Twenty-One Reasons People Hate, Hate, HATE Betsy DeVos



Lesley Stahl: Why have you become, people say, the most hated Cabinet secretary?


Betsy DeVos: I’m not sure exactly how that happened…

I’m more misunderstood than anything.



The above exchange from last night’s 60 Minutes interview highlights an important point about our Education Secretary.


She is deeply unpopular, but not because she’s misunderstood. If anything, she’s understood too well.


We know what she stands for and we don’t like it.


If she was really so misunderstood, why didn’t her answers in the interview veer away from the same usual canned responses she’s given time-and-time-again to the same type of questions?


What’s wrong with schools? NOT ENOUGH CHOICE.


How do we prevent school shootings? LET SCHOOLS ARM TEACHERS.


You didn’t really even need DeVos to show up to the interview to be able to guess with a high degree of accuracy what her answers would be.


In fact, many of her responses seemed to have been coached – as if someone had prepared her with talking points before the interview even took place.


So without further ado, here is my exhaustive list of all the reasons I can think of why people really, REALLY hate Betsy Devos. If I’ve left something out, please feel free to add it in a comment.




1) She didn’t earn her position as Education Secretary. She bought it. And even then it took a tie breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence to shove her down our throats.


2) She wants to spend tax dollars to boost privatized schools in which she has a financial stake.


3) She doesn’t mind taking funding away from public schools to do it.


4) She wants to destroy the entire system of public schools which enroll 90% of America’s children.


5) She doesn’t really know what public schools are, having never attended one or having never sent her children or grandchildren to one.


6) She wants to arm teachers not because it will protect kids from school shooters, but because that boosts her family’s investment portfolio. (i.e. her brother’s mercenary army for hire, Blackwater)


7) She won’t make charter and voucher schools give the same services to special education kids as those provided by traditional public schools.


8) She’s getting rid of students’ civil rights protections while adding protections for nefarious student loan providers and fly-by-night on-line schools.


9) She’s rescinded rules that protected trans students.


10) She’s considering rescinding rules that protect minority students from being unfairly and disproportionately disciplined by schools.


11) She’s made it harder for victims of sexual assault and harassment to report abuse and easier for those accused to avoid prosecution.


12) She talks about state’s rights to determine their own education systems while using the power of the federal government to coerce them to doing things her way.


13) She wastes public tax dollars. She is the only Cabinet member protected by Federal Marshals, which costs us nearly $1 million a month. Whether this is necessary or not, as a billionaire she could save the taxpayers money by taking on this cost, herself.


14) She doesn’t care if the public doesn’t want her at their school or event. She goes anyway and then pretends to be angry that protestors showed up. She doesn’t seem to understand that as a public servant she should serve at our pleasure – not the other way around.


15) She uses tragedy as a photo-op – as she did when she visited the Parkland school to promote arming teachers. She didn’t meet significantly with students or staff. She didn’t listen to their concerns. She even bailed on her own press conference there when the queries weren’t to her liking.


16) She has no problem whitewashing black history as she did when she claimed historic black colleges were pioneers of school choice. In reality they had no choice. For many African Americans at the time, it was create black colleges or forgo post-secondary education at all.


17) She is ignorant (purposefully or not) of the results of her own policies. Her advocacy of school choice in her home state of Michigan has weakened that state’s public schools, not strengthened them.


18) She’s out of touch with average Americans. She’s the richest member of Trump’s cabinet and often travels in her on super luxury yacht.


19) She’s rich not because she earned it, but because she was born into it and married into even more wealth. Moreover, much of her wealth is due to her family’s Amway fortune – basically it’s founded on rooking average people out of their hard earned money with what’s essentially a pyramid scheme.


20) She’s arrogant. She smiles vacantly at topics that don’t deserve a smile – they deserve serious regard.


21) She is extremely biased and partisan. She is supposed to serve the public interest, but her radical Christian Fundamentalism and anti-LGBT activism make her untrustworthy to serve in that capacity. Statements such as “There is enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education… Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom,” do not help.


Okay. That’s all I can think of – though more may pop into mind as soon as I publish this. If I missed something please include it in the comments.


Hopefully this answers DeVos’ question about why she’s hated.


Arming Already Stressed Out Teachers Will Only Increase the Chance of School Shootings



It happened in Georgia yesterday.


A beloved social studies teacher locked himself in his classroom while his students stood outside the door.


When the principal came with the key, the teacher fired a handgun through an exterior window.


