EON #6 – Mar 13-19, 2013


Where Are Progressives In The Fight To Save Public Schools?

By Jeff Bryant

“People calling themselves ‘progressives’ have tended to unite with conservative Republicans when it came to education – even while they chose to fight tooth-and-nail on other issues. But the Washington Consensus on education was illusionary – and actually a capitulation from Democrats. … And now that the real intentions of the reform agenda are starting to play out on the ground, there are signs that progressives are making the fight for public schools another front in a broader grassroots struggle.” Read more…

Waiting For Recovery: U.S. Public Schools Continue To Lose Jobs


“As the latest data shows momentum gathering in U.S. private-sector employment and overall unemployment dropping to a four-year low of 7.7 percent, government jobs – education positions in particular – are still disappearing … about 361,000 jobs in the sector have been eliminated … with 4,500 local government education jobs shed in the first two months … State spending on education dipped to 19.8 percent of total outlays in fiscal 2012, the first time it has accounted for less than 20 percent, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.” Read more…

School Maintenance Report Shows Need For $542 Billion To Update, Modernize Buildings

The Huffington Post

A report from The Center for Green Schools finds, “America’s schools are in such disrepair that it would cost more than $270 billion just to get elementary and secondary buildings back to their original conditions and twice that to get them up to date … Horror stories abound about schools with roofs that leak, plumbing that backs up and windows that do little to stop winds … The problems often start at the local and state levels [and] large disparities between schools in areas of high poverty and those in more affluent areas.” Read more…

Influx Of School Police Raises Worries

Education Week

“The rarity of deadly school incidents must be weighed against the likelihood that an influx of officers will raise the stakes on school discipline and funnel students into the juvenile-justice system for matters administrators should handle in-house … The charge to make the police presence at schools universal worries even groups that support the addition of officers … Over time, civil rights groups say, some school police officers have grown far too involved with discipline matters, often with bad consequences for students. … While federal data show the rate of juvenile arrests has declined nationwide, such arrests are on the rise in pockets.” Read more…

New York Parents Furious At Program, inBloom, That Compiles Private Student Information For Companies

New York Daily News

In New York, “education officials will hand over personal student data to a new private company to create a national database for businesses that contract with public schools … Parents are furious that New York is joining eight other states in adopting the model without giving families a chance to opt out of sharing delicate information … InBloom, a 3-month-old database, is funded primarily by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. built the infrastructure for the new electronic portal. The state spent $50 million in federal grants to partner with inBloom and finalized its agreement in October to share data with the fledgling company.” Read more…

Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor

The New York Times

“Most low-income students who have top test scores and grades do not even apply to the nation’s best colleges … The pattern contributes to widening economic inequality and low levels of mobility in this country … The colleges that most low-income students attend have fewer resources and lower graduation rates than selective colleges, and many students who attend a local college do not graduate. Those who do graduate can miss out on the career opportunities that top colleges offer.” Read more…

EON #5 – Mar 6-12, 2013

The Disempowerment Of Public School Parents

By Jeff Bryant

“The parent trigger has been relentlessly marketed to parents and policy makers as an ’empowerment’ that enables parents to conduct a petition campaign in their community to fire their school’s staff and change its governance. But what are the results? A new video “Parent Triggers: Another Reform Misfires,” released by the Education Opportunity Network, recently looked at the results of the parent trigger in Adelanto , California and found that rather then uniting parents in doing what’s best for children, the parent trigger brought deception, division, and disruption to the community.”

How Is This Not A National Scandal?

Dispatches From The Underclass

A Chicago blogger writes “90 percent of students affected by public school closings in Chicago are African American, a rate that doesn’t match up  with the city’s racial demographics … School closings are the latest trend among privatization and charter school advocates who seek to dismantle public education (and teachers unions) to turn a profit. So far they’ve been largely successful because it’s happening on the backs of poor black communities.”

Which States Have Academic Performance Targets That Vary By Race?

