Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

November 16, 2015

Be Part of and learn from the Chicago Education Movement. Attend the Chicago Teachers for Social Justice Curriculum Fair.

Filed under: Chicago — millerlf @ 2:37 pm

Meet the Dyett hunger strikers. Meet community activists. Meet teachers. Meet the movement fighting Rahm Emanuel.

For more information go to:

The 14th Annual TSJ Curriculum Fair is on November 21, 2015 at Kenwood HS, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., Chicago


BLM: UW Madison Support for Missouri Student’s Struggle

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter — millerlf @ 9:10 am

Wisconsin State Journal

Last Thursday, November 12, thousands of students across the country took part in demonstrations at college campuses to shine a light on what they say are racial problems at their own schools.

Hundreds of people, mostly UW-Madison students, gathered in front of Bascom Hall Thursday night surrounding the statue of Abraham Lincoln in solidarity with their peers at the University of Missouri.

After listening to speeches, they marched to Library Mall chanting what has become a common refrain at rallies locally and around the country: “Black lives matter!” and “No justice, no peace!” The group reconvened for more speeches before marching up State Street to the Capitol Square.

Greg Mosby, 28, a black UW graduate student in the astronomy department, did his undergraduate degree at Yale, which like Missouri has seen students of color speaking out about racism on campus. Mosby said he has been a part of the movement at Yale – “at least digitally.” “It seems like nationwide there’s momentum that’s building to make institutions more socially just and I wanted to be a part of it,” he said. Mosby said he has not encountered racism in his department. “But I am a lucky example,” he said. “I hear stories from graduate students and undergraduates that would make you shudder.”

Miona Short, 20, a black UW-Madison junior, said she experiences discrimination all the time, and had as recently as the day before. “America is a racist place and I think oftentimes – especially in the Midwest – we try to dismiss racism as something in the South because when people think of racism they think of Texas or they think of klans.”

From Boston College to campuses at the University of California, dozens of schools saw walkouts and rallies.
While the protests that toppled the Missouri president were triggered in large part by complaints about slurs and other overt racism on campus, some students at Thursday’s rallies said it’s a subtler brand of prejudice that motivated them to take a stand. Many said they face daily instances of casual racism and insensitivity. There’s even a word on campuses these days for subtle slights against minorities: microaggression. “It’s more the daily microaggressions than the large situations,” said Akosua Opokua-Achampong, a sophomore at Boston College. “Those also hurt.”

Stories of discrimination aren’t new, students said. But many said the revolt at Missouri has driven them to talk about it and confront it.

In recent days and weeks, students at some colleges have presented administrators with their own demands, inspired by those of the protesters at Missouri. Often, the demands call for greater diversity on the faculty, more spending on scholarships for minorities, more instruction on tolerance and sensitivity, and more resources such as cultural centers. “You can’t just bring students in; you’ve got to have faculty and staff members in key positions and you’ve got to be current,” said Roger Pulliam, senior faculty adviser of the National Black Student Union, based in Whitewater.

Following is a letter of support to Missouri Students:

Associated Students of Madison
333 East Campus Mall, Student Activity Center Rm 4301 Madison, WI 53715
Phone: 608/265-4ASM Fax: 608/265-5637 E-mail: Twitter: @asmstudentgovt

November 13th, 2015

Dear Missouri Student Association,
The Associated Students of Madison stands in solidarity with the Missouri Student Association,
specifically the black student body, against the racial discrimination and racist hate crimes that
have garnered national attention over the past week.

We commend your strength and unity in systematically changing your institution and demanding
solutions to a failed system. Your organization and the students of Mizzou have shown that the
student voice is powerful and influential. There is no limit to what students can achieve by
coming together as one.

At the University of WisconsinMadison black students face similar barriers to an equitable
education, and we must fight back. As another predominantly white institution, UWMadison
often neglects to acknowledge and act on the negative experiences of students of color on our
campus. Students have the power to change this reality.

Over one thousand students at UWMadison stood in solidarity with the black students of
Mizzou in a Black Out March last night. It was a powerful symbol of what our campus can
accomplish when we unite. Moving forward, we will continue to protest and stand together until
all students can learn, live, and work in a safe environment. You all have shown us first hand
that institutional change can come from the movement of students.