Students ran, one even twisting her ankle in the escape.


Thankfully, no one else appears to have been injured.


However, the incident brings into focus a vital component of the gun debate.


Teachers are already under tremendous stress.


Arming them won’t stop gun violence. All it does is add another potential shooter.


It’s only been about two weeks since a shooting at Stonemason Douglas High School in Florida left 17 dead.


That’s at least 19 school shootings so far in 2018 – and it’s only the beginning of March!


In that time, the national media and the Trump administration have focused on one specific solution to stopping such violence from happening again: giving teachers guns.


The latest incident in Georgia underlines why this is such a terrible idea.


Teachers are not super heroes.


Take it from me. I’m an almost 15 year veteran of the middle school classroom in western Pennsylvania.


We’re just human beings.


My colleagues and I have all the same human failings and weaknesses as everybody else.


We get tired and overworked and put upon and stressed and sometimes…


…Sometimes we don’t handle it well.


I know some people don’t want to hear it.


Society has piled all kinds of responsibilities and unreasonable expectations on our shoulders.


We’re no longer allowed to be just educators.


We’re parents, counselors, disciplinarians, doctors, psychologists, lawyers, nutritionists…. The list goes on-and-on.


And now politicians actually want us to add law enforcement to the job description?


We’re already under colossal pressure, and some folks want to add a gun to that situation?


That’s lighting a fuse.


But don’t just take my word for it.


Back in 2015, tens of thousands of educators filled out the Quality of Worklife Survey conducted by the American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association.


After responses from 91,000 school employees and 31,000 who completed the entire 80-question survey, a picture of the emotional landscape became clear.


A total 73% of respondents said they often feel stressed at work.

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The reasons? Adoption of new initiatives without proper training or professional development (71%), negative portrayal of teachers and school employees in the media (55%), uncertain job expectations (47%) and salary (46%) were the most common responses.

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The survey identified the following as most common everyday stressors in the workplace – time pressures, disciplinary issues and even a lack of opportunity to use the bathroom.

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Focusing just on the classroom, top stressors were mandated curriculum, large class sizes and standardized testing.

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Many teachers claimed to be the victims of violence at school.


A total 18% of all respondents said they had been threatened with physical violence – though the percentage jumped to 27% when looking solely at special education teachers.


A total of 9% of all respondents claimed to have been physically assaulted at school. Again the percentage jumped to 18% of all special education teachers.


But it’s not just physical assault.


A total of 30% claim to have been bullied by administrators (58%), co-workers (38%), students (34%) and student’s parents (30%).

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This is the situation where policymakers want to throw firearms.


Most gun violence doesn’t involve a shooter doing harm to others. The great majority of gun deaths are self-inflicted.


Even without adding guns to the mix, several high profile teachers and administrators already have committed suicide.


In October of 2010, for example, a California elementary school teacher named Rigoberto Ruelas, Jr. took his own life after the Los Angeles Times published a report labeling him a “less effective teacher.” Despite the fact that students and parents praised Ruelas, who taught in one of poorest schools in his district and who also was born, raised and continued to live in area where his school was located, the Times targeted him among other so-called “less effective” teachers as part of a major propaganda campaign.


And this isn’t an isolated incident. In July of 2015, a New York City principal under investigation for altering Common Core test scores, killed herself by jumping in front of a subway car.


Adding guns to this situation will just mean more teachers taking their own lives with a bullet.


That may have been the intent of the Georgia teacher in yesterday’s shooting.


Local police said they didn’t think he was trying to injure anyone else. When he shot his gun out of the window, he appeared to be trying to get others to leave him alone.


Arming teachers is a terrible solution to school violence. It’s taking an already stifling room and turning up the heat.


We need sensible gun regulations to reduce the pressure, not increase it.


We need sensible school policies that treat teachers and students like human beings and not just cogs in the system.


But this requires us to break out of a dangerous pattern in how we deal with social problems.


When we see a problem, we generally just shrug and leave it up to public schools and teachers to solve.


Inadequate resources – leave it to teachers to buy school supplies out of pocket.


Inequitable funding – increase class size and leave it to teachers to somehow make up the difference.


We can’t do the same with gun violence. We can’t just toss teachers a gun and tell them to sort it out.


Teachers can’t solve all of society’s problems alone.


That’s going to take all of us.


And we’ll need more than disingenuous proposals like answering gun violence with more guns.

