Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

Sir Ken Robinson outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish -- and how current education culture works against them. In a funny, stirring talk he tells us how to get out of the educational "death valley" we now face, and how to nurture our youngest generations with a climate of possibility.

Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught?

One day last spring, James Wade sat cross-legged on the carpet and called his kindergarten class to order. Lanky and soft-spoken, Wade has a gentle charisma well suited to his role as a teacher of small children: steady, rather than exuberant. When a child performs a requested task, like closing the door after recess, he will often acknowledge the moment by murmuring, “Thank you, sweet pea,” in a mild Texas drawl.

Unions: The Best Fix to Poverty

The Census Bureau will be releasing new data on poverty this week and no one is expecting much by the way of good news. While the country made considerable progress in reducing the poverty rate in the sixties and seventies, there has been little show for the last three decades. The downturn has reversed any progress that we made over this period.

Lifelines for Poor Children

What’s missing in the current debate over economic inequality is enough serious discussion about investing in effective early childhood development from birth to age 5. This is not a big government boondoggle policy that would require a huge redistribution of wealth. Acting on it would, however, require us to rethink long-held notions of how we develop productive people and promote shared prosperity.

Superintendent: State’s reform strategy is to throw darts & see what sticks

On more than a few occasions, I have found myself trying to explain a policy change which in my view is not best for students, teachers, or the district I have been hired to serve. Worse, many of these changes were implemented with little or no input, independent of unique circumstances in which school districts operate, causing an erosion of local control of community schools.

The Great Charter Tryout

Long before Sci Academy, a charter school in New Orleans, had graduated its first senior class, the school was being heaped with accolades. In September 2010, when Sci Academy was just two years old, its 200 excited students—then all freshmen and sophomores—filed into Greater St. Stephen Baptist church, next door to the school.

Hilarious Ode to Charlotte Danielson!

Based on Glen Campbell's "Galveston"; how these guys came up with that choice I have no idea, but well done, folks! My sense is that Charlotte Danielson is a sincere educator who wants to make schools and teachers better. But I must have missed the vote when we all decided she has the last word on what works in the classroom.

Diane Ravitch on Real Education Reform

In 2010, the venerable education historian Diane Ravitch galvanized educators when she formally recanted her long-time advocacy of center-right and right-wing education ideas in her stunning book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

Deciding Who Sees Students’ Data

When Cynthia Stevenson, the superintendent of Jefferson County, Colo., public schools, heard about a data repository called inBloom, she thought it sounded like a technological fix for one of her bigger headaches. Over the years, the Jeffco school system, as it is known, which lies west of Denver, had invested in a couple of dozen student data systems, many of which were incompatible.

Group Presses for Safeguards on the Personal Data of Schoolchildren

A leading children’s advocacy group is challenging the educational technology software industry, an estimated $8 billion market, to develop national safeguards for the personal data collected about students from kindergarten through high school.

Why Do Teachers Quit?

Richard Ingersoll taught high-school social studies and algebra in both public and private schools for nearly six years before leaving the profession and getting a Ph.D. in sociology. Now a professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s education school, he’s spent his career in higher ed searching for answers to one of teaching’s most significant problems: teacher turnover.

Legislator, educator challenging ‘testing juggernaut’

A New York state legislator and educator wrote this piece to express their concerns about the effects of high-stakes testing on schools and to urge a rethinking of the school accountability system. This was written by Arnold Dodge, associate professor and chair of the  Department of Educational Leadership and Administration at Long Island University-Post, and Charles Lavine, a member of the New York State Assembly.

See The Teacher’s Resignation Video That 280,000 People Have Already Watched

It's not like I know how to run a school, but I'm pretty sure that if you're scaring off teachers like this guy, you're doing it wrong. Plus, everybody knows you don't touch recess. Recess is sacred.

5 Reasons the Common Core Is Ruining Childhood

My daughter has four tests this week. Week after week she has at least four tests, one of them a high-pressure timed math factor test. If she gets more than one answer wrong, she repeats the same test the following week (which, by the way, is a great way to start an unhealthy competition among classmates). Some weeks, if they happen to finish a unit in social studies, science, or math, they also have a unit test. So now we're up to five.

Author Maya Angelou blasts Obama’s Race to the Top

Renowned author and poet Maya Angelou was one of more than 120 authors and illustrators who recently signed a letter to President Obama asking him to curb policies that promote excessive standardized testing because  of the negative impact “on children’s love [of] reading and literature.”  Now she has blasted Obama’s signature education initiative, Race to the Top, saying that it is “a contest” that doesn’t help children learn to love to read and get a better understanding of the world.