NBC News

“To date, the Department of Education has approved waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for 34 states and the District of Columbia. These waivers allow states to set new academic performance targets for their students, as long as they make substantial gains in reducing the achievement gap in six years. Because of this, 23 states have now set targets that vary by race.”

Sequestration Cuts Deep In Underfunded Rural Schools

National Education Association

“As the sequester cuts take effect, $9 million will be cut from funding set aside for rural schools alone. These schools will also face massive cuts to programs such as Title I funding for low-income schools and IDEA for special education … Rural schools are also serving a growing number of students … enrollment has risen by more than 22 percent … This growing population has been met with fewer and fewer resources for many of these schools.”

Voters Send Mixed Signals To School Reformers In L.A.

Washington Post

” Voters keep sending signals that they have very mixed feelings about corporate-based school reform. The latest signs come from Los Angeles, where Tuesday’s races for three Board of Education seats resulted in one defeat, one win, and one runoff for supporters of school reform. The reason it matters is that Los Angeles is the second largest public school district in the country, and people around the country were watching the elections as a kind of bellwether.”

How Washington Could Make College Tuition Free (Without Spending a Penny More on Education)

The Atlantic

“With what the federal government spent on its various and sundry student aid initiatives last year, it could have covered the tuition bill of every student at every public college in the country … Instead of handing money to students and parents, the federal government could instead send the cash down to the states, on the condition that local legislatures kept per student funding at a certain level, and colleges lowered their tuition rates.”

Diane Ravitch Launches New Education Advocacy Counterforce

Education Week

“Education historian Diane Ravitch, a fierce critic of current education reform trends, is launching a new advocacy organization that will support political candidates who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, and what her group calls the ‘privatizing’ of public schools. The new Network for Public Education is meant to counter state-level forces such as Democrats for Education Reform, Stand for Children, and Students First.”

EON #4 – Feb 27-Mar 5, 2013

Sequester Cuts Confirm Republicans Are Party Of Deadbeat Dads

by Jeff Bryant

“… Some of the hardest hit by the budget cuts will be children … Deadbeat dads are famous for withholding financial support from children. So Republicans seem to fit the mold here … Republicans are going to deny this. Conservatives are going to claim the cuts aren’t that big of a deal – or are even actually a good thing. But Democrats need to call them out for their negligence and stop playing the role of the ‘ineffectual mom’ who fails to confront the harm being done to children.”

Why Are Walmart Billionaires Bankrolling Phony School ‘Reform’ In LA? (Bill Moyers)

Peter Dreier, a professor at Occidental College, observes, “Los Angeles has been ground zero in an intense debate about how to improve our nation’s education system. What’s less known is who is shaping that debate. Many of the biggest contributors to the so-called ‘school choice’ movement – code words for privatizing our public education system – are billionaires who don’t live in Southern California, but have gained significant influence in local school politics.”

 The Dark Side Of Choosing School Choice (Teaching Speaks Volumes)

A teacher and parent in North Carolina reflects on school choice and concludes, “If we were we in an ideal world, where schools were really funded  … I might be a stronger proponent of a choice model … All our schools should be special … [but] we’ve created a system cloaked in the party line of empowering students and parents, where the reality has school systems and educators fighting over the last scraps like dogs over the last lean bone.”

Teachers Say They Are Unprepared for Common Core (Education Week)

“Even as the Common Core State Standards are being put into practice across most of the country, nearly half of teachers feel unprepared to teach them, especially to disadvantaged students … more than two-thirds said their schools were not well prepared … and only two in 10 said their states were … Nearly three in 10 have not had any training at all. Of the 70 percent who have… three in 10 have had only one day or less … 31% reported having had two to three days … Teachers showed grave concerns about the children’s prospects for mastering the standards.”

