“I was just there to be there.”

As I have many times since last January, I am compelled to write about the Secretary of Education as she has once again drawn negative attention to herself. Following are two recent events where Betsy DeVos showed who she really is.

Last week she spoke of how the structure of public school classrooms hasn’t changed since the industrial age. In her words, “Students lined up in rows. A teacher in front of a blackboard. Sit down; don’t talk; eyes up front. Wait for the bell. Walk to the next class,” she tweeted. “Everything about our lives has moved beyond the industrial era. But American education largely hasn’t” (The Hill). To drive her point she included a stock photo of a current classroom.

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Teachers were quick to fire back.

“Don’t you know that stock photos aren’t real? How many classrooms have you visited in the past year? Classrooms don’t look like that anymore. Students don’t work like that anymore,”

“Rows and lectures are NOT the norm in public school,”

“It doesn’t look familiar at all. Have YOU even looked in a public school classroom in the last 10 years?”

“Come visit our school and classroom! We spend 75% of our day in small-groups, independent reading, researching our interests, learning about the world, and engaged in play. We love learning in hands-on ways and would welcome you any day!”

“How many classrooms have you visited in the past year? Classrooms don’t look like that anymore. Students don’t work like that anymore. I would think that as Sec of Edu you would be celebrating us, not putting us down(The Hill)

Most teachers criticized DeVos for not having visited public school classrooms. If she had, she would see the reality is largely contradictory to her stock photo analogy. One would think the Secretary of Education would support and advocate for the roughly 3 million public school teachers in the US , rather than demean and devalue them.

Last Wednesday the Secretary visited Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland, FL and students were not pleased. DeVos met with a few students, “and gave “BS answers” to their questions about what she plans to do to address gun violence (Huffington Post).  A small group of student journalists grew increasingly frustrated as the Secretary dodged their questions (Time).

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According to Alyson Sheehy, “It was a publicity stunt, really. There was no point to it,” Sheehy said DeVos didn’t meet specifically with any students. “She was kind of just walking around the school and not talking to anybody,” the high school senior said (Huffington Post).

When a student asked DeVos how she plans to stop school shootings, DeVos showed reluctance. “She kind of gave us simple answers and didn’t really answer the questions we asked,” Sheehy said. When the students pressed her for an answer, DeVos told them officials were “working really hard on things” and that she didn’t “think this is the time to really ask those types of questions” (Time).

During the press coverage, she defended Trump’s call to arm teachers, but quickly walked away from the podium when asked about it (New York Daily News)‘I think to say ‘arming teachers’ is oversimplification and a mischaracterization really,’ DeVos said later.  She continued, ‘I think that the concept is to, for those schools and those communities that opt to do this … to have people who are expert in being able to defend and having lots and lots of training to do so” (CNN).

At the end of her press coverage, she called for elevating ideas that are ‘done well.’

‘Like what?’ asked a reporter. ‘Any specific things?’ asked another.

‘Thank you, press,’ said an aide off camera, as DeVos walked away. ‘Five questions, that’s it?’ said a reporter as she avoided a follow-up about arming teachers (Daily Mail).

If DeVos’ plan was the connect with students at MSD High School, she did not do a very good job. She met with only a few students, did not answer their questions, and walked out of the press conference without addressing any specific concerns. As Kyra Parrow said,“She wasn’t informative or helpful at all. It’s nice that she came to give us condolences, but we are so done with thoughts and prayers. We want action… She didn’t come to inform us or talk about how we are going to fix this issue; she just came to say that she came. That disappoints me.”

DeVos spoke with reporters following her visit, saying, “I was just there to be there, to be with them. I would love to come back sometime, in an appropriate amount of time, and just sit down and talk to them” (CNN).

Later the same day, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade made a surprise visit to the MSD, meeting with students and staff. Speaking to students, Wade said, “I just wanted to come and say I’m inspired by all of you…  As someone out here in the public eye, I’m proud to say I’m from this state because of you guys, because of the future of this world” (Huffington Post).

While I am encouraged by Wade’s thoughtful comments to students, I am appalled by DeVos’ lack of self-awareness.  If this was a publicity stunt, it wasn’t even done well.

“I was there to be there.”

That says it all.

***This blog was written prior to DeVos’ abysmal interview on 60 Minutes last Sunday night. I am compelled to respond, but I need to spend some time on it. Next week’s blog will be about DeVos’ interview with Lesley Stahl.

These are my reflections for today.