Billionaires Going Bonkers: Trying to Reboot Reform

From coast to coast, the billionaire-backed education reform project is back-pedaling, and there are signs of desperation showing up all over. At Education Nation there was little attention paid to the fractured fairytale that corporate reform has become, but the cracks are appearing everywhere now. At a recent conference of mayors, few would even utter the words "education reform." 

Will States Fail the Common Core?

The Common Core State Standards are taking so many hits these days that some might wonder why so many people think they should play an important role in American education. In our competitive, fast-changing global economy, if students don't have higher-order capabilities like critical thinking and problem solving, mastery of essential knowledge, and the skill and will to persist, they will be left behind. That's what the Common Core is about.

Gov. Chris Christie yells at a teacher (again)

“Why,”  a New Jersey teacher asked Gov. Chris Christie (R), “do you continue to spread the myth that our schools and teachers are failing?” The teacher who asked this at a campaign rally in Somer’s Point on Saturday (ahead of Tuesday’s gubernatorial election in the state)  is Melissa Tomlinson, an elementary school teacher who also runs an after-school program.  Christie answered in his trademark Christie way: by yelling at her. He pointed a finger at her, as this picture shows, and shouted: “Because they are!”

Click to read teacher’s response…

100 Children’s Book Authors Ask White House to Ease Standardized Testing Mandates

"We...write to express our concern for our readers, their parents and teachers," say the authors and illustrators in their letter to Obama, a copy of which is also addressed to the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers based on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration."

In Public Education, Edge Still Goes to Rich

“There aren’t many things that are more important to that idea of economic mobility — the idea that you can make it if you try — than a good education,” President Obama told students at the State University of New York in Buffalo in August. It is hardly a partisan belief. About a decade ago, on signing the No Child Left Behind Act, President George W. Bush argued that the nation’s biggest challenge was to ensure that “every single child, regardless of where they live, how they’re raised, the income level of their family, every child receive a first-class education in America.”

Trim Recess? Some Schools Hold On To Child's Play

It's recess time at Ruby Bridges Elementary School and a third-grader is pummeling a plastic tetherball with focused intensity. He's playing at one of more than a half-dozen recess play stations on the school's sprawling cement playground — there's also wall ball, basketball, capture the flag, sharks and minnows, a jungle gym and tag.

These 11 Leaders Are Running Education But Have Never Taught

They design teacher evaluation systems, teacher training guidelines and the types of standards that need to be taught. Yet, they have never been teachers themselves. These days, being a teacher is clearly not a prerequisite for becoming a leader in education. In fact, some of the leaders with the most daily influence on classrooms come from entirely unrelated fields. Below we have compiled a list of some of the most influential leaders in education who have never been teachers.

Hear Our Teachers

Teachers know the real reasons corporate-sponsored reform isn't working. It's time we heard teacher-generated solutions that will help our kids succeed.

Why young kids are struggling with Common Core math

Core critics argue that some of the standards are not developmentally appropriate for young students. Earlier this year I published this post by Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige about how the standards smack in the face of what we know about how young children learn. Here’s is a new post with concerns about the developmental appropriateness of some Core math standards.

Teachers Were Never The Problem

Google the phrase "education crisis" and you'll be hit with a glut of articles, blog posts and think tank reports claiming the entire American school system is facing an emergency. Much of this agitprop additionally asserts that teachers unions are the primary cause of the alleged problem. Not surprisingly, the fabulists pushing these narratives are often backed by anti-public school conservatives and anti-union plutocrats. But a little-noticed study released last week provides yet more confirmation that neither the "education crisis" meme or the "evil teachers' union" narrative is accurate. 

Arne Duncan Doubles Down On “White Suburban Moms” Comment, Promotes Economic Ingorance

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan doubled down on his “white suburban moms” comment concerning the Common Core Standards. Duncan at first said opposition to the Common Core State Standards was interesting because “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

Unrelenting Poverty Leads To 'Desperation' In Philly Schools

Philadelphia's Center City area sparkles with new restaurants, jobs and money. After declining for half a century, the city's population grew from 2006 to 2012. But for people living in concentrated poverty in large swaths of North and West Philadelphia, the Great Recession only made life harder.

Arne Duncan: ‘White suburban moms’ upset that Common Core shows their kids aren’t ‘brilliant’

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state schools superintendents Friday that he found it “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

Schools That Separate the Child From the Trauma

Recently, I reported on the damaging effects that prolonged stress can have on young children who lack adequate protection from adults. Over the past 15 years, researchers have learned that highly stressful — and potentially traumatic — childhood experiences are more prevalent than previously understood.

More Cracks in the Core: Massachusetts Halts CC Implementation

This week, the Massachusetts Board of Education voted to slow the transition to Common Core. The board decided to delay implementation for two years while it compares the Common Core aligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests to their existing—and widely praised—Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exam.