The Non-Reformy Lessons Of KIPP (School Finance 101)

“We’ve heard lots of talk about no excusesness and its (supposed) costless (revenue neutral) effectiveness and potential to replace entire urban school systems … The reality is that what underlies the KIPP model, and that of many other ‘high flying’ no excuses charter organizations, are a mix of substantial resources, leveraged in higher salaries, additional time … reasonable class sizes, coupled with a dose of old-fashioned sit-down-and-shut up classroom/behavior management and a truckload of standardized testing. Nothin’ too sexy there. Nothin’ that reformy. Nothin’ particularly creative.”

Student Loan Delinquencies May Top 30 Percent (Huffington Post)

“The Federal Reserve Bank of New York released data on Thursday showing skyrocketing levels of student debt over the past decade … Excluding student loan borrowers who delay repaying debts through so-called forbearance and deferral plans, the New York Fed’s data shows that nearly one in three people with student loans are now more than 90 days behind on payments — a significant jump from 2004. Experts said the data is further evidence that recent college graduates are facing a punishing world of high unemployment and increasing student loan balances.”

EON #3 – Feb 19-26, 2013

Is Right-Wing School Reform (Texas) Toast?

by Jeff Bryant
What happened this weekend in the Texas capital of Austin revealed a groundswell of resistance, from multiple political factions, against what has been heretofore defined as “education reform.” A rally brought thousands of people into the streets to hear education historian Diane Ravitch declare Texas, the place where reform “madness” started, would be where “the vampire gets … a stake in its heart.”

Sequestration Cuts To Education Programs Threaten To Widen Education Gap Between Rich And Poor (Think Progress)

“The achievement gap between school districts in high-income neighborhoods and those in low-income ones is already more canyon than crack, and if $1.7 trillion in automatic sequestration cuts are allowed to go into effect on March 1, that gap could grow even wider … Dozens of education programs would face reduced funding … to low-income students.”

Teacher Survey Shows Record Low Job Satisfaction In 2012 (Huffington Post)

“Teachers’ job satisfaction plummeted in 2012, reaching an all-time low, according to a survey … The least satisfied teachers are those who work in schools that have slashed budgets, and who have less time for collaboration with peers and professional development … The survey comes as states are implementing education reform policies favored by the Obama administration.”

Conservatives Declare War On College (Salon)

“Bobby Jindal doesn’t want the GOP to be the ‘stupid party,’ but fellow governors are plotting to wreck higher ed … Florida’s Rick Scott, Texas’ Rick Perry and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker all see themselves as education reformers, and they are all seeking ways to lower the cost of college education while at the same time cutting state funding support.”

It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk (New York Times)

” The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job … Jobs that didn’t used to require a diploma — positions like dental hygienists, cargo agents, clerks and claims adjusters — are increasingly requiring one … This up-credentialing is pushing the less educated even further down the food chain.”

Florida Needs No Advice From Jeb Bush On Education Policy (Palm Beach Post)

“Former Gov. Jeb Bush has an undeserved reputation as an education reformer. Florida’s recent education progress has come not from implementing Mr. Bush’s policies but from cleaning up after them … Gov. Rick Scott’s frantic reversals in preparation for a reelection run – he has called for teacher raises not linked to the [standardized tests] – show how unpopular Mr. Bush’s education legacy is.”

EON #2 – Feb 12-19, 2013

by Jeff Bryant

What’s Keeping America From Doing What’s Right For Children (Jeff Bryant)

“President Obama presented us with an opportunity to ‘do better’ for children when he included in his State of the Union address a call to provide education to every three- and four-year-old in America … But part of ‘getting it right’ for children is calling out and countering the forces intent on blocking this initiative and making the case to the American people in a way that clarifies minds, commits hearts and moves people to action.”

Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth (New York Times)

Economist Joseph Stiglitz observes, “President Obama’s second Inaugural Address used soaring language to reaffirm America’s commitment to the dream of equality of opportunity … Study after study has exposed the myth that America is a land of opportunity … The most important reason for lack of equality of opportunity is education … Unless current trends in education are reversed, the situation is likely to get even worse.”