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Professional Identity

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Last week I attended the 70th annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE). This is the largest gathering of faculty and administrators from undergraduate and graduate programs, community colleges, and P-12 teachers. I gave a presentation with colleagues on the first day, spent the rest of the time networking with like-minded people, and hearing stories of what others are doing to strengthen teacher education, and better prepare students for the teaching profession. As Lynn Gangone, AACTE President said, “We are here to discuss ways to maintain teacher and students’ safety in the classroom, sustain public education and develop new and better pathways toward solutions.” 

The theme of the conference was “Celebrating Our Professional Identity: Shared Knowledge and Advocacy,” and in session after session this theme was reinforced. As I listened to Gangone give her opening remarks, I couldn’t decide if I was encouraged or disheartened. She spoke of many things teacher educators consider every day; social justice, diversity, professional development, community partnerships with P-12 schools and colleges of education. There was a panel discussion on teacher recruitment and retention which included a Q&A session with such questions as how do we recruit and retain people of color, specifically black and Latinx, to become teachers in high poverty areas? How do we strengthen partnerships with P-12 schools?

The conference concluded with a keynote address by Diane Ravitch. She spoke eloquently of Emma Gonzales – the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School student who has been so driven and determined, along with her classmates, to be the catalyst for changes in gun laws in this country. She said the voice of change is now in the hands of a younger generation, as historically it has been the younger generation who affected change in this country.

In the end, she encouraged the room full of educators and administrators to keep doing what we’re doing, and most importantly – VOTE.

Teacher educators incur a tremendous amount of pressure to teach our students. We train our candidates to be advocates for all students, recognize and embrace diversity, strive for social justice, create classroom environments free from bias, and all this is in addition to solid pedagogical practices, effective assessment strategies, management of classroom and student behaviors, and dealing with all the issues students bring with them to school.

That’s a lot to ask.

All this got me to wondering if people truly understand what it means to be a teacher educator. And in light of recent violent acts in schools, what it really means to be a teacher.  I don’t think so.

AACTE 2018 gathered us to collaborate and consider “ways to maintain teacher and students’ safety in the classroom, sustain public education and develop new and better pathways toward solutions.”

We’re going to be busy.

These are my reflections for today.



In this blog I write about the inequities of  public schools and how so many are underfunded, understaffed, and lacking technology and resources equal to suburban schools. Urban schools lack updated and complete series’ of textbooks, music programs, art programs, athletics, guidance counselors.  School buildings are dilapidated, with toxic water fountains, lead paint, asbestos, and no functioning heating or cooling systems in place. There is a lack of sustainability in teachers, principals and administrators; a revolving door of leadership.

Schools boards are being taken over by politicians and billionaire philanthropists who believe charters and vouchers are the answer. Yet, almost daily I read stories of the corruption in charters, and the inequity of vouchers. Even Pastor Charles Foster Johnson believes these are not viable options and do not support the separation of church and state.

I have written about how urban schools are more segregated now than they were 40 years ago. Efforts by Betsy DeVos are underway to privatize Puerto Rican public schools, similar to what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. That, too was a failure.

Teachers are unfairly scrutinized in the US; they are underpaid, overworked, pay for supplies and materials out of their own pocket, and expected to serve the academic, social, psychological needs of ALL students. “At the most dilapidated and underperforming schools, teachers are blamed for stagnant graduation rates, students are derided for low tests scores, and parents are chastised for not being involved (The Atlantic).  Teachers, parents, and children are blamed for the shortcomings of failed government policies, the absence of living wages, and access to affordable healthcare.

According to an analysis by the National Education Association (NEA), the current proposed education budget would, over the next 10 years, blow a $150 billion hole in state and local revenue earmarked for elementary and secondary schools, putting more than 130,000 education jobs at risk.California would lose more than $35 billion in funding, New York $31 billion. Individual schools will have to come up with millions of dollars to make up for the shortfalls; those in poorer districts will be hit the hardest, as they already receive insufficient funding to begin with (The Atlantic).

Many Republican governors have already slashed billions of dollars in public-school funding, often redirecting education funding toward programs like vouchers, although recent research suggests that vouchers may not have the unequivocally positive impact that its proponents espoused (The Atlantic).

Imagine if every single school in this country had every resource needed. Schools need books, special education teachers, counselors who can address growing mental health issues in children and teens, a visual and performing arts program, an after-school program, the ability to feed children who are hungry, and treat sick children who have no health insurance. Every child in America should grow up to believe he/she can go to college without incurring a lifetime of debt, go out and earn a living wage, contribute to our economy, and provide for family.