Crippled Puerto Rico Offered School Privatization as Quick Fix for Woes



You’re Puerto Rico’s school system.


More than five months since a devastating hurricane hit the island’s shores, some 270 schools are still without power.


Roughly 25,000 students are leaving with that number expected to swell to 54,000 in four years. And that’s after an 11-year recession already sent 78,000 students  seeking refuge elsewhere.


So what do you do to stop the flow of refugees fleeing the island? What do you do to fix your storm damaged schools? What do you do to ensure all your precious children are safe and have the opportunity to learn?


If you’re Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello, you sell off your entire system of public education.


After an economic history of being pillaged and raped by corporate vultures from the mainland, Rossello is suggesting the U.S. Territory offer itself for another round of abuse.


He wants to close 300 more schools and change the majority of those remaining into charter and voucher schools.


That means no elected school boards.


That means no public meetings determining how these schools are run.


It means no transparency in terms of how the money is spent.


It means public funding can become private profit.


And it means fewer choices for children who will have to apply at schools all over the island and hope one accepts them. Unlike public schools, charter and voucher schools pick and choose whom to enroll.


Make no mistake. This has nothing to do with serving the needs of children. It is about selling off public property because it belongs to poor, brown people.


Something similar happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.


A district that served mostly black and poor children was swiped by private interests and turned almost exclusively into charter schools.


The results have been an abysmal academic record, the loss of black teachers, black neighborhoods, cultural heritage and in its place support for a status quo that just doesn’t care to provide the proper resources to students of color.


If the Governor and his wealthy backers have their way, Puerto Rico will be yet another ghettoized colony gobbled up by industry.


However, the people aren’t going to let this happen without a fight.


Mercedes Martinez, President of the Federacion de Maestros of Puerto Rico, an island teacher’s union, released the following statement:


“Dear comrades in the diaspora, now more than ever we need your unconditional solidarity.


Governor Roselló just announced his plan to shut down 307 schools, implement charter schools and vouchers. Disaster capitalism at its best. Added to the announcement of the privatization of PREPA. [Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority]


The way to victory is already paved, organized and militant resistance, concrete proposals to improve the public goods that we have, unity and organization. Be our voice in the states and let the world know that corporate reformers want to make PR the next New Orleans as they did after Katrina.


The hurricane has been the perfect storm and excuse for them to advance their plans. Today the so called “educational reform” will be sent to the legislature.


We will give the hardest fight of our lives, and we will triumph. Send letters and videos of support with our struggle. Teachers United, will never be defeated!


Lucha sí”


I don’t know about you, but I stand with these brave teachers, parents and their students.


I may live in Pennsylvania, my skin may be white, but I do not support the theft of Puerto Rico’s schools.


These children have just as much right as mine to a free and appropriate education. Their parents deserve the right to control their districts. They deserve transparency and self-rule.


They deserve the choice to guide their own destinies.


Teachers’ opposition to the move comes even though the Governor is proposing a $1,500 raise for all educators. Martinez says it could come to a general strike.


Their cause has hope on its side – especially in blocking the proposed school vouchers.


The Governor’s voucher proposal wouldn’t go into effect until the 2019-20 school year. However, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court struck down a similar program in 1994 when the current governor’s father, Pedro Rossello – himself a former governor – tried to push it through. The court ruled the island’s constitution forbids public money being used to fund privately run schools.


From this day forward, let us always remember what they did to New Orleans. Let us remember what they are trying to do to Puerto Rico.


Corporate school reform is not about making better schools. If it was, you would see plans like this being proposed in Beverly Hills and rich white neighborhoods across the country.


But somehow that never happens.


These schemes only show up in poor communities populated predominantly by people of color.


While the rest of our public schools are celebrating Black History Month, the children of Puerto Rico are reliving the struggle for their civil rights.


They are still the victims of colonization and brutality.


But they are not alone.


I stand with the people of Puerto Rico.


Will you stand, too?


Will you speak out for Puerto Rico?

Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!


Nationwide Charter School Expansion Slowing Down

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Charter schools used to be seen as the hot new concept in education.


But that fad seems to have jumped the shark.


For two decades since the first charter school law was passed in Minnesota, they’ve grown at about 6 to 7 percent nationally.


But for the last three years, that growth has dropped each year – from 7 to 5 to 2 percent.




Even states that historically boasted the most growth are falling behind. Of charter powerhouses Texas, Florida, Ohio and California – only Texas has shown a significant upward trend.