Art Makes You Smart

For many education advocates, the arts are a panacea: They supposedly increase test scores, generate social responsibility and turn around failing schools. Most of the supporting evidence, though, does little more than establish correlations between exposure to the arts and certain outcomes. Research that demonstrates a causal relationship has been virtually nonexistent.

Education commissioner’s emails create flap in Missouri

Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro has raised the ire of state teachers unions and some lawmakers after emails show she helped craft language in an anti-teacher-tenure ballot initiative financed by Rex Sinquefield. The emails from a year ago — obtained through a Sunshine Law request by the Missouri National Education Association and first reported by The Associated Press — further stir what has been a stormy political season for Nicastro.

CC Teaching Gettysburg Address Without Teaching Civil War

Recently, a perfect example came to light of the propensity of the Common Core curriculum to teach to a test instead of teaching to comprehend. It was revealed that a teaching unit on Lincoln's famed Gettysburg Address instructs that students read the text but warns teachers not to inform kids what the speech was for, when it was made, or tell them about the Civil War that spawned the famed presidential message.

My View of the PISA Scores

The news reports say that the test scores of American students on the latest PISA test are “stagnant,” “lagging,” “flat,” etc. The U.S. Department of Education would have us believe–yet again–that we are in an unprecedented crisis and that we must double down on the test-and-punish strategies of the past dozen years.

Education ‘Day of Action’ set Monday in 60-plus cities

A coalition of education, labor, civic and civil rights organizations, led by the American Federation of Teachers, is staging a “National Day of Action” on Monday with dozens of coordinated events in cities across the country that are aimed at building a national movement to fight corporate-influenced school reform and offer alternative ways to improve public education.

Why I Cannot Support the Common Core Standards

I have thought long and hard about the Common Core standards. I have decided that I cannot support them. In this post, I will explain why. I have long advocated for voluntary national standards, believing that it would be helpful to states and districts to have general guidelines about what students should know and be able to do as they progress through school.

Subtract Teachers, Add Pupils: Math of Today’s Jammed Schools

The recession may have ended, but many of the nation’s school districts that laid off teachers and other employees to cut payrolls in leaner times have not yet replenished their ranks. Now, despite the recovery, many schools face unwieldy class sizes and a lack of specialists to help those students who struggle academically, are learning English as a second language or need extra emotional support.

For right, Common Core fight prelude to bigger agenda

National advocacy groups powered by the Koch brothers and other conservative megadonors have found a new cause ripe with political promise: the fight to bring down the Common Core academic standards. The groups are stoking populist anger over the standards — then working to channel that energy into a bold campaign to undercut public schools, weaken teachers unions and push the federal government out of education policy.

Walton foundation pumps cash into vouchers

The Walton Family Foundation is pumping $6 million into a Washington-based group that promotes private school vouchers in D.C. and around the country — a donation that it hopes will double the number of students using tax dollars to pay private school tuition.

In Age of School Shootings, Lockdown Is the New Fire Drill

The bomb threat was just a hoax, but officials at Hebron High School near Dallas took no chances: School officials called the police and locked down the school this week. Separately, a middle school 2,000 miles away in Washington State went on lockdown after a student brought a toy gun to class.

Everything you need to know about Common Core

Diane Ravitch, the education historian who has become the leader of the movement against corporate-influenced school reform, gave this speech to the Modern Language Association on Jan. 11 about the past, present and future of the Common Core State Standards.

Beware Chinese data: Its schools might not be so great

For much of my life, I have been obsessed with China. A TV documentary about the Great Leap Forward caught my eye when I was 16. I studied Chinese language, government and history in college and graduate school, then spent five years as The Washington Post’s bureau chief in Hong Kong and Beijing. My wife, who was my Los Angeles Times competitor, and I wrote a book about the country.

D.C. teachers union files grievance with school system over erroneous evaluations

The Washington Teachers’ Union has filed a class-action grievance with D.C. Public Schools in the wake of the recent disclosure that 44 teachers received erroneous performance ratings last year, including one who was wrongly fired as a result. WTU President Elizabeth Davis filed the grievance last week on behalf of all teachers who have ever been judged through IMPACT, the school system’s evaluation system.

Intensive Small-Group Tutoring and Counseling Helps Struggling Students

By the time they reach eighth grade, according to federal tests, half of all African-American schoolboys have not mastered the most basic math skills that educators consider essential for their grade level.

A new paper being released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests a promising approach for helping the most challenged students, who often arrive in high school several years behind their peers.

