One of the The Things Wrong With Testing: They Are Invalid to Begin With!

A Test Writer Comments on New York’s Common Core Tests

by dianerav

This comment was posted yesterday:

I am a former, part time item writer for a private testing company; I wrote for many different state standards under NCLB. I must say that poorly constructed, confusing, or developmentally inappropriate items undermine the validity of standardized scores and subsequent use in teacher evaluation. When standardized tests are properly constructed, such items which might make it to a field test will almost certainly be vetted during what is typically a two year process. Many items on the Pearson math and ELA administered last April here in NY were written, in my opinion, in an intentionally confusing style using obtuse or arcane vocabulary. The ELA test in particular included confusing item stems and distractors that were not clearly wrong. There were far too many items that turned subjective opinions (most likely; best; author’s intent; etc.) into a “one right, three wrong” format. Many teachers were unsure of the correct answers on a number of vague and fuzzy items.
The math test included many items that were ridiculously convoluted. Although there may be other compelling arguments against VAM teacher evaluations, corrupt test writing, norm referencing (instead of criterion referenced scoring), and manipulating cut scores add up to a rather important set of reasons to invalidate the entire process.

Published in: on October 23, 2013 at 2:44 pm  Comments (2)  
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80% of parents at a NYC elementary school opt out of testing!

THIS IS HUGE!!! No Testing at This School! Parents Say NO!

by dianerav

Almost everyone agrees that high-stakes testing for little children is a huge mistake. The parents not only wrote their elected officials, they took direct action.

More than 80% of the parents of the children at the Castle Bridge Elementary School in New York City refused to allow their children to be tested.

They opted out.

The tests were canceled.


The parents knew that the only purpose of the tests was to evaluate the teachers, not the children.

Most Castle Bridge School parents — representing 83 of the 97 students — refused to permit their children to be tested.

“My feeling about testing kids as young as 4 is it’s inhumane,” said PTA co-chairwoman Dao Tran, mother of first-grader Quyen Lamphere, 5. “I can only see it causing stress.”

The state now requires schools to factor test scores — in one form or another — into their teacher evaluations, which are new this year in the city.

The parents thought the testing was absurd.

As the Daily News reported earlier this month, such exams, given to kids as young as 4, require students to fill in bubbles to show their answers.

It’s like the SAT for kids barely older than toddlers. And parents resent it.

“Our principal does a good job,” said PTA co-chairwoman Elexis Pujolos, mother of kindergartner Daeja, 4, and first-grader AJ, 6. “A test could not possibly measure what she is able to.”

Principal Julie Zuckerman canceled the required tests because the scores wouldn’t provide statistically meaningful data once so many parents opted out.

She also hates judging teachers even partly on the basis of a test.

“It can’t be used as evaluation tool of teachers even if it were a valid test — which it’s not,” she said.

If all parents did this, they could stop the testing madness that is ruining education and children’s love of learning.

If it can happen at Castle Bridge, it can happen anywhere!

Without data, the giant testing machine can’t function. The children can learn stress-free. Education becomes possible.

Message: OPT OUT.

Published in: on October 22, 2013 at 7:37 am  Comments (1)  
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Individual Teachers, Parents, and Students Need to Speak Up

I am reprinting a column from Diane Ravitch that consists of a letter from single, anonymous teacher detailing what is wrong with the charter chain that he/she works for, and why that chain should not be allowed to expand.

Very simple: it’s not good for students, and it’s hell for teachers, but it’s very profitable for the chain’s management.

There need to be more such letters.

Here’s the column:

New post on Diane Ravitch’s blog

A Rocketship Teacher Warns: Stop the Expansion

by dianerav

Rocketship charter schools have a goal of expanding to enroll one million children. Their model relies heavily on technology and inexpensive, inexperienced teachers who work long hours and have no union. Their schools are focused on test scores and leave out the arts and other “non-essentials.” The San Jose, California, board of education will decide tomorrowabout whether to send more children and more public dollars to this poor substitute for a real school.

This letter came to me from a Rocketship teacher:

“Dear Diane,

I have been reading the coverage on your blog on the lawsuit against Rocketship in its quest to build Rocketship Tamien in San Jose. I appreciate your attention to this issue. I am a current Rocketship teacher who is also concerned about Rocketship’s expansion. With a vote by the San Jose City Council coming this Tuesday, I decided I could not longer remain silent. Below you will find an anonymous letter I sent to the San Jose City Council, as well as the parent group against Tamien you featured on your blog. I wanted to send this letter to you as well. I’m not sure if it is something you would be interested in posting on your blog, but even so I wanted you to know you helped encourage me to write it.