Class Struggle – How Charter Schools Get Students They Want (Reuters)

“Charters are public schools, funded by taxpayers and widely promoted as open to all. But Reuters has found that across the United States, charters aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship, sometimes in violation of state and federal law.”

Study: NCLB Waivers Weaken Graduation Rate Accountability (Associated Press)

“A new report says many states granted waivers from the No Child Left Behind law are relaxing or ignoring federal regulations designed to hold schools accountable for the number of students who graduate from high school on time.”

It’s Our Interest: The Need To Reduce Student Loan Interest Rates (Center for American Progress)

“Interest rates are at historic lows … borrowers can lower their monthly payments. There is one critical group, however, that is getting left behind in the refinancing boom: students and families who take out loans to pay for higher education … It is in the nation’s best economic interest to ensure that students are able to make timely payments on their loans, and it’s time for federal policymakers to take action.”

Teach For America: The Hidden Curriculum Of Liberal Do-Gooders (Jacobin Magazine)

History teacher Andrew Hartman contends, “The liberals of the education reform movement … have for decades advanced negative assumptions about public school teachers that now power the attacks by [conservative Republicans]. This is particularly true of Teach for America (TFA), the prototypical liberal education reform organization, where [Michelle] Rhee first made her mark. The history of TFA reveals the ironies of contemporary education reform.”

EON #1 – Feb 02-12, 2013

by Jeff Bryant

Michelle Rhee And The Relentless Marketing Of Education ‘Reform’

“Michelle Rhee’s barnstorming of America this week … was a relentless PR campaign that would be the envy of any tobacco executive or gun manufacturer … Marketing truly is the frame to understand what’s driving Rhee, in particular, and the market-based ideas behind the education ‘reform’ movement, in general … But the hype can’t stand up to scrutiny.”

A Different Story About Public Education (Education Week)

Sam Chaltain asks, “What if the stories we told about schools were less about lagging dysfunction and more about healthy design … more about expertise … and a learning revolution that is already underway? … One such effort is now underway, via a 10-part video series that chronicles a year in the life of a remarkable public school in Boston, the Mission Hill School.”

The Secret to Fixing Bad Schools (The New York Times)

“The striking achievement of Union City, N.J. – bringing poor, mostly immigrant kids into the educational mainstream – argues for reinventing the public schools we have. Fear of a state takeover catalyzed a transformation. The district’s best educators were asked to design a curriculum based on evidence, not hunch. Learning by doing replaced learning by rote. Kids who came to school speaking only Spanish became truly bilingual … Teachers were urged to work together, the superstars mentoring the stragglers and coaches recruited to add expertise.”

A Warning to College Profs from a High School Teacher (The Washington Post)

High school teacher Kenneth Bernstein writes a letter to college professors saying, “If you, as a higher education professional, are concerned about the quality of students arriving at your institution, you have a responsibility to step up and speak out. You need to inform those creating the policies about the damage they are doing to our young people, and how they are undermining those institutions in which you labor to make a difference in the minds and the lives of the young people you teach as well as in the fields in which you do your research.”

Liberal Arts Majors Didn’t Kill the Economy (The Atlantic)

“There are two schools of thought about why freshly-minted grads have had such a tough time recently. You can blame the smarty-pants majors or blame the economy … there’s no correlation the past decade between the share of grads in the most maligned majors and the unemployment rate for college grads … In other words, too much demand for liberal arts didn’t kill the job market. Too little aggregate demand did.”

Arne Duncan On Early Education: Access Will Be Key Piece Of Obama’s Second Term (The Huffington Post)

“U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan … reiterated his plans for a big push on early childhood education in the second term … ‘We have to continue to invest in early childhood education … That’s arguably the most important investment we can make.'”