High-Profile California Lawsuit on Teacher Protections Begins

A controversial and potentially precedent-setting trial begins in Los Angeles Superior Court this week, with the plaintiffs essentially looking to overturn three of the teachers' unions holy grails: seniority, tenure, and dismissal procedures. The lawsuit, Vergara v. California, stands to have implications far beyond the Golden State. It's a touchstone for some of the most heated debates in K-12 education, particularly how to promote effective teaching—and whether policies relating to teacher employment help or hinder that effort.

Texas Overhauls Textbook Approval To Ease Tensions Over

The Texas Board of Education, which has long been an ideological battleground for the teaching of evolution, says it will limit the use of citizen review panels and instead give priority to teachers in determining science and history curricula. Because Texas public schools represent such a large market for textbook publishers, the state has an outsized influence on what is taught in the rest of the country.

Fight Over Effective Teachers Shifts to Courtroom

They have tried and failed to loosen tenure rules for teachers in contract talks and state legislatures. So now, a group of rising stars in the movement to overhaul education employment has gone to court. In a small, wood-paneled courtroom here this week, nine public school students are challenging California’s ironclad tenure system, arguing that their right to a good education is violated by job protections that make it too difficult to fire bad instructors.

Koch brothers’ confidential document offers glimpse into anti-worker political machine

There’s one main rule at the conservative donor conclaves held twice a year by Charles and David Koch at luxury resorts: What happens there stays there. The billionaire industrialists and their political operatives strive to ensure the anonymity of the wealthy conservatives who fund their sprawling political operation—which funneled more than $400 million into the 2012 elections—and to keep their plans private. Attendees of these summits are warned that the seminars, where the Kochs and their allies hatch strategies for electing Republicans and advancing conservative initiatives on the state and national levels, are strictly confidential; they are cautioned to keep a close eye on their meeting notes and materials.

Matt Damon: ‘We would never let businessmen design warheads. Why would you cut out educators when you’re designing education policy?

Matt Damon just had an online conversation with Reddit users to promote his new movie, “The Monuments Men,” and he touched on a number of topics, including his opposition to standardized test-based school reform and the exclusion of teachers from the shaping of education policy. The actor has been a vocal defender of teachers and public education. He appeared at a 2011 Washington, D.C. rally by educators called Save Our Schools  and delivered a smart speech about teachers and public education.

You think you know what teachers do. Right? Wrong.

You went to school so you think you know what teachers do, right? You are wrong. Here’s a piece explaining all of this from Sarah Blaine, a mom, former teacher and full-time practicing attorney in New Jersey who writes at her parentingthecore blog, where this first appeared.

Pay Cuts, End Of Tenure Put North Carolina Teachers On Edge

Teacher salaries are losing ground fast in North Carolina. Jennifer Spivey has been a teacher for three years at South Columbus High School, on the north side of the border between the Carolinas. She's been recognized as an outstanding teacher; she has a master's degree, and last summer she won a prestigious Kenan fellowship to improve education. But she still lives in her parents' basement.

A New York and Chicago Mom Discover What Standardized Rigor Really Means for Their Children

I’m a photographer. This is my daughter…and this is the first photo of her that I have ever hated. You may have already seen this image today. I posted it this morning on my business page and after returning from a session out in Syracuse, it has been shared over 400 times. I want to take a moment to explain this image so as those who do not know me, can understand how this image came to be.

The Education of Ted Mitchell

The nomination of Californian Ted Mitchell to the number two position at the U.S. Department of Education is the latest indication that proponents of school privatization are continuing to gain influence over the Obama administration’s education policy. “He represents the quintessence of the privatization movement,” Diane Ravitch, an education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush, tells Capital & Main. “This is a signal the Obama administration is committed to moving forward aggressively with transferring public funds to private hands.”

Magnet Schools Find a Renewed Embrace in Cities

Nearly five decades ago, as racial tension raged in cities, magnet schools were introduced here and elsewhere as an alternative to court-ordered busing in the hope that specialized theme schools would slow white flight and offer options to racial minorities zoned for low-performing schools. Magnet schools never quite delivered on that desegregation promise, and in the past couple of decades they have largely fallen off the radar.

Teachers Unions Mobilize To Delay The Common Core

The president of the largest U.S. teachers union is calling on school districts to delay adopting the Common Core education standards. The union's the latest group to voice concerns over Common Core.

The Myth Behind Public School Failure

In the rush to privatize the country’s schools, corporations and politicians have decimated school budgets, replaced teaching with standardized testing, and placed the blame on teachers and students. Until about 1980, America’s public schoolteachers were iconic everyday heroes painted with a kind of Norman Rockwell patina—generally respected because they helped most kids learn to read, write and successfully join society. Such teachers made possible at least the idea of a vibrant democracy.