So what happened?


How did the hippest new thing to hit education since the chalk board suddenly hit such a wall? After all, it wasn’t so long ago that every celebrity from Magic Johnson to Andre Agassi to Deion Sanders to Sean “Puffy” Combs to Pitt Bull had their own charter school. Even Oprah Winfrey, the queen of multimedia, donated millions to charter networks in Louisiana, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas and her home state of Illinois.


How could something with so much high profile support be running out of gas?


The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has a theory.


The charter school funded think tank (read: propaganda network) released a report boiling the issue down to three factors: real estate costs, a teacher shortage and political backlash.


Real estate costs? Yes, few public schools want to offer you public property to put your privately run school that will inevitably gobble up a good portion of its funding and turn a portion of that into profit for private investors.


Teacher shortage? Yes, when you pay your educators the least, don’t allow your employees to unionize, and demand high hours without remuneration, you tend to find it harder than most educational institutions to find people willing to work for you.


Political backlash? DING! DING! DING!


Of course, most people who aren’t paid by the charter school industry – as those working for CRPE are – would simply call this a charter school backlash – not political, at all.


This isn’t one political party seeking advantage over another. It’s concerned citizens from both sides of the aisle worried about the practices of the charter school industry.


The general public is starting to understand exactly what charter schools are and why they are a bad idea for children and society.


For instance:
-Charter schools are rarely controlled by elected school boards – they’re run by appointed bureaucrats.


-They are often run for profit –which means they can reduce services for students and pocket the savings.


-They cherry pick which students to enroll and how long to keep them enrolled – they only let in the easiest to teach and give the boot to any that are struggling before standardized testing time.


-And they very often close unexpectedly and/or are the site of monetary scandals where unscrupulous charter school operators take the money and run.


Moreover, it’s no accident that much of the criticism of charter schools comes from people of color. About one quarter of all charter school students are black, whereas black students make up only 15 percent of enrollment at traditional public schools.


To put that in perspective, approximately 837,000 black students were enrolled at charter schools during the 2016-17 school year. Yet civil rights organizations are concerned that this over-representation is having negative consequences on students of color.


The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has issued numerous criticisms of charter schools most recently calling for a moratorium on them. So has the Movement for Black Lives and the Journey for Justice Alliance.


In addition to the concerns already mentioned, civil rights advocates are concerned with the tendency of charter schools to increase racial segregation.


Seventy percent of black charter school students have few white classmates, according to a study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.


But some charters are even worse. More than 1,000 of the nation’s 6,747 charter schools had student bodies made up of at least 99% minority students, according to an Associated Press analysis from three years ago. And it’s getting worse!


Certainly increasing segregation is a problem even at traditional public schools, but nothing like the numbers we’re seeing in the charter school sector.


Civil rights leaders know that “separate but equal” schools don’t work because when they’re separate, they’re rarely equal.


For instance, charter schools suspend students at a much higher rate than traditional public schools. Some charters suspend more than 70% of those enrolled, according to an analysis from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles.



Researchers found the situation is even more dire for minorities. Black students are four times more likely to be suspended than white students, and students with disabilities are twice as likely to be suspended as non-disabled students.


With all these problems dogging their heels, it’s no wonder that the charter school juggernaut is starting to lose momentum.


Instead of concentrating solely on why these schools are losing popularity, we should also ask what set them shooting off into the stratosphere in the first place.


After all, no one was really crying out for private schools run with public money.


No one, that is, except big business and greedy investors looking for a quick buck.


Since the Clinton administration, charter school investments get automatic tax credits that allow investors to double their money in as little as 7 years. Lobbying at the state and federal level by charter schools and their investors and contractors have enabled a monetary scam to enrich private industry at public expense.


Put simply, charters are not subject to the same instructional, operational, fiscal, accounting or conflict of interest rules as traditional public schools. Therefore, in most states it’s perfectly legal for a charter school operator to give his brother the instructional contract, his sister the maintenance contract and his uncle the textbook contract. He can replace the teachers with computer programs and apps, while his own privately held company rents and leases the school building at a hefty markup – all with public money.


And somehow that’s still called a “public” school.


We have to face this simple fact: Charters took off not because they were a good idea to help kids learn, but because they were an excellent way to make a lot of money off of the government. It was a way to steal money meant to help children.


What we’re seeing in terms of a backlash is just a more common realization of the motives behind charter schools echoed in the negative consequences these schools leave behind.