Thank you!
A Rocketship Teacher

To all those concerned and involved with the Rocketship Tamien dispute,

I am a Rocketship Teacher who has become increasingly concerned and frustrated while silently watching the dispute over Rocketship Tamien. In this letter, I hope to bring a perspective of a current Rocketship teacher. I am just one perspective and do not claim to speak for other Rocketship teachers. However, I do think my point of view, without a union for protection, is silenced and hidden in this debate. By raising my voice, I am fearful my job could be in danger. Therefore, I have chosen to write this letter anonymously and leave out many details of my own personal experience.

I have structured the letter under a few key points of my feelings about Rocketship as an organization and the direction we are headed. I hope this perspective might raise new questions in the ongoing debate over opening Rocketship Tamien. I have tremendous respect for many of the teachers I work with at Rocketship and by no means wish to attack the incredible effort and energy they put into this difficult job.

Rapid Expansion Without a Clear Model:

Just a few months into the last school year, Rocketship announced to teachers the start of “redesign.” I say announced, because it was not offered as a conversation, but as a mandate. We would be changing many of our schools to an “open-space” model. This model’s vision would have placed 100 students in a room with two credentialed teachers and one learning specialist (including in Kindergarten and first grade). Without research or proof that this was a good idea for our students, redesign was launched at several Rocketship campuses. Teachers, without a union, had no choice but to follow blindly into the “redesign” path, many teachers staying nightly until 9pm trying to figure out what in the world they were going to do in a new space with that many students.

Unfortunately, the experiment Rocketship embarked on with their students and communities proved to be rash. This year, they have slowed down and redesign is happening, for most schools, only in 4th and 5th grade classrooms. I think my biggest concern when thinking about redesign, which left many teachers bitter and caused many to leave Rocketship, is that even though Rocketship is experimenting with its model and unsure of its future direction, it still seeks to rapidly expand across San Jose and across America. It is irresponsible and egotistical to believe that a model that you have not figured out is superior to established public schools in the neighborhoods you are interrupting. This is especially true in light of last year’s CST scores which showed a decline at every Rocketship campus.

No Teacher Sustainability, Little Experience at All Levels:

Working at Rocketship is not sustainable. I personally have never had a colleague tell me, “I could work as a Rocketship teacher for the next 10 years.” I haven’t even heard a colleague say they could work as a Rocketship teacher for 5 years. Rocketship relies heavily on Teach for America corps members. Many TFA teachers come into the classroom with no experience and no perspective on what a traditional school is like. Without experience of a traditional model, I think many TFA teachers come into Rocketship blindly and follow the unreasonable expectations blindly. They grind through their two year commitment of late hours, ridiculous test score pressure, and tumultuous school and organizational environment. At the end of those two years, or even before it, many will leave Rocketship. Some will go into traditional public schools; some will run away from teaching, or what they believe from Rocketship to be teaching, forever. This turnover and burnout robs the San Jose community of veteran teachers that have worked in and understand the community.

It is not just inexperience on the teacher end, it is also inexperience on the administrative end. If you teach for three years at Rocketship, you may have just as much or more teaching experience as some administrators at Rocketship. Rocketship claims to have a robust teacher training and development program, but unfortunately that training comes from inexperienced educators, which I think highly questions the value of such training. When I have heard this concern brought up, usually the value of veteran teachers and experience is scoffed at as unnecessary. This, I think, is part of a larger issue at Rocketship. In my opinion, Rocketship believes itself superior without the experience or results to support it.

Instability of Student’s Day:

Rocketship, to save money by hiring fewer teachers, has a rotational model. Students move throughout the day between different classrooms and spaces, largely three: 1) Literacy, 2) Math, 3) Learning Lab. Literacy teachers have two classes during the day, while math teachers have four, which I think greatly contributes to lack of teacher sustainability. Building relationships with 60 or 120 elementary students and their families, as well as maintaining classroom culture throughout the day, is difficult, emotionally draining, and exhausting.

I truly believe that this middle school model of rotation is not appropriate for elementary school students and creates a culture of instability that breeds behavioral issues. When students are rotating through multiple spaces throughout the day, they do not have consistent behavior expectations, consistent authority figures, or often enough eyes monitoring the transitions. I do not believe this model suits every child, particularly those with special needs. I believe many of our students crave a more stable environment, especially for our students who may experience instability at home.

Students also spend about one hour a day on computers which, as Rocketship has admitted in the PBS special, is not currently effective in pushing student learning. However, because we have a higher student to teacher ratio than traditional schools, students continue to be “held” in the learning lab until their math and literacy classes open up. I do believe that online learning has incredible potential, but Rocketship is using it for too long every day which breeds a lack of investment and boredom in our student’s experience in the learning lab.