#ConcernedStudent1950 #InSolidarityWithMizzou

Madison Laning, Chair
Kyla Kaplan, Vice Chair
Angelito Tenorio, University Affairs Chair
Associated Students of Madison

Role of Charter Schools?

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 8:56 am

Charter Schools as Incubators or Charter Schools Inc.?
Posted: 11/15/2015 Randi Weingarten President of AFT
When you hear the words “charter school,” what comes to mind? High expectations? High student attrition? High achievement? Lack of transparency?

There’s no right or wrong answer, because charter schools, like other public and private schools, vary widely. The top-ranked high school in Louisiana is a unionized charter school. On the flip side, a recent study of students enrolled in online charter schools found that they lost 180 days of learning in math over the 180-day school year. (You read that right.)

Charter schools are publicly funded schools with flexibility in program design and operations. The late AFT President Albert Shanker was one of the first proponents, believing public school teachers could incubate innovative ideas, sharing successes and learning from setbacks. That was our goal in creating University Prep, a charter school in the South Bronx that the United Federation of Teachers co-founded with Green Dot Public Schools when I was UFT president. Now in our eighth year, 98 percent of students graduate, and almost all go on to college. The goal was never to undermine the many extraordinary district public schools–or to close or make it harder for traditional public schools.

Unfortunately, some charter proponents have shifted the intent of charters from incubating ideas and sharing successes to competing for market share and taxpayer dollars. A pro-charter group in New York recently ran deplorable ads suggesting they care more about equity than Mayor de Blasio does. The reality is that some charter school operators want to take public funds yet behave like private entities that can play by different rules.

Charter schools tend to enroll fewer students with disabilities, fewer English language learners, and a less-poor population of students than do nearby public schools. Reuters has reported on practices some charter operators use to “get the students they want.” Some require character references from a religious or community leader, entry exams, or completion of lengthy forms (often only in English). A Philadelphia charter school accepted applications only one day each year–at a suburban country club.

Some charter schools reportedly “counsel out” or expel students just before state testing day. Recent exposés revealed that the Success Academy Charter Schools chain has suspended or expelled children as young as kindergartners–often for minor infractions–at a rate seven times higher than elementary students in New York City’s public schools.

A new report revealed more than $200 million in fraud, waste and mismanagement in the 15 states examined of the 43 states that allow charters. The U.S. Department of Education this fall awarded $71 million for charter schools to Ohio–whose charter schools are notorious for financial and ethical scandals and academic results that lag far behind traditional public schools–prompting an outcry from the state auditor. Federal officials have since placed restrictions on the funds.

Since 1995, the Education Department has awarded more than $3 billion to create and expand charter schools throughout the country, despite warnings by its inspector general that the department has provided inadequate oversight of federal funds sent to charter schools.

These failings hurt the charter school operators who are trying to operate aboveboard with students’ best interests in mind. And rampant charter expansion undermines traditional public schools. A proposal to “charterize” half of the public schools in Los Angeles would not just disrupt the public school system, it would destroy it. Neighborhood public schools would be stripped of essential resources, programs and personnel, and the district would be bankrupted. These schemes, also playing out in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and elsewhere, aim not to supplement public schools but to supplant them. There must be robust debates about proposals that so radically privatize public education.

“Charter” does not mean “better.” A well-regarded Stanford University study found that 25 percent of charter schools perform significantly better than traditional public schools, while 31 percent produce academic results that are significantly worse.

Hillary Clinton, a longtime supporter of charter schools, was recently lambasted when she called for accountability for all public schools. She noted that some charter schools “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation, because they do, thankfully, take everybody, and then they don’t get the resources or the help and support that they need to be able to take care of every child’s education.” She’s right.

The public education landscape is enriched by having many options–neighborhood public schools, magnet schools, community schools, schools that focus on career and technical education, and charter schools. They all must be held to educational, financial and ethical standards, particularly now, given that half the children in public schools are poor. This is a solemn responsibility to both students and the public.

Follow Randi Weingarten on Twitter:

November 1, 2015

When You Read Alan Borsuk’s Commentary on the MPS Debate About Pulaski and Carmen, You Know the Milwaukee Journal Is Not the New York Times

Filed under: Charter Schools,MPS Buildings — millerlf @ 8:33 am

Whenever the New York Times runs articles on charter schools in that city, they include the following request to the public:

Are you a current or former charter school student in New York City? We would like to hear from your perspective about what it’s like to attend a charter school. Please email with your response, which will be kept confidential and will not be published. However, an editor or reporter may contact you for a possible future article.