And in the Trump era, charter schools can’t hide behind a friendly face like Barack Obama.


The neoliberal agenda is as fervently being pushed by the right wing as the left – more so.


This slowdown may signal that people have gone beyond politics.


We don’t care what the left and the right wish to sell us. We’re not willing to buy the charter school boloney anymore. If our policymakers want to continue getting our votes, they may need to give in to what the people actually want and stop trying to lead us over the cliff and feed us to the sharks.

Rick Saccone Hopes to Become Trump’s New Bobble Head in Western Pennsylvania


Rick Saccone hard at work for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.

Rick Saccone’s signature achievement in the Pennsylvania House was to get “In God We Trust” posted in every public school.


Actually, he didn’t even get that.


He wrote a successful bill that merely allowed public schools to post that – if they wanted.


To my knowledge not a single school in the Commonwealth has taken him up on it.


His second greatest hit was to authorize a state day of fasting.


I’m not kidding. And it’s all down hill from there.


Now he’s running for U.S. Senate!


Oh. Wait. His fundraising was terrible.


Excuse me. He’s running for U.S. House – because that’s an easier win!


Whatever. So long as he can get to Washington, DC. He’s had enough of this small potatoes Pennsylvania politics – even though he’s one of the smallest potatoes in the patch.


If you know what I mean.


He’s running against Democrat Conor Lamb in a special election to be held March 13 to fill Republican Tim Murphy’s seat.


You may recall Murphy. He made his name voting for anti-abortion legislation until his alleged mistress got pregnant and then he allegedly pushed for her to abort their love child.


You know. Family values stuff.


Is Saccone up to that level of hypocrisy?


Donald Trump thinks he is.


The least popular President in U.S. history with only a year under his bulging golf shorts thinks Saccone is his kind of guy.


Trump even came to western Pennsylvania to support Saccone tweeting:

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“Will be going to Pennsylvania today in order to give my total support to RICK SACCONE, running for Congress in a Special Election (March 13). Rick is a great guy. We need more Republicans to continue our already successful agenda!”


Of course, Trump immediately had to walk back this comment because his trip to the keystone state was being paid for with public tax dollars. He had to say that it was an official White House event and not (as he indicated in the tweet) that it was a campaign event.


You know, for once I agree with Trump.


Rick Saccone IS Trump’s kind of guy.


He has lots of experience as a Yes Man. That’s really all he’s done in Harrisburg.


We used to have our own version of Trump – a Republican Governor who had no idea how to do his job – Tom Corbett.


Of course, Corbett’s reign was short lived. Like the President, his popularity plummeted and he was voted out of office like yesterday’s garbage.


But he had his loyal bobble head Saccone backing him every step of the way.


In fact, he voted for Corbett’s initiatives 95% of the time giving him the nickname of Corbett’s “Mini-me.”


Even when Corbett proposed something deeply unpopular, like cutting almost $1 billion from the state’s poorest public schools, Saccone went out there to explain why our children, our future, just weren’t worth the investment.


The Swamp recognizes Saccone as one of their own.


That’s why big moneyed interests are pouring cash on the sycophantic lawmaker. That and the fact that the district in question went for Trump in the last election by 20 points.


The National Republican Congressional Committee has spent at least $1 million on ads for broadcast and cable TV stations to boost Saccone’s candidacy.


And that’s not all.


Congressional Leadership Fund has put aside at least $1.6 million for ads, not to mention funding from outsiders like the 45Committee and Ending Spending – a group founded by the mega-donor Ricketts family.


All this money just to serve out the remainder of Murphy’s term!


Whoever wins would be up for re-election in November to secure a full two-year term.


Moreover, now that the state Supreme Court has overturned the Commonwealth’s gerrymandered districts that unfairly favor Republicans, that November race is likely to include newly drawn legislative lines.


So this GOP wonderland that boosted Trump and Mitt Romney in 2012 will likely become more competitive.


In fact, it may already be.

Saccone disrespecting the flag by wearing it as a shirt.

Some polls have Saccone up over Lamb by only a 3 point lead. This may be in part because of Trump’s steadily deflating support – even among Republicans. The President’s approval rating in the district has dropped to 49 percent – not far from the national picture where 47 percent disapprove of his job performance.


This is not good news for Saccone.


The SuperPACS supporting him are trying to paint Lamb, a former federal prosecutor, as a Nancy Pelosi puppet.