Imagine if the millions of dollars in donations from national organizations to influence presidential and congressional candidates was given to schools? Imagine if the government used federal funding to support equal educational opportunities…a free and appropriate public education.

As a nation, if we want to see changes in public education that will impact everyone, then arm teachers with what they really need; new schools, effective leadership, support services, resources, supplies, technology… everything they need to do their job effectively. Not guns.

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These are my reflections for today.


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Who is Charles Foster Johnson?

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Charles Foster Johnson is the pastor of the small, interracial Bread Fellowship  in Fort Worth, Texas. Much of his time is spent preaching behind the pulpit, but lately he has a different audience and a different message.

Johnson is also the executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, an independent ministry and outreach group of 2,000 pastors and church leaders across Texas. According to the website, the mission is:

To provide “wrap-around” care and ministry to local schools, principals, teachers, staff and schoolchildren, and to advocate for children by supporting our free, public education system, to promote social justice for children, and to advance legislation that enriches Texas children, families, and communities (Pastors for Texas Children).

Johnson and Pastors for Texas Children are leading what is now a nationwide charge against state legislators to stop the growth of vouchers and charters.

In a message to Texas legislators, Johnson said, “You have the right to home-school your children. You have the right to ‘private school’ your children. You don’t have the right to ask the people of Texas to pay for it…” “When you take public dollars through vouchers and charters that are connected to religious schools, you are violating the First Amendment. You are violating the religious liberty, a gift from God – James Madison didn’t make it up – that government should not be involved in religion” (Pastors for Texas Children).

Last week Johnson took his message to the state house in Indiana, where the voucher system is deeply embedded in the state’s public education system. Since 2011, more than $520 million has been dedicated to Choice Scholarships, which is the state voucher program. More than 90% of schools accepting vouchers in Indiana are faith based– primarily Catholic or Lutheran (Pastors for Texas Children).

Johnson’s platform is simple. He supports the separation of church and state. He advocates for supporting public schools, and teachers. He recognizes teachers for accepting ALL students. “Christians have an obligation to embrace public schools as a social good, especially for poor children”(Dallas News). 

Johnson haters are trying to destroy him and his message. It was reported in one Texas newspaper that Johnson “was kicked out of his denomination for his liberal views” and runs a “fake ‘pastor’ group” that’s a “radical leftist organization.”  Republican Rep. Jonathan Stickland wrote to Johnson on Twitter, “You don’t care one bit about children. You care only about $$$ and perpetuating a broken system. Fraud”  (Pastors for Texas Children).

Pastors for Texas Children support a simple model whereby members talk to ministers, youth ministers and children’s ministry leaders about the “moral message of public education for all children” and urge them to connect with their local schools as supporters and volunteers, but without proselytizing (Journal Gazette).

The group urges faith communities such as churches to adopt public schools. Many groups across Texas are providing food-filled backpacks, school supplies and clothing, school facility maintenance, tutoring, mentoring and after school programs (Dallas News). 

According to the US Census Bureau, in 2014, Texas ranked 43rd in per-student spending on public education, spending $8,593, about $3,000 below the national average.

In Waco public schools, more than 80% of students qualify for free or reduced lunches. As such, the district has come to rely on school-community partnerships like the ones Pastors for Texas Children facilitates.

While Johnson critics say he is a failed preacher, he insists he’s just going deeper into the socially provocative teachings of Jesus (Pastors for Texas Children). He advocates for public education and the separation of church and state. “Dozens of churches are involved in Waco schools, but they don’t preach or proselytize” (Reporting Texas).

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Dallas Morning News

Johnson said, “Legislators may not listen to the poor, but they sure listen to pastors” (Reporting Texas). His message is simple, and support for his message is growing exponentially.

These are my reflections for today.


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Charter Corruption Continues…

As much as it disgusts me to write about the constant stream of charter scandals, failures, and closures- it’s more important than ever to stay informed about what’s really happening.

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Goodyear, AZ  Daniel Hughes, the owner of the now shuttered Bradley Creemos Academy Charter School wrote to parents back in January to say there wasn’t enough funding to keep the school open. This after receiving $2 million from the state in taxpayer money.  Teachers and staff have accused Hughes of using state funds for his own personal gain.“There were things that were purchased on personal credit cards that school funds were used to pay off, the janitorial staff for the school was used to clean his personal residence, and the cooks from the school were used to cater and sponsor parties at his house, including his daughter’s first birthday party” (CBS).