Anti-Union Anti-Traditional Public School Rhetoric:

Rocketship claims unions will block their ability to expand and innovate. What that means practically for teachers in the case of the “redesign” experiment last year and day to day decisions of the organization, is that we effectively have no voice or tangible power in this organization.

The PBS special had two Rocketship teachers who claimed that they did not need a union, that they were valuable to Rocketship and safe. Both of those teachers were slated and have now become administrators at Rocketship. PBS didn’t dig, but if they had done some digging, they would have found plenty of disillusioned teachers for their interviews. Or perhaps, they wouldn’t have since we have no union protection. Rocketship also pushes its anti-union, anti-traditional public school rhetoric on our families. I have had many interactions with parents where claims are made about unions or public schools in the area, that have been garnered from Rocketship, that are wrong or over-generalized.

Rocketship, I believe, is not here to provide pressure and competition to traditional public schools. They, with their goals of expansion to reach 1 million students, are here to take over. It is essential to that goal then, to discredit traditional public schools and the teachers at those schools. Students, because of state funding per child, become dollars Rocketship takes from a traditional public school with every child it recruits. This in turn puts more pressure on established districts to lay off teachers and will, eventually, lead to school closures.

Test Scores as the Ultimate Goal:

Rocketship is obsessed with its tests scores. As a charter, they live or die by those test scores. We are now asking our students to learn how to bubble multiple choice questions as early as kindergarten. Teachers are constantly in cycles of testing (which again, is to 60 or 120 students which contributes to the unsustainability).

I believe that knowing where our students are and working to address knowledge gaps is important, but test scores have taken over the culture of Rocketship schools. The stress put on teachers I believe translates directly to the students who are constantly being assessed. Last year, my and other teachers’ salaries were based largely on one computer examination that is given to the students three times during the year. Science, social studies, art and general play time have all become victim to the testing grind. I do not believe Rocketship is cultivating creative, innovative, challenging, minds.

In closing, I do not believe that Rocketship is an organization to be given blind trust. The parents at Rocketship are just like the parents protesting against Rocketship Tamien. They want the best educational experience for their students. I send this letter in the hopes of raising more pause towards Rocketship, its lobbyists, and the tighter hold it is trying to establish over San Jose’s elementary schools.

Ravitch Critiques the Current Education Privatization Movement and Offers Suggestions for a Different Way

For a clear summary of the evidence showing that not a single one of the currently fashionable methods of ‘reforming’ public education has worked, then read the first twenty chapters of the latest book by Diane Ravitch, “Reign of Error”, published today by A.A. Knopf.

This book gratifies me because it lays out in a concise and organized manner much of what I and a number of other education bloggers have been trying to point out for the last four or five years. Ravitch’s clear prose is a masterful summary of the evidence that the bipartisan “reforms” being committed against public education are not only ineffective by the yardsticks held up by these ‘reformers’, but are also resegregating our schools and foisting an inferior education onto our poorest kids.

On the other hand, if you prefer to see a clearly-laid out set of suggestions for a more sensible way to fix our school system, then this is still the right book to read! In chapters 21 through 33, she lays out a logical and sensible way to really fix our schools.

Keep in mind, as you read the book, that the “reformers” of public education have been in charge in some of our largest cities for about 20 years now. For example, Paul Vallas ran Chicago Public Schools from 1995-2001, and Arne Duncan ran them from 2001-2009; since then they are under the control of mayor Rahm Emanuel. They did such a WONDERFUL job that Chicago just found it necessary to close down dozens of schools and fire thousands of teachers and other employees. Joel Klein ran New York City’s public schools from 2002 to his departure to head Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp. Michelle Rhee and her crony Kaya Henderson have run DC Public Schools since 2007.

Those school systems remain in crisis, despite the claims of our wealthiest citizens (Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, the Walton family and a bevy of hedge fund managers) that those leaders were producing piles of ‘excellence’ while having almost no teaching experience or school leadership credentials.

If you doubt my claims, all you need to do is look at the graphs and tables in Ravitch’s appendices.

It stokes by own vanity to find a couple of my own blog columns cited on pages 150-151, wherein I had delved into the data on Michelle Rhee’s mythical successes in Baltimore from 1992-1995.

(Rhee has since admitted making the numbers up, but chuckled that they didn’t matter. She has no shame! I also discovered that a possible reason for the increases that were noted at her school and grade level may have been due to two facts: (1) Her school and her grade had one of the greatest attrition rates over those two years of any of the schools in the study; and (2) her grade at her school also had one of the largest percentages of students who scored so low on the CTBS that their scores weren’t even counted!)