But Lamb has repeatedly criticized Pelosi, telling The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he would not support Pelosi as the Democratic leader. There is a “need [for] new leadership on both sides,” Lamb said.


Yet Saccone has done everything in his power to suck up to Trump.


Taking his cue from the Commander in Chief, Saccone took to twitter to express his feelings:

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“I’m humbled that @realDonaldTrump for President, Inc, has officially endorsed my campaign for Congress!”


I’m not sure why he wrote “President, Inc.”


Perhaps Saccone thinks the office belongs to a private company.


Perhaps he doesn’t understand that a politician’s job is to serve the needs of his or her constituents.


Judging by his less than stellar performance in state government, this would seem to be the case.


He’s come a long way from earnestly trying to legislate past the establishment clause of the first amendment to fighting to starve our schools to running for a position as Trump’s favorite puppet.


Or not.


That depends on voters this March.


Full Disclosure: I am not a Saccone fan. Along with teachers, parents and students from across western Pennsylvania, I’ve picketed outside of his offices demanding he do his job and provide for students. He was deaf to our cries. Do you hear me now, Rick?



School Choice Week – Choosing Away Your Choice



School Choice Week is one of the greatest scams in American history.



It is a well-funded, thoroughly organized attempt to trick parents into signing away their right to make educational choices about their children.






It goes like this:



Salesman: Would you like a choice?



Parent: Sure!



Salesman: Then just agree to never have another choice again.



That’s it in a nutshell.



Choose not to choose.



When you decide to send your child to a so-called choice school – a charter or voucher institution – you lose almost every other choice about what happens at your child’s school.



Sound impossible?



Let me count the decisions you lose by signing on the dotted line.



When you send your child to a school paid for with public money but run by a private organization, you lose:



AN ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD, so you have no say about what the school does.



OPEN DOCUMENTS, so you have no right to see budgets, spending agreements, bids, contracts, etc.



OPEN MEETINGS, so you have no public place to speak up to the people who run your school.



RIGHT TO SELF-GOVERNMENT, so you have no right to run for a leadership position on the school board. Instead you’re at the mercy of appointed flunkies.



THE RIGHT OF ENROLLMENT, so school operators get to choose whether your child gets to attend, unlike public schools which have to accept your child no matter what – so long as you live in the district.



QUALITY SERVICES, so school operators can cut services for your child and pocket the savings as profit or use it to advertise to get more paying butts in seats.



QUALITY TEACHERS, because most charter and voucher schools aren’t required to hire educators with 4-year degrees, and since they don’t pay as well as public schools and often refuse to let their teachers unionize, they attract less experienced and distinguished educators.



DIVERSE CLASSMATES, because charter and voucher schools increase segregation. Your children will be educated with more kids that look just like them. That’s healthy!



And that’s merely at MOST privatized schools. But that’s not all. At some privatized schools you can lose even more! You may also lose:



COMMON SENSE DISCIPLINE POLICIES, so your children will be held to a zero tolerance discipline policy where they may have to sit quietly, eyes forward, marching in line or else face aggressive public reprimands and harsh punishments.



AN UNBIASED SECULAR EDUCATION, so your children will be taught religion and politics as if they were fact all funded by public tax dollars! Hear that sound? That’s our Founders crying.



FREE TIME, so you’ll be required to volunteer at the school regardless of your ability to do so. Gotta’ work? Tough!



MONEY, so you’ll have to pay tuition, buy expensive uniforms, school supplies or other amenities.



And if your children are struggling academically, you may also lose:



ENROLLMENT, so your child is given the boot back to the public school because he or she is having difficulty learning, and thus costs too much to educate.



You lose all that if you decide to enroll your child in a charter or voucher school!



But that’s not all!



If you DON’T decide to send your child to a so-called choice school, you can still lose choice!



Why? Because of the rubes who were fooled into give up their choice. When they did that, they took some of your choices, too.



Because of them, you still lose:



-NECESSARY FUNDING, because your public school has to make up the money it lost to charter and voucher schools somewhere, and that means fewer resources and services for your child.


-LOWER CLASS SIZES, because your public school has to fire teachers and increase class size to make up for lost revenue.



-FAIR ASSESSMENTS, because the state and federal government require your child to take unfair high stakes tests to “prove” your public school is failing and thus justify replacing it with a charter or voucher schoolas if those have ever been proven to be better, but whatever! CA-CHING! CA-CHING!



This is what you get from School Choice Week.