In a 2014 IRS tax form, the school indicated Hughes’ salary as $60,736. In 2015 Hughes’ salary had increased to $100,000. Additionally, payments in 2015  of $949,000 were made to Hughes and to Creemos Association, which is a separate organization owned by Hughes.

The filing also showed hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursements to Hughes for “Purchases on behalf of the school,” “Reimbursements of amount due,” and “Purchases and payments on revolving agreement” (CBS).

The closure leaves more than 100 students searching for new schools, and teachers, janitors, teaching assistants and administrators looking for new jobs (ABC15).

New York City, NY Families for Excellent Schools, a once well-funded charter school in New York City announced last week it too is shutting the doors and firing Executive Director Jeremiah Kittredge after allegations of inappropriate behavior with a non-school employee. Politico reported that a woman who attended a conference with Mr. Kittredge in November had accused him of sexual harassment. Kitteridge was fired from another pro-charter school group, Democracy Builders, in 2011, according to multiple sources. The reasons are unclear. Kittredge is best known in New York for helping to arrange enormous pro-charter rallies in Albany.

Atlanta, GA  Chris Clemons, former principal of Latin Academy was ordered by an Atlanta judge to pay $810,000 in restitution, serve 10 years in prison and 10 years on probation. Clemons spent more than $500,000 on strip clubs and made numerous unaccounted cash withdrawals from the school account. “As part of his sentencing, Clemons cannot work with children, cannot work for any nonprofit or school district or have any direct or indirect contact with Atlanta Public Schools, Fulton County Schools, school boards, students and parents of the three schools affected (Fox5).

Eureka Township, MI  James Mata, a teacher at Flat River Academy was back in the classroom despite having been placed on administrative leave. Mata was formally charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and third-degree child abuse. This stems from an incident first reported in May 2017 and involved a 13 year old boy. Mata was placed on unpaid administrative leave and, according to the school, would remain on unpaid leave until the case was resolved in court The Daily News.

However, The Daily News  learned Mata was teaching again at the school.  A phone call to Interim Principal Joel Hilgendorf was not returned, nor has he responded to questions as to why Mata was allowed back in the classroom.

New Orleans, LA  Gregory Phillips, CEO of the James M. Singleton Charter School in New Orleans is stepping down after the state voided dozens of standardized tests at the school for suspected cheating and other testing irregularities. According to The Advocate, “The testing investigation was launched after the state Department of Education received a tip last summer that students had gotten copies of LEAP tests beforehand, that test administrators were coaching students, and teachers and staff were taking the tests themselves”

State officials discovered many students had gotten help on LEAP tests, even though the assistance wasn’t authorized by their IEP’s. Officials found a suspicious number of answers had been changed to correct answers for 21 students (The Advocate).  The state voided tests for 155 students due to testing irregularities.

Moriarty, NM  Estancia Valley Classical Academy in Moriarty, New Mexico, hosts  fundraisers every year to raise money with hopes of a new school building. Since 2015 the school has been raffling off handguns and rifles.  Local residents didn’t want to comment on the fundraiser, but residents of Albuquerque don’t see the harm in doing so. One resident spoke on record, “I think it’s good for the kids to build familiarity with the firearms and know what they’re doing”(Daily Mail).

According to the Department of Education, it is up to individual districts or schools to decide how they wish to raise money and the state has no control.  The state is only able to enforce that the money be used for proper ventures (Daily Mail).

Napa, CA The El Centro Elementary School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to deny Imagine School Imperial Valley’s petition to renew its charter, citing the charter school’s failure to meet academic requirements. A 21-page report cited a number of deficiencies with Imagine’s governance, academic progress, corporate structure and teachers’ credentialing. According to the ECESD report,  in 2017 roughly 75% of ISIV students didn’t meet English Language Arts standards and 88% didn’t meet mathematics standards.  In comparison, 40% met or exceeded ELA standards and 31% met or exceeded mathematics standards in the El Centro Elementary School District.Board members remarked how often they reportedly hear from community members and educators that Imagine students who transfer to another district are a grade level or two behind. (Diane Ravitch).

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One final note today- the proposed education budget includes an allocation of $1 billion for vouchers (Washington Post).

These are my reflections for today.


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Shanker and Friedman

Albert Shanker was past president of the United Federation of Teachers (1964 -1985) and past president of the American Federation of Teachers (1974-1997). During his tenure at  AFT, Mr. Shanker brought up the idea of a public school where teachers would have the opportunity to experiment with new,  innovative ways of teaching students.  In these so-called charter schools, teachers would have the opportunity to create high-performing educational laboratories to model for traditional public schools (NY Times).