Here are the headings and summaries for chapters 5 – 20 of Reign of Error:

5: The Facts About Test Scores

Claim: Test scores are falling, and the educational system is broken and obsolete.

Reality: Test scores are a their highest point ever recorded.

6: The Facts About the Achievement Gap

Claim: The achievement gaps are large and getting worse.

Reality: We have made genuine progress in narrowing the achievement gap, but they will remain large if we do nothing about the causes of the gaps.

7. The Facts About the International Test Scores

Claim: We are falling behind other nations, putting our economy and our national economy at risk.

Reality: An old lament, not true then, not true now.

8. The Facts About High School Graduation Rates

Claim: The nation has a dropout crisis, and high school graduation rates are falling.

Reality: High school dropouts are at an all-time low, and high school graduation rates are at an all-time high.

9. The Facts About College Graduation Rates

Claim: Our economy will suffer unless we have the highest college graduation rates in the world.

Reality: There is no basis for this claim.

10. How Poverty Affects Academic Achievement

Claim: Poverty is an excuse for ineffective teaching and failing schools.

Reality: Poverty is highly correlated with low academic achievement.

11. The Facts About Teachers and Test Scores

Claim: Teachers determine student test scores, and test scores may be used to identify and reward effective teachers and to fire those who are not effective.

Reality: Test scores are not the best way to identify the best teachers.

12. Why Merit Pay Fails

Claim: Merit pay will improve achievement.

Reality: Merit pay has never improved achievement.

13. Do Teachers Need Tenure and Seniority?

Claim: Schools will improve if tenure and seniority are abolished.

Reality: There is no basis for this claim.

14. The Problem with Teach for America

Claim: Teach for America recruits teachers and leaders whose high expectations will one day ensure that every child has an excellent education.

Reality: Teach for America sends bright young people into tough classrooms where they get about the same results as other bright young people in similar classrooms but leave the profession sooner.

15. The Mystery of Michelle Rhee

(no sub-headings for this chapter)

16. The Contradictions of Charters

Claim: Charter schools will revolutionize American education by thei freedom to innovate and produce dramatically better results.

Reality: Charter schools run the gamut from excellent to awful and are, on average, no more innovative or successful than public schools.

17. Trouble in E-Land

Claim: Virtual schools will the promise of personalized, customized learning to every student and usher in an age of educational excellence for all.

Reality: Virtual schools are cash cows for their owners but poor substitutes for real teachers and real schools.

18. Parent Trigger, Parent Tricker

Claim: If parents seize control of their school, they can make it better.

Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.

19. The Failure of Vouchers

Claim: Students who receive vouchers for private and religious schools will experience dramatic success.

Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.

20. Schools Don’t Improve if They Are Closed

Claim: Schools can be dramatically improved by firing the principal, firing half or all of the teaches, or closing the school and starting fresh.

Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.

Next, I’ll give the headings of the chapters laying out solutions.

Just received: “Reign of Error” by Diane Ravitch!!

Just received my copy of Diane Ravitch’s book!! Doesn’t officially get published until 9-17-13, i think she wrote on her blog.

Let me say that DR does an extremely good job of keeping up with the educational nonsense being peddled by some of her old friends and associates in today’s bipartisan, fully billionaire-led AstroTurf movement to destroy and resegregate our public school while profiting mightily.

I highly recommend subscribing to her blog. She is amazingly productive. I do not think she has much time in her life for anything except blogging. I blog and write a fair amount, but I cannot put out a single post each day–it takes time, and I am very appreciative of her writings. She puts out up to ten posts a day!! Wow!!

When I started writing my DC-based blog back in mid-2009, after I retired, and began researching more of the plain facts here on the ground in Washington under michelle Rhee’s initial “Reign of Error”, it was pretty lonely.

I was nonetheless able to find the original records showing that a very large fraction of the very detailed statements on Michelle Rhee’s official public résumé were 100% fictitious.

I was able to show that Rhee’s policies in many, many areas while she waschancellor here in my hometown have produced exactly NONE of the miraculous gains that she predicted. And while she at one point boasted very confidently of her ability to pick winning principals in a 5-minute I yet view, she later admitted that this was in fact one of the worst aspects of her legacy. And the Harvard whiz kid measuring the effects of her attempt to purchase good behavior fr middle schools produced results no different from not doing so; and when the same academic (Roland Frye) studied Rhee’s vaunted merit pay in other cities, he found it made no difference either.