Education Reform’s Very Bad, God-Awful Week

THIS WEEK: Now Who’s Making Excuses … Capping Tests Won’t Help … School-To-Prison Pipeline … Online Charters Stink … Deaths From High School Football


Education Reform’s Very Bad, God-Awful Week

By Jeff Bryant

“Because of all the big money behind current education policies, it’s difficult to see any real break in the status quo, but anyone who believes that cracking down harder on neighborhood schools while pushing for privately operated charters are the necessary “reforms” our education system needs has to admit this past week was a huge downer … The big take-away is that education reform has never been as much about getting policy right as it has been about getting the politics right. So any work to improve education in the policy shop will be for naught if we don’t match or exceed that level of effort on the political front.”
Read more …


NAEPscuses: Making Sense Of Excuse-Making From The No-Excuses Contingent

National Education Policy Center

NEPC Director Kevin Welner and Managing Director William Mathis write, “Lower grades on the Nation’s Report Card are … bad news for those who have been vigorously advocating for ‘no excuses’ approaches – standards-based testing and accountability policies like No Child Left Behind … Promises of education’s test-driven reformers over the past couple decades have been unfulfilled … It has distracted policymakers’ attention away from the extensive research showing … achievement is caused by opportunities to learn … They assured us that success was a simple matter of adults looking beyond crumbling buildings and looking away from the real-life challenges of living with racism or poverty. As a substitute, we were told to look toward a ‘no excuses’ expectation for all children … Any benefits of test-based accountability policies are at best very small, and any meager benefits teased out are more than counterbalanced by negative unintended consequences.”
Read more …

Why Obama’s New Plan To Cap Standardized Testing Won’t Work

The Washington Post

Education journalist Valerie Strauss writes on her blog, “Solutions offered by the [Obama] administration – apparently to calm an anti-testing rebellion around the country – don’t much move the needle. They won’t cut into testing time and test prep all that much, if at all, and they won’t eliminate what is arguably a bigger problem: the high stakes associated with the exams … The Testing Action Plan does not, incidentally, recommend a specific limit on test prep time … The Testing Action Plan also does not call for the elimination of using standardized test scores to evaluate educators … For years we’ve heard teachers complain that test scores don’t come in a timely manner for them to use the scores to help individual students … The testing culture is entrenched in our schools and that those who profit both financially and academically from the tests won’t let it go easily.”
Read more …

The School-To-Prison Pipeline, Explained


“Juvenile crime rates are plummeting … But school discipline policies are moving in the opposite direction: out-of-school suspensions have increased about 10% since 2000. They have more than doubled since the 1970s … Black students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students … Administrators started relying more heavily on actual police … About 92,000 students were arrested in school during the 2011-2012 school year … And most of those are low-level violations… When a school allows a School Resource Officer to arrest a student … they’re turning that student over to the juvenile justice system. That makes it that much easier for a student to get a juvenile record … Punishment for a second offense is likely to be much harsher … [Some] schools are exploring restorative justice programs, which focus on forming relationships between teachers, students, and administrators and giving students an opportunity to resolve problems by talking about them.”
Read more …

Cyber Charters Have ‘Overwhelming Negative Impact,’ CREDO Study Finds

Education Week

“Students who take classes over the Internet through online charter schools make dramatically less academic progress than their counterparts in traditional schools … Gains that online charter students saw in math were so limited, it was ‘literally as though the student did not go to school for the entire year’ … Such schools enroll about 200,000 full-time students across 26 states … More than two-thirds of online charter schools had weaker overall academic growth than similar brick-and-mortar schools. In math, 88% of online charters had weaker academic growth than their comparison schools … Full-time online charter schools now enroll about 8% of charter students nationwide.”
Read more …

We Had No Idea This Many Kids Have Died Playing High School Football This Year

Mother Jones

“Since the start of the high school football season, five high school football players have died following on-field injuries, matching both last year’s total and the average number of football-related deaths since the late 1990s … Between 2005 and 2014, another 92 high school football players died indirectly from the sport, with causes ranging from heart-related issues to heat stroke and water intoxication … Amid lingering unease over the long-term effects of concussions, some schools have considered getting rid of football altogether … Notably, only 37% of public high schools had access to a full-time athletic trainer … Historically, compared to other high school sports, football has accounted for a large majority of catastrophic injuries.”
Read more …