The idea of charter schools was inspired by Shanker’s 1987 visit to a public school in Cologne, Germany. Teachers made critical decisions about what and how to teach their students, and stayed with the same students for six years. Students in Cologne came from a mix of abilities, family incomes and ethnic origins.

Teachers making critical decisions???  Richard M. Ingersoll, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, found that where teachers have more say in how their school is run, the school climate improves and teachers stay longer (NY Times) This is also supported by data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showing that low-income fourth graders who attend economically integrated schools are as much as two years ahead of low-income students stuck in high-poverty schools.

So what happened to Shanker’s idea?

Ten years after his visit to Germany, charter schools morphed into something very different from his original idea, as conservatives promoted charters as more of an open marketplace where families would have the opportunity to choose schools.

What conservatives were creating however, were more segregated schools. Charter schools on average are more racially and economically segregated than traditional public schools, according to a recent study from the Civil Rights Project at U.C.L.A.

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Today we see a strong push for more charters, which are problematic on so many levels; segregation is only one of them.

In 1955 Milton Friedman had an idea that was also radical for its time. Friedman, a Nobel Laureate economist, was among the first to propose the financing of education be separated from the administration of schools, the core idea behind school vouchers (Education Next).

In his famous essay written in 1955 “The Role of Government in Education, Friedman argued that there is no need for government to run schools. Instead, families could be provided with publicly financed vouchers for use at the K-12 educational institutions of their choice. The idea boiled down to taxpayer funded but privately run schools. Such a system, Friedman believed, would promote competition among schools vying to attract students, thus improving quality, driving down costs, and creating a more dynamic education system.

According to Friedman, families should have the freedom to choose which school to use their funding. A voucher is equal to the government’s per-pupil spending amount. This would allow parents to pick a school and use the voucher to cover all or part of the tuition. Friedman said school choice would help racial minorities. “There is not a single thing you could do in this world that would do more to improve the condition of the black people in the lowest income classes …than the voucher scheme” (Washington Examiner).

Many argue that Friedman’s essay, published a year after the Brown v. Board decision, addresses the question of vouchers and school segregation, but perhaps in a way that supported segregation. First, he said: “I deplore segregation and racial prejudice.” Then he asserts his opposition to “forced non-segregation” of public schools (Dissent).  Friedman stood behind a Virginia law that authorized school vouchers, arguing it would have the “unintended effect of undermining racial segregation” (Dissent).  Mixed messages.

According to Leo Casey, executive director of the Albert Shanker Institute, “empirical studies of vouchers programs in the United States and internationally show  they increase segregation in schools” (The Century Foundation).

Halley Potter of the Century Foundation writes, “The best available data on the impact of school vouchers, tracking the movement of students in two different voucher programs that enrolled mostly black students, shows that voucher students by and large did not see an increase in access to integrated schools as a result of the programs. Two-thirds of school transfers in one program and 90 percent of transfers in the other program increased segregation in private schools, public schools, or both sector” (The Century Foundation).

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In an administration with a high level of distractibility (what I call the “look over here”), and an agenda to privatize public education, we must be mindful of what is being said and how it’s different from what history has taught us. What started as an innovative idea is now leading the privatization movement, but it is far from its original intention.

Privatizing public schools is being advocated by the secretary of education, billionaire philanthropists and others who are profiting from this movement, and the general public who is taking the hand fed bullshit about this being the cure for the ills of American public education.

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These are my reflections for today.


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…Like Rats on a Sinking Ship

Common Core Standards were created in an effort to ensure all students, regardless of where they live, are graduating high school prepared for college, career, and life. It was a lofty goal from the beginning. They were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association and  generously funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

With more than $200 million, the Gates Foundation bankrolled the development of the standards, while building political support across the country (Washington Post).  “Bill Gates was de facto organizer, providing the money and structure for states to work together on common standards in a way that avoided the usual collision between states’ rights and national interests that had undercut every previous effort, dating from the Eisenhower administration (Washington Post).

States latched on to the standards thinking this would cure what ails them. Others latched on because it was required if a state was applying for Obama’s Race to the Top school funding initiative.

They have been tremendously costly, and did nothing to bridge the achievement gap, or prepare students for college, career, or life. Why didn’t they work? According to Diane Ravitch,

They were written in a manner that violates the nationally and international recognized process for writing standards. The process by which they were created was so fundamentally flawed that these “standards” should have no legitimacy.