I was able to show that there was almost no effect on test scores (almost the ONLY way to test educational outcomes in her eyes) from switching out principals and teachers.

Now I find I can relax a bit. There are literally hundreds of bloggers and columnists making much of the same points I was making. I don’t feel so lonely any more.

Thank you, Diane and all of the other bloggers!!

Unlike some, I will read at least most of her latest book before writing a review. I predict I will like it.

Published in: on August 28, 2013 at 4:52 pm  Comments (4)  

That so-called report on the nation’s schools of education

Diane Ravitch has a worthwhile entry on the survey that’s in today’s news — the one from the self-named NCTQ (National Center for Teacher Quality).

That’s the report that gave most of the US teacher-training schools very low marks.

I read the report in the Post, twice, once online and once in the form of black marks on paper (remember those?).

I thought it strange that the authors of the NCTQ report had visited exactly none of the actual colleges or universities that they were supposedly surveying, nor talked to any of the professors, nor even to any of the students in those programs (past or current), nor made any effort to find out what fraction of their graduates were even still teaching after some number of years later.

Diane’s analysis explained why. And she in fact knows it quite well: she herself used to be on the board of that organization, back when she herself used to be a right-wing educational ideologue under the leadership of Rodney Page, George Bush and other, similar lying creeps. (We all should be amazed at the complete, 180-degree about-face Ravitch has undergone — not very often that anybody does that!)

As it is, she is performing a very valuable service, and has been doing so for a little more than a year IIRC.

I thought it worthwhile to repost her entire post. I don’t often do that. I’ve accentuated a small part of her piece.

Apparently, according to Diane, the only thing that the NCTQ was looking for was the fraction of course syllabi that mention or emphasize “Common Core”. Sheesh.

Here goes:

That NCTQ Report on Teacher Education: F

by dianerav

The just-released NCTQ report on teacher education gives an F to the nation’s colleges of education. It was published in association with U.S. News & World Report.

But the report itself deserves an F.

To begin with, there are professional associations that rate the nation’s education schools, based on site visits and clear criteria.

NCTQ is not a professional association. It did not make site visits. It made its harsh judgments by reviewing course syllabi and catalogs. The criteria that it rated as most important was the institution’s fidelity to the Common Core standards.

As Rutgers’ Bruce Baker pointed out in his response, NCTQ boasts of its regard for teachers but its review of the nation’s teacher-training institutions says nothing about faculty. They don’t matter. They are irrelevant. All that matters is what is in the course catalog.

There are many reasons not to trust the NCTQ report on teacher education. Most important is that it lacks credibility. Not only is it not a professional association. it lacks independence. It has an agenda.

NCTQ was founded by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in 2000 with the explicit purpose of harassing institutions of teacher education and urging alternative arrangements. I was on the board at the time. Initially, the new organization floundered but was saved by a $5 million grant from U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. Just lucky.

So, knowing NCTQ’s history, and reading Mercedes Schneider’s posts about the organization, I conclude that NCTQ cannot be considered a fair, credible, independent judge of the quality of teacher training institutions.

I certainly agree that some such institutions are weak and inadequate, though I don’t think NCTQ’s superficial methodology identifies them.

I also agree with the report’s recommendation that teacher education institutions should have higher standards for admission.

But I don’t agree that the mark of a great education school is how many courses it offers on the Common Core standards or how attentive it is to raising test scores..

The great Robert Hutchins once wrote that the purpose of a professional school is to teach students to criticize the profession. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the profession would prepare them to make it stronger. The NCTQ report–looking at education schools from a mountain top–would have them conform to the status quo, to the conventional wisdom. This is not a prescription for the future, nor for the creation of a profession of strong teachers. It is a prescription for docility and conformity. Robert Hutchins would not approve.

dianerav | June 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Categories: Common CoreCorporate R
Published in: on June 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm  Comments (7)  
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A close look at a speech from Michelle Rhee

It is useful to look at the lies coming out of the mouth of Michelle Rhee, one of the main proponents of destroying public education. I just took down, verbatim, what Rhee said at a panel discussion chaired by Henry Louis Gates at Martha’s Vineyard in 2011. (Diane Ravitch was also on the panel.) How many lies, prevarications, and half-truths can you spot?