A video that shows why teachers are going out of their minds

The video below is not a parody. It shows Chicago Public School teachers in a professional development session that will make you understand why teachers are going out of their minds and to what extent administrators have infantilized teachers.

Why the Common Core Is Unlike Standards of the Past

Many defenders of the Common Core call attention to the idea that critics of the Core often focus more on how it is related to other issues like standardized testing and value added teacher assessments. They claim that the Common Core is good practice and should be separated from the other elements of Race to the Top as an exemplary curriculum.

A New SAT Aims to Realign With Schoolwork

Saying its college admission exams do not focus enough on the important academic skills, the College Board announced on Wednesday a fundamental rethinking of the SAT, ending the longstanding penalty for guessing wrong, cutting obscure vocabulary words and making the essay optional.

I Opted My Kids Out of Standardized Tests

Deciding to opt my two daughters out of Colorado standardized testing seemed like a no-brainer. We aren’t permanent Colorado residents—we’re just here for one academic year while I’m a visiting professor at the University of Denver. My daughters, ages 13 and 14, are strong students. My husband and I see no educational benefit to the tests. My younger daughter experienced some serious test anxiety a couple of years back when taking Pennsylvania’s standardized tests.

Denver releases new opt-out guidance for schools after parent conflict

Denver Public Schools officials on Wednesday evening issued new guidelines for how schools should treat families who have opted-out of state assessments after a conflict between a parent and the principal at a Hilltop neighborhood middle school.

The link between charter school expansion and increasing segregation

One thing that proponents of the broad expansion of charter schools never talk about is the evidence of how charters are leading to increasing segregation by race, ethnicity and income. Here George Washington University Research Professor Iris C. Rotberg explores this connection.

Recession's over: Why aren't public services coming back?

Many U.S. schools and other services continue to struggle with less as state lawmakers move to make recession-era budget cuts to education permanent, even as the states reap higher revenues or cut taxes further. At Noble Prentis Elementary School, a classroom is crammed with 31 students and all their backpacks and books. Last year, the fifth-grade class had just 17 students, but a teaching position was cut when the school ran short of money. The school nurse, who comes in only twice a week, freezes kitchen sponges to use as ice packs because her budget is too small for her to buy any.

Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?

Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin. Reading came early to me, but I didn’t think of the words as anything special. I don’t think my stepmom thought of what she was doing as more than spending time with me in our small Harlem apartment.

Kindergarten teacher: My job is now about tests and data — not children. I quit.

Susan Sluyter is a veteran teacher of young children in the Cambridge Public Schools who has been connected to the district for nearly 20 years and teaching for more than 25 years.

Sen. Grassley seeking to defund Common Core in Congress

Having tried unsuccessfully last year to persuade his colleagues in Congress to defund the Common Core program, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) is at it again. Grassley is circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter asking legislators to sign on to a separate missive that will be sent early next month to Senate education budget appropriators.

Lipscomb Academy Chief Advocates For Common Core, But Not At Her School

One of Tennessee’s biggest cheerleaders for Common Core has not pushed to adopt the education standards in the private school she now leads. On an almost weekly basis, Candice McQueen is called on by the state Department of Education to beat back criticism. Last week, it was an Associated Press panel. The week before that, she advocated for Common Core as SCORE released its annual report card.

Ravitch: The best reason to oppose the Common Core Standards

The growing opposition to the Common Core State Standards does not all stem from the same criticisms or even from the same political wing. Included in the anti-Core camp are conservatives, moderates and liberals who don’t offer identical critiques of the initiative. Some don’t like it academically; some don’t like it politically. In this post, education historian and activist Diane Ravitch, the leader of the national movement that opposes corporate-influenced school reform, offers what she says is the most compelling reason to oppose the Common Core standards. This appeared on her website.

Gov. Mike Pence signs bill to ditch Common Core

Less than four years after Indiana became an early adopter of the national Common Core education standards, Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation Monday making Indiana the first state to opt out of the controversial school guidelines. But the law does not prohibit parts of Common Core from being written into new standards that are expected to be voted on by the state Board of Education late next month.

‘You can’t expect much success on standardized tests when students don’t even have basic supplies’

The editorial board of a big-city newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, has gone on record as not only supporting the right of parents to have their children opt out of high-stakes standardized tests but also saying they are “right to protest” in this manner.

Secretary Arne Duncan defends against growing criticism from left and right

Indiana, one of the 45 states that adopted the national Common Core educational standards, has became the first state to drop them. Across the country, anger over the federal government’s role in schools has been focused at Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Special correspondent for education John Merrow reports on Duncan’s role in the evolution of American educational policy.