It’s a uniquely American experience – selling the loss of choice — as choice.



And all the while they try to convince you that public schools are the ones that take away your alternatives.



Yet public schools are where you get all those things you lose at privatized schools.



You get elected school boards, open documents, open meetings, the right to self-government, the right of enrollment, quality services, quality teachers, diverse classmates, common sense discipline policies, an unbiased secular education, free time and money! That’s right! You actually get all that and more money in your pocket!



I’m not saying public schools are perfect. There are many ways they need to improve, but it’s difficult to do so when many of the people tasked with improving these schools are more concerned with sabotaging them to make room for privatized systems.



These are paid employees of the charter and voucher school movement who want to kill public schools – BUT THE KILLER IS ALREADY IN THE HOUSE!



Imagine if we dedicated ourselves to making our public school system better!



Imagine if we committed to giving parents and students more choices in the system and not trying to replace that system with one that gives all the benefits and choices away to corporate vultures!



So, yeah, School Choice Week is a scam.



But, hey, enjoy those yellow scarfs.



Few Kids in the World Can Pass America’s Common Core Tests, According to New Study



Could you jump through a hoop?



Probably if it were lying on the ground.



But what if it were held slightly higher? Let’s say waist high? Sure.



Shoulder height? Maybe with some practice.


How about if we raised the hoop to the rafters of a three story auditorium? Could you jump through THAT?



No. Of course not.



You could train with the world’s greatest coach, with the best equipment, 24-hours a day and you still couldn’t jump that high.



Yet that’s kind of what the U.S. has been expecting of its public school students – minus the resources.



We hold the hoop ridiculously out of reach and then blame them when they can’t jump through it.



But don’t take my word for it.



This is the conclusion of a new study that came out in January called “How High the Bar?” by the National Superintendents Roundtable and the Horace Mann League.



They found the benchmarks for passing the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and American Common Core tests put success out of reach for most students the world over.


To do so, they linked the performance of foreign students on international tests of reading, mathematics, and science to the proficiency benchmarks of NAEP and thus Common Core aligned tests which use NAEP benchmarks to determine passing or failure.


The difference is the NAEP is only meant to compare how students in various states stack up against each other. Common Core tests, on the other hand, apply exclusively to kids within states.



No one’s actually expected to pass the NAEP. It’s only given to a sample of kids in each state and used to rank state education systems. The U.S. government, however, gives almost all its students Common Core tests and expects them all to pass – in fact, failure to do so could result in your public school being closed and replaced with a charter or voucher institution.



However, in both cases, the study concluded the score needed to meet the bare minimum of passing was absurdly too high – so much so that hardly any group of children in the entire world met it.



It’s important to note that these aren’t standardized testing skeptics.



They believe in the assessments. They even believe in Common Core. What they don’t believe in is the benchmarks we’re expecting our kids to meet to consider them having passed.



And this has massive consequences for the entire education system.



The media has uncritically repeated the lie that American public schools are failing based almost exclusively on test scores that show only one third of our students passing.



But if the same tests were given to students the world over with the same standard for success, even less would pass it, according to the study. If we drew the red line on international tests at the same place we draw it on the NAEP and  Common Core tests, almost every child in the world would be a dunce.



Kids from Singapore would fail. Kids from South Korea would fail. Kids from Japan would fail. You name a country where kids do nothing but study for high stakes standardized tests, and even they couldn’t meet our uniquely American criterion for passing.



In fact, the percentage of our students who do pass under these ridiculous benchmarks often exceeds that of other countries.



So when you hold kids up to impossible standards a few actually make it – and more of our kids do than our international peers.



That doesn’t mean the benchmarks are good. But it doesn’t mean the American education system is failing either. In fact, just the opposite.



We have a high stakes standardized testing system that not only does not assess kids fairly, but it actually hides their success!



In the words of the study’s authors, “…the analysis suggest the U.S. has established benchmarks that are neither useful nor credible.”



How did this happen?



It comes down to one word – proficient.



If you’re proficient, it’s thought you’re competent, you are able to do something. You might not be incredible at it, but you can get the job done.



Kind of like this:



Hey. Did you hear about my leaky faucet? The plumber fixed it after three tries because he’s proficient at his job.



Oh really? My plumber fixed my leaky faucet in only one try and didn’t even charge me because she’s advanced at her job.



That sort of thing.



There are only four scores you can achieve on most standardized assessments: Advanced, Proficient, Basic and Below Basic. The first two are considered passing and the last two are failing.



