News and Links: January 26, 2015

The latest batch of news and links from education blogs/websites:

I know we have pretty good eye care through the district, but I think I’m going to complain about the quality of my eyeglass prescription. Because when I went to the other day it actually looked like one of their editors wrote a piece acknowledging that FACTORS OTHER THAN “BAD” TEACHERS might be to blame for some students under-performing. 

Two recent articles help to disprove the myth that won’t die: that our public schools are failing:

With Jeb Bush looking like a strong contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, here’s a look at his record on education.

When we talk about how the reform agenda is taking the joy out of learning, this argument is often received as the kind of soft, anti-competitive coddling that is weakening our students. This article, from The Atlantic, articulates a sound rationale for why we need to bring joy back.

Not only is this a dreary and awful way to treat children, it makes no sense educationally. Decades of research have shown that in order to acquire skills and real knowledge in school, kids need to want to learn. You can force a child to stay in his or her seat, fill out a worksheet, or practice division. But you can’t force a person to think carefully, enjoy books, digest complex information, or develop a taste for learning. To make that happen, you have to help the child find pleasure in learning—to see school as a source of joy.

Recently we posted an article about a report saying that the requirement for kids to read by the end of kindergarten may be harmful to sum.  Here’s a piece by a pre-K teacher talking about her experience.

I know you never get tired of hearing our Governor trashing us, but here’s some more comments he made last Thursday. On the plus side, he is at least spreading the love by showing his contempt for the general public as well, noting that the real problem is that they’re too stupid to understand what’s going on:

“If (the public) understood what was happening with education to their children, there would be an outrage in this city,” Cuomo said. “I’m telling you, they would take City Hall down brick by brick.“It’s only because it’s complicated that people don’t get it.”

Spotted in the wild – articles that DON’T bash teachers!

The level of public education / teacher bashing that goes on in the general media makes one wonder if there is a new category of Pulitzer Prize dedicated to the most hysterical, outlandish, and misleading attack on educators. Against this landscape it is nice to see the occasional article that bucks the trend. What makes the three links below notable is not that they are pro-teacher per se, but rather that they stick to actual facts in their reporting. You know, like actual journalism.

This piece from tears apart the notion that we can fire our way to greatness in education.

This article, from U.S. News, throws some cold water on reports of education “miracles.”

And from The Atlantic, an article that pointing out that Education isn’t the problem, inequality is.

More Charter School Shenanigans

As part of his promise to break the monopoly of public education, Governor Cuomo is looking into raising the existing cap on Charter schools in New York.  As you might expect, there is opposition to this idea.

With this in mind, here are a few stories / links on just what’s wrong with the unfettered growth of charter schools.

  • One supposed argument in favor of charter schools is greater fiscal responsibility without the bureaucracy of the public school system, but an audit of charter schools, finds rampant fraud, totaling as much as $28 million in questionable expenditures since 2002. Audits uncovered mismanagement in 95% of schools audited.
  • A few weeks ago, the New York Board of Regents and the State Education Department approved a charter school to be opened in Rochester next September. The lead applicant was 22-year old Ted J. Morris, Jr.  Now, If you’re thinking that is seems unbelievable that a 22-year old could have the credentials and experience to run a charter school, then you’re already one step of the Board of Regents and NYSED, who failed to do what a couple of bloggers did: uncover the fact that Morris was a fraud who had fabricated most of his resume and flat out lied about his experience. This lack of oversight is bad enough, but the response from the Board of Regents is even worse. After initially saying that the charter would proceed without Morris (who had found backers for this school “through posts on Craigslist, Linkedin, and websites for nonprofits.”), the Board of Regents eventually gave in to pressure and withdrew the charter but, as this post details, still accept no responsibility for nearly handing over responsibility for the education of close to a hundred students to a con man. But hey, their paperwork was in order.
  • What about claims that charters outperform public schools?  Read CHARTER SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENT: HYPE VS. EVIDENCE
  • Ultimately, as Zephyr Teachout writes in The Times Union, the current charter school movement is not about improving education for our kids, it’s about billionaires wanting tax breaks and a slice of the money that can made from the business of education. 

Another huge data problem

The story linked below is an important read for any one affected by the education reform agenda (which, basically, is everyone).

The overall gist is that, in a report to be released to the public, it seems NYSED greatly understated college enrollment by New York State high school graduates. While this might be easily dismissed as just another in a long string of errors, the implications here are huge.

  • First, we need to remember that the whole reform agenda, including Race to the Top, APPR, the “we have to roll it out all at once, ready or not” implementation of Common Core, etc. is ALL PREDICATED on the supposed fact that our students are not college and career ready. And yet here is evidence that the part of the state’s own data used to support that conclusion is absolute bulls@%$.  It’s not just that reformers are applying the wrong fix – they’re “fixing” something that isn’t broken.
  • Second, even if we accept that there is a problem with college readiness (and here’s another article explaining why it isn’t true) a whole other concern is that decisions about educational content and quality, how huge sums of money are being spent, and who will and will not get to keep their jobs in the next few years will all be based on data that CANNOT BE TRUSTED.

Obviously none of this is really news to most of us. It’s the policy makers, the politicians, and the voters at large who need to get this message. But it isn’t enough for us just to know things are wrong, we need to be well informed about exactly what is going on and help get that word out. Please continue to spread the truth about the education reform movement by sharing articles like this via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Principal uncovers flawed data in her state’s official education reports

News and Links

False Grit

In case you’ve missed it, the latest fad in the “People with little-or-no teaching experience telling us how to do our jobs” department is “grit.” Apparently, instead of emphasizing academics, skills, responsibility, etc., we should be teaching kids how to be more gritty. You can read/watch more about grit here, here, or here. Or just read Alfie Kohn’s piece on why this is utter nonsense.


Although Bill Maher calls himself a progressive, and skews pretty much left, he’s come across as very much anti-union.  His latest screed, opining against tenure, is just one more example. Blogger/Teacher Jersey Jazzman wrote this rebuttal, which we can also file in our Mythbuster category against all of those who see tenure as unnecessary or detrimental to education.

Common Core-bert

Steven Colbert explains the Common Core.


In our continuing effort to cut through the BS, here are two recent posts from “The Answer Sheet” that help bust some common myths.

  • The Common Core Curriculum is supposed to focus on deeper understanding and more analytical thinking about texts. So how come the assessments are essentially impossibly timed races against the clock?