John Thompson: Legal Woes Growing for VAM-Based Teacher Evaluations

I used to be a legal historian. That did not mean I could practice law without a license, but I could be a pretty fair consumer of legal analyses. It also made me aware of how attorneys and judges think. When the idea of incorporating value-added into teacher evaluations was first introduced, I checked with lawyers who I knew to have solid legal minds.

Public Schools for Sale?

Public education is becoming big business as bankers, hedge fund managers and private equity investors are entering what they consider to be an “emerging market.” As Rupert Murdoch put it after purchasing an education technology company, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone.”

Charter schools fail to boost achievement

Most Florida taxpayers are surprised to learn that charter schools are part of the public school system and are paid for by taxpayer dollars. Yet, in a yearlong study, the League of Women Voters of Florida has found that charter schools do not improve student achievement. Moreover, a lawsuit filed by Southern Legal Counsel contends that adding charter schools as an option does not fulfill the state's constitutional mandate for a uniform, high-quality system of public education for all children.

Michelle Rhee still doesn’t get it.

The former D.C. schools chancellor and now leader of a national organization that pushes corporate school and attacks teachers unions,  just wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post that uses bad analogies and a number of straw men to argue against the growing “opt out” movement in which parents are refusing to allow their children to take high-stakes standardized tests. A small but growing number of educators are refusing to administer the tests, too.

Walton Foundation’s pours $164 million in 2013 education grants. Who won?

The Walton Family Foundation spent more than $164 million in 2013 to promote its corporate-influenced education reform agenda in 2013, according to a new list (see below) of grants that went to dozens of organizations. The foundation’s priorities are evident in who won the biggest amounts.

Test Season Reveals America’s Biggest Failures

It’s testing season in America, and regardless of how the students do, it’s clear who is already flunking the exams. Last week in New York, new standardized tests began rolling out across the state, and tens of thousands of families said “no dice.” According to local news sources, over 33,000 students skipped the tests – a figure “that will probably rise.”

Watch Colbert’s hilarious takedown of absurd Common Core math problems

Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert ripped into the Common Core standards on his Tuesday night show, ridiculing the absurd Core-aligned math problems that have baffled students, parents and teachers nationwide. “Common Core testing prepares students for what they will face as adults: pointless stress and confusion,” he said with characteristic sarcasm.

The Long Death of Creative Teaching

I once saw an eighth grader who was on the verge of being tossed out of his middle school even though he was one of the brightest kids there. When asked why he was failing, he said, “Why should I be doing the same frickin' thing since I was in third grade?" Another student I heard about could comprehend the whole "Harry Potter" series before she was 11 and read two novels a week, yet thinks she “sucks at English” because she is more nuanced in her thinking than the questions on standardized tests allow. She learned to hate reading.

An infuriating admission

Last September, Bill Gates admitted that he doesn’t know if the school reform initiatives that he is massively funding will work. To be precise, he said during an interview at Harvard University: “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” That was pretty stunning, given the fact that Gates has plowed so much money to his idea of school reform — including the bad idea of evaluating teachers based on student test scores — and that he keeps talking about initiatives, such as the Common Core State Standards, as if he knows for sure they will improve public education.

Statisticians slam popular teacher evaluation method

You can be certain that members of the American Statistical Association, the largest organization in the United States representing statisticians and related professionals, know a thing or two about data and measurement. That makes the statement that the association just issued very important for school reform.

A Need to Go Public With Test Data

Elizabeth Phillips decries the gag order that school principals are under vis-à-vis the high-stakes tests administered in New York State (“We Need to Talk About the Tests,” Op-Ed, April 10). Best practice in educational and psychological measurement requires test developers to shoulder the burden of demonstrating the validity and reliability of their instruments. Unfortunately, the state and its test designer, Pearson, do not make validation data for state tests available to the taxpayers who fund them.

inBloom to Shut Down Amid Growing Data-Privacy Concerns

After months caught in the crosshairs of parents, advocates, and educators concerned about student-data privacy, controversial nonprofit inBloom announced Monday that it will close its doors. "I have made the decision to wind down the organization over the coming months," inBloom CEO Iwan Streichenberger wrote in an email to the organization's supporters. "The unavailability of this technology is a real missed opportunity for teachers and school districts seeking to improve student learning."

11 problems created by the standardized testing obsession

Ron Maggiano is a veteran teacher who won the Disney Teacher Award for innovation and creativity in 2005 and the American Historical Association’s Beveridge Family Teaching Prize for outstanding K-12 teaching in 2006. After a 33-year teaching career, he resigned last year from West Springfield High School in Fairfax County, Va.,  where he taught social studies.

Houston teachers sue over controversial teacher evaluation method

Andrew Dewey is an award-winning history teacher at Carnegie Vanguard High School in Houston. In 2011-12, he earned the top merit pay award that his school district gives out and had “most effective” teacher status through a controversial evaluation system that uses student standardized test scores. The next year, after teaching similar students in the same way, he went from being one of the district’s highest-performing teachers to one that made “no detectable difference” for his students.