Setting national academic standards is not something done in stealth by a small group of people, funded by one source, and imposed by the lure of a federal grant in a time of austerity.

There is a recognized protocol for writing standards, and the Common Core standards failed to comply with that protocol.

In 2010, 46 states and the District of Columbia agreed to adopt the National Common Core Standards, with 19 of those states also agreeing to the aligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) standardized assessment.

In 2016, the number of states still using Common Core dropped 62% to 20, with only 7 states giving the PARCC assessment. States abandoned Common Core like rats on a sinking ship.

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In New Jersey, former Governor Christie dropped Common Core in 2016, and replaced it with NJ Student Learning Standards, which look remarkably similar, just repackaged and renamed. In one of his first orders of business as the new Governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy dropped PARCC, saying it will be replaced with a new test TBD. Murphy said, “The notion of assessing kids to make sure we understand how they’re doing, I’m all in for that. But these big, white-knuckle, once-a-year, with lots of weeks getting folks tuned up to take a particular test I’m not a fan of. Never have been” (NJ.com).

The rebranding and repackaging seems to be a way for states to claim they’re getting away from the failed Common Core, but they’re really not. Below is a sample of 4 Common Core standards (CCSS) and the same 4 New Jersey Student Learning standards (NJSLS): They’re verbatim.

Interpret a multiplication equation as a comparison, e.g., interpret 35 = 5 × 7 as a statement that 35 is 5 times as many as 7 and 7 times as many as 5. Represent verbal statements of multiplicative comparisons as multiplication equations.

Interpret a multiplication equation as a comparison, e.g., interpret 35 = 5 × 7 as a statement that 35 is 5 times as many as 7 and 7 times as many as 5. Represent verbal statements of multiplicative comparisons as multiplication equations.
Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.
RL.4.1. Refer to details and examples in a text and make relevant connections when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

RL.4.2. Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

I guess it’s true, the more things change the more they stay the same.

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Education experts agreed  the PARCC assessments did not fare well because the tests’ implementation “became intertwined with new, controversial teacher evaluations and school accountability measures” (Heartland.org). In a nutshell, the assessment was to be aligned to some degree (as determined by each state) with teacher evaluation. Education experts have repeatedly said aligning student performance to teacher evaluations is highly problematic. Additionally, there was a significant amount of time teachers needed to prepare students for the exam which took away countless hours of instructional time. The tests were to be given electronically, and that was an issue, as well. Many schools were not equipped with enough computers to administer the tests.

The Bush administration, through No Child Left Behind (NCLB) began the testing and accountability movement with a bit of school choice-thrown in- meaning parents could choose to send their kids to a school with a higher performance rating than their home school (to which most parents opted to keep their children in the neighborhood). NCLB was a precursor to Common Core.

The Obama administration, through the Race to the Top initiative pushed for more testing, and teacher evaluations connected to student performance. “With a price tag of nearly four and a half billion dollars, it was billed as the ‘largest-ever federal investment in school reform.’ Later, the Department would give states a waiver from NCLB’s requirements so long as they adopted the Obama administration’s preferred policies-aligning teacher evaluation with student performance, and fully adopting Common Core Standards(Berry, 2018). Race to the Top didn’t work either.

That leaves the current administration. Last year Betsy DeVos said the Every Student Succeeds Act  (ESSA) effectively does away “with the notion of the Common Core,” (EdWeek).  The ESSA left it to states to decide on their standards. However, this decision was always up to the states. Alex Newman of the Freedom Project  wrote, “Despite blasting federal overreach in education… U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continued to mislead Americans on Common Core last week.”

The Trump administration seems unsure which side of the fence to be on with regard to Common Core. Either that, or they don’t understand the legislation. Though Trump has said repeatedly he wants to end Common Core, that would require a change in federal law. And if DeVos truly believes Common Core is dead, it’s only dead in the states that stopped using it, with no federal role in the decision.

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States truly wanting to move away from Common Core and PARCC need to create well-written, piloted, modified, and adopted curricula and get away from what didn’t work. The next step would be to create assessments which are aligned to curricula, can be used to inform instruction, don’t undermine creativity,  can be more beneficial to teachers and students, and not such a financial burden to school districts.

If you ask children growing up in low income areas what they want for their schools, I’d bet the farm not one of them would say curriculum standards that align with standardized tests.

These are my reflections for today.


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