeting time lets him borrow great ideas of other educators. The willingness to learn from colleagues is a quintessential asset of an effective educator. And it is particularly critical in this moment of global academic competitiveness. That’s why Delaware is vesting much in Professional Learning Communities, which require teachers to meet for 90 minutes a week in a joint planning time, with data coaches helping to spot student learning trends. Such PLCs polled high also among educators at last week’s Rodale Foundation’s annual Vision 2015 Education Conference.

I’ve never met Mr. Sell, but selling out his excellent track record and fantastic results, so you can pander to the ed reform acolytes and kiss the ring of Governor Markell and the ideology of RTTT is not only sadly transparent, it is insulting to Mr. Sell.
PLCs didn’t make him the best. He did. And you know it.

Shame on the News Journal Editorial Board for using anecdotes to support state policy (though I must confess, it’s just what you only seem able to do) . Clearly shame is something you clearly are incapable of feeling or understanding.

Maybe this is how it should read/lede.

Mr. Sell, thank you for being a selfless, dedicated educator and technician of the English language. What you teach has profound meaning and impact on your students and we here in Delaware are all very proud of you.

How hard was that?

PS- It’s Rodel, not Rodale

Originally posted on Reconsidering TFA:

In a previous post, I shared the story of how Ninth Circuit reaffirmed the ruling that trainee teachers, including TFA, are not intended as “Highly Qualified” under NCLB.  And, how congress had effectively granted a temporary waiver.  Now, Congress is looking to extend this to allow teachers in training to continue to be considered “highly qualified” beyond 2013.  In a powerful article on Huffington Post, attorney John Affeldt forcefully argues that Teachers-in-Training Should Not Be Designated ‘Highly Qualified’.   He cites compelling research to back up the common sense notion “that teachers-in-training aren’t as effective as those who have graduated from training programs.”  And, to those who say “that measuring teacher effectiveness should replace the effort to ensure an entry-level standard of quality for all beginning teachers.” his succinct, but powerful answer is:  “We need both”.   “The theory that we can remove teachers from the classroom once they have proven…

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Originally posted on Reconsidering TFA:

Two recent articles investigate how TFA became such a powerful organization.  The first comes from Alex Russo entitled Left Out of No Child Left Behind:  Teach for America’s Outsized Influence on Alternative Certification, which looks at how TFA became a much more politically savvy organization over the last twenty years.  A big part of this is how it is training the next generation of education leaders.  Hence, we see numerous examples of TFA alum with all of 2 or 4 years experience teaching, moving into high ranking education leadership or political positions (see for example, Cuomo Appoints TFA-er as Deputy Secretary of Education).  Jersey Jazzman points out the absurdity of this at TFA Is a POLITICAL Organization.The second article How Teach For America became powerful is actually an excerpt from a book “Excellence For All: How a New Breed of Reformers Is Transforming America’s Public Schools” by…

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Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

EduShyster is worried that Democrats for Education Reform might lose a friend in the White House if Romney wins.

After all, they are Democrats, right?

But it turns out that Ann Romney has a passion for both horses and charter schools, so DFER and SFER and all the other little -FERs should be OK.

At the end of this item, EduShyster invites readers: After what education reformer should Ann Romney name her next horse?

I don’t think there is a prize attached to the winning entry, but since we don’t work for bonuses, give serious thought to nominating your favorite reformer.

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Politicians’ main disease: Believeing one’s own BS. #netDE

There is no good place to start. So first, the awful ad:

This is tragic stuff. I mean really bad.

We can compete with the rest of the world BECAUSE we won Race to the Top? Come on Governor! That’s a load, even for you.

Whoring Children in a political ad for education initiatives is as old as political ads are, but this is pure cheese Governor.

If it has fixed us up as you allege, then why do you have to tell the viewer what it is?

This was particularly interesting to me, seeing it today, having had a curious conversation about DCAS score manipulation in the face of your re-election and DOE surrogates scurrying at some pretty insightful suggestions. Yeah, yeah, PLCs were just a bump, but just you wait and see about the DPASS-II, it’s blowing up in slow motion, full effect, right now. Won’t make headlines by the election, but it is coming. Oh, it’s coming. Keep listening to those that stroke your confirmation bias, please.

This ad is just tragic: self aggrandizing, disrespectful to those doing the work (nothing new there though), and worst of all has post production values worthy of an amateur theater troupe. I would have figured that after all your MSNBC, CNBC, and CNN visits you would have a slicker ad.

Lastly, thanks for the “moving forward” OFA presidential ass-kiss at the end. Classy.