Why? Because the paper regularly reports on what is happening inside the walls of charter schools. They report the successes. But they also report the failings. They are especially interested in policies followed by some New York charters with the “de-selection” of special education students, ELL students, those with chronic behavior problems or performing low on standardized tests. See, for example, the Times article on a charter school’s “Got to Go” list.

Where is the investigation on this vital issue in the Milwaukee press? Good investigative reporting on the inner-workings of voucher and independent charter schools in Milwaukee would draw the interest of the public.

Reporting on debate that occurred at Thursday’s school board meeting would have been a perfect time, at least to raise questions. Board members who oppose  the proposed “collaboration” between Pulaski, a traditional public school, and Carmen, a privately run program chartered with MPS, advanced arguments based on data and conversations with staff, parents and others with first-hand knowledge.

Rather than present the arguments that came up in the debate, including concerns about Carmen’s discipline and de-selection practices, Borsuk reduced his reporting to a “profile in courage” of one board member. See Borsuk’s commentary at: Borsuk

Director Joseph and I spoke to our alternative approach to reforming Pulaski, but Borsuk again chose not to report on it.

Our approach is centered on the need to serve all students on Milwaukee’s south side. We addressed two key areas. The first would be to grow high performing high school seats by re-designing Pulaski during the present school year, and significantly expanding its numbers (The need for significantly expanding high school space would be addressed with the redesign.) The second way that we saw growing high school seats and giving students increased access to those high performing seats would be to create a grade 6-8 middle school in Pulaski as a feeder school to Pulaski High School. This middle school would help offer a pathway for the many Southside elementary schools that end at 5th grade, including nearby Zablocki and Lincoln Ave elementary schools.

To meet these needs Director Joseph and I were planning to propose the following motion but Roberts Rules of Order prevented it because a substitute motion was adopted.

Our motion states:
I move-
That the administration immediately begin a redesign of the Pulaski High School program with a bilingual component (and possible IB) using a process that-
• Uses the best practices of the Bayview redesign.

• Includes an all inclusive committee of parents, staff, students and community overseen by the administration.

• Develop an RFP for a 6-8th grade middle school to be housed in Pulaski for up 600 students, starting in the fall of 2017. The Pulaski middle school would be a feeder to the high school and create a pathway from nearby Zablocki and Lincoln, along with other South-side elementary schools that only go through 5th grade. The middle school would provide a bilingual program. Its design and RFP development would be part of the discussion of the committee to redesign Pulaski High School.

• That Pulaski will not have 9th grade in the upcoming 2016-2017 school year. 9th graders will be recruited for the school year 2017-2018. They will be the first graduating class of the redesigned Pulaski High School.

• The administration begin the discussion of the redesign in November 2015.

• That the administration work to maintain the Pulaski teaching staff committed to the redesign and the necessary accreditation/certification for the new program. The district commit to working to relieve the cost of necessary recertification.

• And, that the administration immediately find a building to house the 200 students designated for Carmen’s Southside charter expansion.

Charter School “De-selection”, “Counseling Out”, High Behavioral Suspension Rates and Now, “Got to Go” Lists

Filed under: Charter Schools,No-nonsence schools — millerlf @ 6:33 am

Many independent charter schools across the country have been identified for finding ways to rid their schools of special education students, disruptive students and low-testing students.

At a Success Academy Charter School, Singling Out Pupils Who Have ‘Got to Go’

By Kate Taylor OCT. 29, 2015 NYTimes (See at:

The Success Academy charter school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where the “Got to Go” list was created at the principal’s direction.

From the time Folake Ogundiran’s daughter started kindergarten at a Success Academy charter school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the girl struggled to adjust to its strict rules.

She racked up demerits for not following directions or not keeping her hands folded in her lap. Sometimes, after being chastised, she threw tantrums. She was repeatedly suspended for screaming, throwing pencils, running away from school staff members or refusing to go to another classroom for a timeout.

One day last December, the school’s principal, Candido Brown, called Ms. Ogundiran and said her daughter, then 6, was having a bad day. Mr. Brown warned that if she continued to do things that were defiant and unsafe — including, he said, pushing or kicking, moving chairs or tables, or refusing to go to another classroom — he would have to call 911, Ms. Ogundiran recalled. Already feeling that her daughter was treated unfairly, she went to the school and withdrew her on the spot.