Test 3

THIS WEEK: How Bernie Would Improve Schools … Poverty Sprawl … Black Students Get Harsher Discipline … Test Rebellion Gets Bigger … Which Students Get Newer Teachers


An Emerging New Narrative For Education

By Jeff Bryant

“The simple story about education no longer works – at least the one we’ve been hearing for the past 20 years … Fortunately, a new narrative is emerging from sources outside the usual think tanks and policy shops … It’s a radical departure from the current policy that constricts educational opportunity by imposing financial austerity, expanding private ownership of the system, and using narrow-minded measures of what constitutes ‘results.’”
Read more …


Bernie Sanders Has A Bold, Simple Idea For Improving Public Education


“Bernie Sanders came out in favor of a massive change in the way the US funds schools … Bernie’s right: The property tax system of funding schools is inherently regressive, granting fewer resources to poorer towns with lower property values and more to rich towns with high property values. Federalizing funding of public schools … would be a huge boon for both economic and racial equality … Done right, it can improve school quality while maintaining a degree of local autonomy … Federalizing education spending would entail raising federal spending on the order of $500 billion a year … It’s … possible to raise a big chunk of that revenue by, for example, raising the top income tax rate to 50%.”
Read more …

What Will Poverty Sprawl Mean For School Districts?

Education Week

“The geography of child poverty is changing, and research suggests educators may need to tailor their supports for disadvantaged students in rural, suburban, and urban areas … Urban poor students tend to have more chronic stressors … Urban poor areas generally have a wider variety of programs … Rural poor students may have lower crime and costs of living and better access to nature and play areas, but may be more economically … isolated … have fewer early-childhood or school-age support and welfare programs … Suburban poor students tend to have lower stressors and higher resources … but they may face more frequent discrimination from wealthier peers.”
Read more …

Black Students In South Twice As Likely As Whites To Be Physically Disciplined And Suspended, Report Shows

Atlanta Black Star

“Black students in the South are twice as likely to receive corporal punishment … One in 100 Black Georgia students reported being struck by a teacher… Black male students were more likely to receive physical punishment … 42,000 Black male students reported being beaten … Black students are not just physically punished at a higher rate. They also have higher rates of suspension than white students … 15% of Black students will be suspended in a given year and Black students are twice as likely to receive in-school suspension.”
Read more …

The Testing Opt-Out Movement Is Growing, Despite Government Efforts To Kill It

The Washington Post

Award-winning New York school principal Carol Burris writes, “The testing ‘opt out’ movement is gaining momentum, even as efforts to derail it ramp up … The Ohio legislature is considering a bill that would take opt out students out of accountability reporting … which would, in turn, result in less local resistance to parent requests … In Delaware, the State PTA led the fight to overturn their governor’s veto of a bill that would have made it easier for parents to opt their children out … The leader of the Florida House Democrats, Mark Pafford, publicly urged parents to opt their students out of the tests, which he characterized as meaningless … Keep an on eye on the state that accounted for nearly half of the half million opt outs last year – New York. Despite attempts to convince the public that there will be real change to the standards, testing and teacher evaluation, the parents’ opt out movement is gearing up.”
Read more …

Black, Hispanic Students Tend To Have Less Experienced Math Teachers

Education Week

“Black and Hispanic students are much more likely to have an 8th grade math teacher with five or fewer years’ experience than are their white and Asian peers … There’s good proof that experience begets quality, at least to a point – a recent study found that the average teacher’s ability to boost student achievement increases for the first 10 years of teaching, and possibly longer … 36% of black students and 33% of Hispanic students have a math teacher who has taught secondary math for five years or less.”
Read more …