Here is the passage, starting at 11:22 on this Youtube video where MR is speaking her platitudes:

We as educators have not created a great case for ourselves. We have more than doubled the amount of money that we are spending per child over the last two [few? gfb] decades, and the results have not gotten better. Now if we had doubled the expenditures and the results had doubled as well, then that would have made a very easy case for us to go to politicians and say “If you cut our budget by this much then this is what will suffer,” but we haven’t done that. And you have school districts like Washington, DC and Newark where they are spending $22,000 a year per child, and the results are absolutely in the bottom of this nation. So we’re, it, it, to me the first order of operation is less about more money because I think that more money into a broken system is not going to deliver a different result. I think we have to change the fundamentals of how this system is working. I think we have had lots of conversations today about how to try to do that. But I think we need a fundamentally different system first before we can go and make a case to the taxpayers and other people about putting more money into it.

In fact, as I have shown repeatedly, there are a number of areas in which achievement in public education has gotten way, way better over the past few decades. NAEP scores in general are way, way up: black students today are scoring above where white students were scoring back then. Also, if you look at the growth in passing Advanced Placement scores over the past few decades, well, yes, we have way more than doubled the numbers!

passing + failing numbers of AP exams 1991-2011

If you look at the PIRLS comparisons of American and international students, our kids did rather well, as I showed here.

PIRLS 4th grade benchmarks reading by nation

Even DC NAEP scores have been going up pretty steadily for 20 years, as I showed in this post, and here, and elsewhere, but the black-white gap on those scores in DCPS got wider while Michelle Rhee was in charge.

Not a word of recognition that RHEE HERSELF WAS IN CHARGE OF DCPS while the black-white gap got to be #1 in the nation!!

Not a word of acknowledgement that Rhee, herself, rammed through all those enormous budget increases for central office 20-something failed ex-TFAers, for high-priced consultants, for a completely incomprehensible and untested Value-Added system for evaluating teachers, for poisoned bonuses for cheating teachers and principals, for lots more testing and fees to testing companies, and for other failed experiments like “Capital Gains”.

Things got politically hot in Washington DC for Rhee right before she gave this speech, since a majority of the population of DC thought that her ideas were toxic and counterproductive, so her benefactor (Fenty) lost, so she quit — to go on to make millions of dollars per year giving speeches at $50K per prattle, and through untraceable and unaccountable tax-exempt donations from the very tiny group of billionaires who are running public education today.

Those huge sums of money that Rhee wheedled out of politicians and billionaires didn’t go to students. They went to adults like Rhee!

Another point: I don’t think the main complaint is that schools and teachers aren’t getting enough money. The big problem is what we are doing with that cash: we are wasting it on paying huge sums of money to large corporations for idiotic and useless multiple-choice tests, on gimmicky and unproven high-tech schemes that make huge bucks for corporations, on consultants, and on high-priced experts and ‘coaches’. And on gimmicky charter schools that mostly do worse than the normal private schools. And on demonizing teachers.

Published in: on June 1, 2013 at 8:39 pm  Comments (10)  
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Federal Lawsuit Against Rhee Moves Forward


I am reprinting this article from Diane Ravitch’s blog in its entirety.


Rhee To Face Federal Lawsuit Over Wrongful Termination


by dianeravitch


This just in:


Federal Judge Orders Michelle Rhee Suit to Go Forward, will Broaden to Concealment and Fraud Claims


A US federal judge has denied a Motion to Dismiss by former DC Public School Chancellor Michelle Rhee in a wrongful termination lawsuit over the mass firings of DC Public School teachers back in 2009. Case to be amended to add concealment and fraud claims against Rhee and her CFO Noah Wepman.


Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) April 01, 2013


For nearly three years, efforts by hundreds of DC Public School teachers who were victims of the much publicized mass firings by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee- herself hailed as a reformer and darling of major media- have failed to gain any traction in the courts.


However, in what may be a turning of that tide, US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras has denied Rhee’s motion to dismiss claims by a music teacher that his firing was concocted by using a misapplied or non-existent job title to enable his poor evaluation and subsequent firing.


The suit involves Willie J. Brewer Jr., a 53-year-old teacher who worked for DCPS for 28 years before being terminated in October of 2009 due to “budgetary constraints” under a RIF (Reduction in Force). Under this circumstance, the pecking order of teachers to be terminated as determined by Rhee, were first those with poor performance evaluations. However, Brewer claims he was an instrumental music teacher and that his RIF competitive standing was erroneously governed by the standards for a vocal music teacher, a position that required a skill set different from his own. As a result, Brewer claims he scored a poor evaluation and was terminated.


Brewer has set out to prove that his circumstance was not the result of mere error but an illegal systematic effort by Rhee to replace teachers en masse- perhaps supported by Rhee’s own public statements regarding her ideology to aggressively fire, en masse, teachers she deems as failing.