Success Academy, the high-performing charter school network in New York City, has long been dogged by accusations that its remarkable accomplishments are due, in part, to a practice of weeding out weak or difficult students. The network has always denied it. But documents obtained by The New York Times and interviews with 10 current and former Success employees at five schools suggest that some administrators in the network have singled out children they would like to see leave.

At Success Academy Fort Greene, the same day that Ms. Ogundiran heard from the principal, her daughter’s name was one of 16 placed on a list drawn up at his direction and shared by school leaders.
The heading on the list was “Got to Go.”
Nine of the students on the list later withdrew from the school. Some of their parents said in interviews that while their children attended Success, their lives were upended by repeated suspensions and frequent demands that they pick up their children early or meet with school or network staff members. Four of the parents said that school or network employees told them explicitly that the school, whose oldest students are now in the third grade, was not right for their children and that they should go elsewhere.

The current and former employees said they had observed similar practices at other Success schools. According to those employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs or their relationships with people still at the network, school leaders and network staff members explicitly talked about suspending students or calling parents into frequent meetings as ways to force parents to fall in line or prompt them to withdraw their children.

Last year, for instance, the principal of Success Academy Harlem 2 Upper, Lavinia Mackall, told teachers not to automatically send annual re-enrollment forms home to certain students, because the school did not want those students to come back, two former members of the school’s staff said. Ms. Mackall said that her comments had been misinterpreted and that she was trying to encourage parents to take the school’s requirements seriously, but that she also did not believe the school was right for all students.

In another example, a current employee said, a network lawyer in a conversation with colleagues described a particularly unruly student’s withdrawal as “a big win” for the school.

In a written response to questions, Success Academy’s spokeswoman, Ann Powell, said that the “Got to Go” list was a mistake and that the network quickly got wind of it and reprimanded Mr. Brown, the principal.

Ms. Powell said that Success schools did not push children out, and that what might look like an effort to nudge students out the door was actually an attempt to help parents find the right environment for their children. Some on the list required special education settings that Success could not offer them, she said.

Mr. Brown said in an email that he thought the disruptive behavior of the students on the list was dragging the whole school down, and “I felt I couldn’t turn the school around if these students remained.”

Once he was reprimanded, though, he and his staff tried to work with those students, he said.

Even so, five left before the end of the school year, and four more departed over the summer.

As to the child’s withdrawal being a “big win,” Ms. Powell said, “if we have a parent whose child really needs to be in a different school, which was a better learning environment for him/her to succeed in and the parent had trouble accepting their child’s needs, might that be characterized as a ‘big win?’ Yes.”
On Thursday, after this article was published online, Eva S. Moskowitz, a former New York City councilwoman who runs Success Academy, was asked by reporters about the “Got to Go” list. Ms. Moskowitz said that given her network’s size, “mistakes are sometimes made.” She declined to answer further questions, saying she would hold a news conference on Friday to discuss “the mistake that was made in that particular case.”

Frequent Suspensions
Success Academy is the city’s largest charter school network. It has 34 schools, and plans to grow to 70 in five or six years.

The network serves mostly black and Hispanic students and is known for exacting behavior rules. Even the youngest pupils are expected to sit with their backs straight, their hands clasped and their eyes on the teacher, a posture that the network believes helps children pay attention. Ms. Moskowitz has said she believes children learn better with structure and consistency in the classroom. Good behavior and effort are rewarded with candy and prizes, while infractions and shoddy work are penalized with reprimands, loss of recess time, extra assignments and, in some cases, suspensions as early as kindergarten.

Charter schools are privately run but publicly funded and admit children by lottery. Similar to a traditional public school, a charter school must provide a seat to a child who has enrolled unless the student withdraws, is expelled, turns 21 or moves out of the state. Charter schools must follow strict guidelines before formally expelling any student, and Success has done so only once since its first school opened in 2006. But Success’s critics accuse it of pushing children out by making their parents’ lives so difficult that they withdraw.

Suspensions at Success, which typically last one or two days, are frequent compared with traditional public schools. In the 2012-13 school year, the most recent one for which state data is available, Success schools suspended between 4 percent and 23 percent of their students at least once, with most suspending more than 10 percent. According to the most recent statistics from the city’s Education Department, from 2013-14, traditional public schools suspended 3 percent of students that academic year.