Louis C.K. slams Common Core again: “Kids, teachers, parents are vocally suffering”

On Tuesday, comedian Louis C.K. took to Twitter to express his frustration with Common Core. Common Core is a controversial set of nationwide English language arts and math benchmarks, and according to Slate there are difficult test to go with them. Forty-fives states have adopted Common Core standards, but according to NPR: ”Seven out of 10 teachers say the transition to a curriculum tied to Common Core isn’t working. Two-thirds of teachers say they were not asked for input on how to develop the implementation plan.” And, American Federation of Teacher president Randi Weingarten told Salon, “Between austerity and the lack of thoughtful implementation, you see that the Common Core may actually fail.”

What ‘setting high expectations’ for all students really means

How many times have you heard that schools need to create “a culture of high expectations” for all students? What exactly is that?  Esther Quintero, a research associate at the nonprofit Albert Shanker Institute, explains in this post, which first appeared on the institute’s blog.

What teaching is and isn’t

The first week in May is Teacher Appreciation Week, so declared back in 1984 by the Parent Teachers Association, and the 2014 observation of this is upon us.  It couldn’t have come at a better time, given that teachers aren’t feeling especially appreciated these days, what with school reform policies targeted right at them. In this post Julie Hiltz, a media specialist at Lutz Elementary in Hillsborough County, Florida, and a National Board Certified Teacher with 12 years of experience, writes about her profession.

A history of Pearson’s testing problems worldwide

Now that Pearson, the worldwide education company, has won a huge contract with PARCC,  one of the two multi-state consortia designing new Common Core-aligned tests with federal funds, it seems like a good time to review problems Pearson has had with previous projects.

Is Common Core facing death by a thousand cuts?

Criticism of the Common Core State Standards and the implementation of the initiative in most states around the country (which are two different issues, actually) just keeps on coming. Though far-right critics get a great deal of the attention, people on all ends of the political spectrum are thinking through the Core. Here’s a new piece looking at who is saying what and what it all means, by New York Principal Carol Burris, who has been writing about King’s reform program on this blog for some time, exposing its many problems.

6 reasons to reject Common Core K-3 standards - and 6 rules to guide policy

The Common Core State Standards for students in kindergarten through Grade 3 have come under severe criticism by early childhood education experts who say that they are not developmentally appropriate. Even some supporters of the Core initiative, including American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, have called for a revamping of these early education standards.

Good teaching, poor test scores: Doubt cast on grading teachers by student performance

In the first large-scale analysis of new systems that evaluate teachers based partly on student test scores, two researchers found little or no correlation between quality teaching and the appraisals teachers received. The study, published Tuesday in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, is the latest in a growing body of research that has cast doubt on whether it is possible for states to use empirical data in identifying good and bad teachers.

Arne Duncan’s reaction to new research slamming teacher evaluation method he favors

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been a proponent of using students’ scores on standardized tests to evaluate teachers, even as a growing mountain of evidence has shown that the method now used in most states, known as “value-added measures,” is not reliable. With two recent reports released on VAM adding to warnings long given by assessment experts, I asked the Education Department whether Duncan’s position had changed.

A dozen problems with charter schools

School reformers keep talking about charter schools as if they were the answer to public education’s problems, when there is a great deal of evidence that shows big problems with the charter sector. For example, a report on Pennsylvania’s charter schools recently released by a state legislator found that only one in six of the state’s charter schools is ”high-performing” and it notes that none of the online charters is “high-performing.”

Lawmakers Seek Delay On Healthy Lunch Rules For Schools

How hard can it be for school cafeterias to swap white bread for whole-grain tortillas, cut sodium, and nudge kids to put more fruit and vegetables on their trays? Tougher than you might imagine, according to some schools. From the Waterford school district in Wisconsin to the Voorheesville school district in New York to Arlington Heights in Illinois, schools have complained that the healthy school lunch standards that became law in 2012 are just too challenging. They say they need more time to figure out how to limit calories and fat, and get more veggies on every plate.

In Kentucky, Students Succeed Without Tests

The white, split-rail fences of horse farms line the two-lane road that takes you southwest from Lexington. It's a beautiful half-hour drive to Danville, Ky. Settled in 1783, the town is proud of its history. In Constitution Square, across Main Street from Burke's Bakery, sits a tiny log cabin that was once the first post office west of the Allegheny Mountains. A few minutes away, Bate Middle School is a more mundane '70s-era, red-brick building. But what's happening inside is anything but mundane. 

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

Does handwriting matter? Not very much, according to many educators. The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states, call for teaching legible writing, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard. But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep.