(Read Judge Contreras’ Memorandum and Order for US District Court for the District of Columbia Civil Action No. 11-1206


Along that line, it has been learned that Brewer will now amend his original complaint to broaden the scope of Rhee’s alleged actions into possible civil fraud and concealment claims. This has developed as a result of videotaped testimony by the former DCPS CFO Noah Wepman before the DC City Council on November 30, 2009. In that testimony, Wepman appears to admit that he willfully concealed, with the knowledge of Rhee, the true accounting figures which indicated that the DCPS had no budgetary shortfall at all- the pretext for the RIF to be instituted and the mass firings to take place.


The alleged scheme indicates that after the mass firings occurred, Rhee and Wepman then reported the true accounting figures and the money re-appeared in the DCPS budget enabling them to hire an entire flock of new teachers.


If Brewer prevails, with the case now in its discovery phase, Rhee’s- and now presumably Wepman’s- ideological experiment, which has been widely heralded by an entire nation, may quickly unravel.

A New Organization to Defend Public Education

Diane Ravitch, Leonie Haimson, Anthony Cody, Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig and others have just formed a brand-new organization that is specifically designed to defend public education against the current onslaught of corporate DEforms.


It’s called the Network for Public Education.


Here is the URL for DR’s post on this:

and here is the URL for the group itself.

I applaud this move, and I signed up as a member a few minutes ago. I also donated $100.


I urge all my readers to do likewise.


We really need to become activists!

What Teachers Need To Do — or, rather, What Traitors Have Led the DC Teachers

I would like to commend Diane Ravitch on an excellent post on why teachers in Philadelphia need to organize and go on strike. She refers to a local Philly opinion piece: a  column that explains in detail why they should do that.

The big question then becomes HOW do you do that. Hopefully the Philly teachers have gotten rid of any corrupt, sellout union leaders like we’ve been plagued with here in DC. That’s what the teachers in Chicago had to do in order to organize the strike that took place there.

I say that concerning DC because, of our last two teacher union presidents of my local, WTULocal6,

(1) even though she sometimes talked a good game, Barbara Bullock confessed to stealing somewhere near five million dollars from US TEACHERS right from under our noses, partly by verbally abusing anybody who crossed her in any way. I saw her do it, and I’m sure she also browbeat Esther Hankerson, who was my colleague at Francis and at Deal JHS and was #2 in the WTU leadership under BB…  Bullock was only sentenced to a few years in jail, and is now free. I’d be surprised if even 10% of the stolen money was ever recovered.

Funny how embezzlers and corporate thieves get off easy, especially in comparison with those caught with certain drugs…. Think of the Enron thieves and Michael Milken (he’s out!) and then read the book by Michelle Alexander and you’ll see how the ‘War on Drugs’ is essentially acting like the Jim Crow laws (read “Slavery by Another Name”).

I regret now that,  like many others, I did not notice BB’s corruption, and I also regret not making a public, principled protest when I found how she was maneuvering not to have monthly membership meetings — ones that might have helped hold her to account. I sat on labor-management contract negotiation committees as a rank-and-file presence during the arduous process of hammering out a new contract between the Board of Education and Superintendent of schools (and their lawyers and the city council and mayor as well) on the one hand, and the Washington Teachers’ Union on the other, around 2000-1.


You may ask, how did I not notice she was stealing? Very simple: I don’t follow women’s fashion at all — I try my best not to look at my wife’s fashion magazines (except for some of the really cute models, to be honest) and don’t pay any attention to labels. I get my clothes from Costco, Filene’s, sales, discount catalogs like Sierra Trading Post, and whatever my family members get me. The other two teachers and I were by far the worst-drerssed people in the rooms whenever we had negotiations — you know that all of the lawyers and bureaucrats negotiating for the Board of Ed (few of whom had ever taught) were dressed to the nines every single day. Personally, I just thought that Bullock wore really ugly, loose-fitting clothes because she was overweight; I also just thought she really liked her to-me-unfashionable long wispy hair and pocketbooks that looked funny to me, too.


Later on, after BB was convicted and went to jail, I ran into the other two rank-and-file classroom teachers who were on the negotiating team with me that year and asked them if they had any inkling of the monies that BB was stealing. We all had the same reaction. None of us any idea that all that ugly stuff was worth all that money. Stupid me, I had no idea she had not one but many, many expensive, wigs — all of them ugly (in our opinions). I saw a whole bunch of white-elephant figurines on her desk once, and made a comment that those looked like Republican symbols. Apparently that’s her college sorority’s symbol. (Why does anybody need dozens of them, all different?)

But that’s apparently what she and her crony Henderson spent their ill-gotten cash on, that they stole from me and my colleagues: kitchy tchotchkes.