However, this doesn’t line up with the five general grades most public schools give in core subjects:



A – Excellent

B – Very good

C – Average

D – Poor

F – Failing



A-D is usually considered passing. Only F is failing.



So you might expect them to line up like this:



Advanced – A and B

Proficient – C

Basic – D

Below Basic – F



However, that’s not how they line up on NAEP. According to Diane Ravitch, who served on the National Assessment Governing Board, the federal agency that supervises NAEP, they line up like this:



Advanced – A+

Proficient – A

Basic – B and C

Below Basic – D and F



This is important, because saying someone scored a proficient on the NAEP doesn’t mean they’re just okay at it. It means they’re excellent but have room to improve.



The problem is that when developers of Common Core tests set their benchmarks, they used almost the same ones as the NAEP. Yet the NAEP benchmarks were never meant to be the same as grade level ones. Confounding the two puts mere passing out of reach for most students.


And that’s not just out of reach for most American students. It’s out of reach for international students!


In short, American students are doing B work on their Common Core tests and failing with a Basic. Yet in other countries, this would be passing with room to spare.


Moreover, when you hear that only one third of American students are Proficient or above, that means only one third are doing A or A+ work on their Common Core tests. That’s actually rather impressive!


According to the study:


“National judgments about student proficiency and many state Common 
Core judgments about “career and college readiness” are defective and misleading… 
According to NAEP officials, Proficient does not mean grade level performance. The misuse of the term confuses the public. The effects of this misuse are reflected in most Common Core assessments…


NAEP’s term “Proficient” does not even mean proficient. “Students who may be proficient in a subject, given the common usage of the term, might not satisfy the requirements for performance at the NAEP achievement level.”


The report even cites other independent analysts that have come to similar conclusions such as the U.S. General Accounting Office, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Brookings Institution.


In short:


“Advocates who push for school improvement on the grounds of questionable benchmarks are not strengthening education and advancing American interests, but undermining public schools and weakening the United States.”


Some specifics.



The study was conducted by comparing performance of foreign students on international tests of reading, mathematics, and science with the NAEP and American Common Core tests.



Very few foreign students were able to score high enough to meet what is considered proficiency on the NAEP and Common Core tests.




In fact, in 4th grade reading, not a single nation was able to meet the benchmark.



In 8th grade math, only three nations (Singapore, South Korea and Japan) had 50 percent or more students who could meet the criterion.



In 8th grade science, only one nation (Singapore) had 50 percent or more students meeting the benchmark.



But wait.



Even though the benchmarks are unfair and few nations children could meet them, the percentage of U.S. children who did meet them was higher than most other nations.



Take 4th grade reading.


Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 8.48.54 AM


No one had 50% or more of its kids scoring a proficient or advanced. But 31% of U.S. kids actually met the benchmark, putting us fifth behind only Singapore, the Russian Federation, Finland, and England.



Only 31% of our kids could do it, but only four other nations out of 40 could do better.



That’s kind of impressive. Yet judging our scores in abstraction solely on this unrealistic proficiency standard, we’re failures. The whole process hides how well our kids actually do.



Bottom line, Common Core benchmarks are too high and paint an unfair picture of our education system, according to the study:



“When citizens read that “only one-third” or “less than half” of the students in their local schools are proficient in mathematics, science, or reading, they can rest assured that the same judgments can be applied to students throughout most of the world…


Globally, in just about every nation where it is possible to compare student performance with our national benchmarks, the vast majority of students cannot demonstrate their competence because the bars are set unreasonably high.”


Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 8.47.29 AM


At very least, this invalidates the scores of the NAEP and every Common Core test yet given in this country. It demands we set new benchmarks that are in line with grade level performance.


At most, it casts doubt on the entire process of high stakes standardized testing.


It demonstrates how the data can be manipulated to show whatever testing corporations or other interested parties want.


Standardized testing is a gun, and we have been demanding schools shoot themselves in the foot with it.


Instead of trying to hold our schools to impossible standards, we should be holding our lawmakers to standards of common decency. We should concentrate on equitable funding, reintegration, and supporting our public school system and public school teachers. Not enriching private testing corporations so they’ll paint a misleading picture of student performance to justify pro-privatization schemes.


When will our policymakers rise to meet the benchmarks of honesty, empathy and caring about the well-being of children?


In the final analysis, that may be bar they are simply incapable of reaching.