Late one night in December, 2009, a black Chevy Tahoe in a caravan of cops and residents moved slowly through some of the most dangerous neighborhoods of Newark. In the back sat the Democratic mayor, Cory Booker, and the Republican governor-elect of New Jersey, Chris Christie. They had become friendly almost a decade earlier, during Christie’s years as United States Attorney in Newark, and Booker had invited him to join one of his periodic patrols of the city’s busiest drug corridors.

New teachers union chief is unapologetically adversarial

Don’t make the mistake of talking about “teacher training” to Barbara Madeloni. “Oh, please don’t use the word training,” she chided a reporter. “We educate teachers. We don’t train them. We train dogs. And I love dogs.” Beacon Hill better get used to that sharply pointed, confrontational style. A self-described social justice activist from the liberal college town of Northampton, Madeloni was until recently a complete unknown in political circles.

Ravitch: Time for Congress to investigate Bill Gates’ role in Common Core

The critical role that Bill Gates played in the creation and implementation of the Common Core State Standards initiative is the subject of this story by my Post colleague Lyndsey Layton. She explains how Gates was persuaded  in 2008 by  Gene Wilhoit, then-director of the Council for Chief State School Officers, and David Coleman, at the time an educational consultant  and now president of the College Board,  to use his foundation’s vast fortune to  fund the creation and marketing of what became the Common Core.

Delay Urged on Actions Tied to Tests by Schools

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the country’s largest donors to educational causes and a strong backer of the academic guidelines known as the Common Core, has called for a two-year moratorium on states or school districts making any high-stakes decisions based on tests aligned with the new standards.

Calif. court rules teacher tenure creates unequal conditions

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that tenure, seniority and other job protections for teachers have created unequal conditions in public schools and deprive poor children of the best teachers. In a case that could have national implications for the future of teacher tenure, Judge Rolf Treu sided with a Silicon Valley mogul against some of the most powerful labor unions in the country.

CTU President Karen Lewis on California court tenure ruling

It must be nice to be a wealthy tech mogul like David Welch. When you want to “prove” a theory, you just go get someone else’s kids to be the guinea pigs. When you want to “prove” a theory, you conveniently omit the most relevant and direct causes of harm. Such was the case in this week’s California lawsuit decision against tenure for teachers.

Better ways to use millions of dollars now spent on testing

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by states and school districts on standardized tests every year, money that could be used for purposes far more helpful in improving student achievement. What are those purposes? Here are some suggestions, from Jim Arnold and Peter Smagorinsky. Jim Arnold recently retired from the superintendent’s position of the Pelham City Schools in Georgia and he blogs at Peter Smagorinsky is Distinguished Research  Professor of English Education at the University of Georgia. His essays are archived here.

Do Teachers’ Unions Have Any Friends in the Obama Administration?

We are living in an era when the very idea of public education is under attack, as are teachers’ unions and the teaching profession. Let’s be clear: these attacks and the power amassed behind them are unprecedented in American history. Sure, there have always been critics of public schools, of teachers, and of unions. But never before has there been a serious and sustained effort to defund public education, to turn public money over to unaccountable private hands, and to weaken and eliminate collective bargaining wherever it still exists.

How college remediation rates are distorted — and why

Are a large percentage of high school graduates so unprepared for college when they get there that they have to take remedial courses to catch up? School reformers like to say so, and throw out big percentages of students who are said to need remediation. But where do these figures come from, and are they accurate? Award-winning Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York  looks at this issue in the following post.

A Summer of Extra Reading and Hope for Fourth Grade

Educators like to say that third grade is the year when students go from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Yet one afternoon last month, there was Anthony, a 10-year-old whose small frame was highlighted by baggy black cargo shorts,struggling with “Tiny the Snow Dog,” a picture book with only a handful of words per page. “This is Tiny,” he read to his teacher, Holly Bryant. “He is my dog.”

Protections of Teacher Tenure Do Not Hurt Students

America is the land of misdirected anger. This time, teachers in California are on the receiving end. That is not to say that public school parents in the state shouldn't be angry. In the last decade, billions have been cut from California’s K-12 budget. A public school system that used to be the envy of the nation has been starved to death. Budget cuts have meant canceled after-school and summer programs. It has meant rising student-teacher ratios, and in some Los Angeles classrooms, for example, overcrowding that has forced students to find seats atop file cabinets.

Teaching Is Not a Business

Today’s education reformers believe that schools are broken and that business can supply the remedy. Some place their faith in the idea of competition. Others embrace disruptive innovation, mainly through online learning. Both camps share the belief that the solution resides in the impersonal, whether it’s the invisible hand of the market or the transformative power of technology.

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