We definitely agreed that she was an amazingly good negotiator. But despite that, Barbara Bullock’s betrayal make all teachers look stupid and criminal.

In my opinion, the fact that BB and her closest associates were so publicly corrupt, (convictions and confessions, not just allegations, remember) had a HUGE negative effect, nationally.

That betrayal demoralized teachers and friends of labor everywhere. It also emboldened the billionaires, Wall Street crooks like Milken, the Koch Brothers, Joel Klein, Bill Gates, the Amway family, hedge-fund traders,  right-wingers and religious fundies and assorted eduShysters who want to divert funding for public education for the poor into their own bank accounts, even though they say the exact opposite.

It’s the results that count.

Their first attack is on the teachers, and boy have they been busy at it for the past 6-7 years. And you know something — the same group of edudeformers are the same group that invented the PLATINUM parachute for themselves and the sub-minimum-wage job with no benefits, difficult-to-impossible transportation at crazy hours, no job security at all, and the balloon mortgage on your house that you put all your savings into. They are also the ones that brought you the fact that after all those years in college and/or grad school, you’re still an unpaid intern working part-time at a bunch of demeaning jobs, and you can’t pay off all those student loans, and if you declare bankruptcy, the one debt you can NEVER write off even a portion of, is your student loan. Even though it those loans were often supposedly guaranteed by the gummint. (You didn’t read all the fine print! ) And brought us banks that failed and economies that have huge fractions of unemployed, all around the world. While the One-tenth of one percent is more wealthy than any ruling class any time, any where, in history.

In places like Pakistan and other third-world countries, workers are  burned alive or otherwise killed. Here in the US, more and more workers long for the good old days when they only had to work 40 hours a week, had health and other benefits, paid vacations, a decent, fully-funded pension plan, and the right to have elections for their own union representation who could speak for them if case they had a disagreement with their boss. For many of us, those things, like the weekend, are things of the past. If you only want to work 40 hours a week and expect overtime for anything more than that, you’re a ‘moocher’. If you want a guaranteed pension and a freely-elected local union and paid health care, you’re a “lazy union thug”.

But if you are a billionaire who never worked a day of actual hard labor in your life, who simply managed to find all the loopholes to squeeze large amounts of money from every working person out there because you run a near-monopoly or have figured out how to disassemble companies and fire workers and dispossess homeowners to rake obscene profits, well, then you’re an outstanding visionary. Who can tell the teachers what to do, in detail.

 (2) And then remember her successor, George Parker? Once he lost the following local union election, he literally went over to the enemy!

Just think of it–the person who during election campaigns claimed that he would defend the interests of teachers, students and parents, actually went to work for Michelle Rhee’s astroturf-funded organization, RheeFirst. Sorry, “Students First”, which is doing everything it can to break teacher unions, degrade teaching into a part-time, non-professional job in every low-income public school whose sole responsibility is to read from a script, give out and collect standardized tests every single week that were written by other low-paid temps, and — don’t forget — work miracles on a 95-hour workweek with no benefits. Yeah, our past union president went to work for arguably the most anti-public-sector “Edu-DEform” organization out there – funded by the worst of the worst billionaires.

 When the last contract came up for a vote, it was very difficult for teachers to see how much it differed from previous contracts. In the past, we got to see the old contract printed with the parts that were changing being very carefully annotated, which is as it should be. Contract language that was being retained would be in an ordinary font. Sentences, words, letters and paragraphs that were being deleted were written like this with crossouts. New contract language was in bold-face.

However, this time, none of that clarity. Teachers got a copy of the new contract, and only someone who had as much undivided time as a lawyer could possibly go over the two contracts line by line to see what we teachers had given up. Time, of course, is one of the things that a teacher does NOT have.  Even I, a retired teacher, didn’t have time to analyze the changes in the short amount of time we had.

This last WTU-DCPS contract, which for the first time brought in special, poisoned bonuses that were paid for by some billionaires for just a couple of years, at the same time that the schools were imiplementing – without any field testing whatsoevber – a radically new evaluation system largely based on mindless following of a single teaching model and a random-number generator called “Value Addicted”, was a real game-changer all over the nation.

Apparently Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, and George Parker colluded on this contract — and it really sucks. It was a real step backwards for the labor movement.

Benedict Arnold, traitor to the new American republic >200 years ago, George Parker, traitor to teachers much more recently.

 Philly teachers, I hope you are successful in organizing. Be aware that there are many, many folks all over the country who do not believe the stories being peddled by the billionaires and their paid mouthpieces like Michelle Rhee. If you organize well, you can win.

Good luck and timing wouldn’t hurt, either. I wish you the best.



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