Ms. Moskowitz has said that suspensions can make parents recognize the seriousness of their children’s misbehavior and that removing students who are acting dangerously from the classroom protects teachers and allows them to do their jobs more effectively.

Principals at Success, many in their 20s and 30s, frequently consult with a team of lawyers before suspending a student or requiring a parent to pick up a child early every day. It was a member of that team who described a student’s withdrawal from the Success Academy in Union Square to colleagues as a “big win,” the current employee said.

James D. Merriman, the chief executive officer of the New York City Charter School Center, a group that advocates and supports charter schools, said it was unrealistic to expect any given school to be a good fit for every child. And Mr. Merriman noted that the city had many traditional public schools that required a test or other screening for admission, schools that by definition did not serve all students.

“I think if you asked most charter leaders they’d say that their goal is to be a fit for as broad an array of children as possible,” he said, “and they’re working very hard to that end.”

Under Pressure
Mr. Brown arrived at Success Academy Fort Greene, which shares a white-brick building with a public school in the shadow of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, in November 2014. He was the school’s third principal since it opened a year earlier, and he said he found the school, with 224 students, out of control. Children behaved violently, he said, and teachers were overwhelmed and starting to feel hopeless.

“If the school had been better managed from the start, then we could have done better by these students and probably could have kept more of them,” he said in an email. “However, it is also the case that for some of them, Success wasn’t the best place. Some of them needed an alternative setting with highly specialized services. And some parents just didn’t agree with our philosophy.”

Some of the parents whose children were on the “Got to Go” list acknowledged that they did not agree with how the school managed behavior. But several also said that both before and after the list was created, they thought school and network employees were trying to push them out.

Folake Wimbish said her son, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was suspended 19 times last year, in first grade, and missed 26 days. Success said her son was intellectually gifted but struggled with behavior, “often hitting, kicking, biting and spitting at other children and adults.”

In early December, while Ms. Wimbish was pushing the school to evaluate her son for special education services, she was called to a meeting in Lower Manhattan with the network’s assistant general counsel and its associate special education manager, Julie Freese. She said Ms. Freese told her that, because of his suspensions, her son was missing out on his education, and she needed to think about his well-being.

“She said, ‘Why don’t you just put him in another school, because he’s suffering,’ ” Ms. Wimbish said.

Ms. Wimbish withdrew her son at the end of the year, because with the suspensions and calls to pick him up, she said, “I started feeling like I was going to have a breakdown.” He now attends Public School 119 in Brooklyn, where Ms. Wimbish said he was very happy and had not been suspended once.

Monique Jeffrey said her son, who was in kindergarten last year, was suspended so many times she “stopped counting.” In the middle of the year, Ms. Jeffrey said, the school’s education manager, Rebecca Fleischman, told her that her son had emotional and behavioral issues the school could not handle and that she should look for another school. Ms. Jeffrey withdrew him at the end of the year.

Nicey Givens, the mother of another student on the list, said her son, also a kindergartner last year, was suspended many times, in some cases, the school told her, for fighting. Ms. Fleischman said in an email that a special education committee of the school district recommended that the boy be placed in a type of special education class the school did not offer in his grade. Ms. Givens recalled that Ms. Fleischman told her the school did not have the resources to serve her son and offered to help find him a placement in a regular public school. Her son now attends P.S. 287.

Ms. Powell, the Success spokeswoman, said the charter network was deeply committed to serving special education students and it was prevented from offering more special education classes because the city had not granted it enough classrooms. “Helping some students find better placements is not wrong,” she added.

Around the time the “Got to Go” list was created, Mr. Brown and the school’s dean spoke with the principal of another Success school in Brooklyn, and the dean shared with her colleagues some notes from that conversation. The notes were part of an email exchange shown to The Times by a former Success employee.

The notes describe several suggestions for dealing with families who are “not on board” and discussed 911 calls.

The notes also appear to allude to the possibility of getting one child on the “Got to Go” list classified as a 12:1:1 special education student. Those students are entitled to classrooms limited to 12 students, with one teacher and one aide, so Success Academy, which offers only five such classes in a network serving 11,000 students, might not be able to meet the needs of every 12:1:1 student.

Ms. Fleischman, the education manager, warned her colleagues in a follow-up email that the goal should not have been put in an email and that, in any case, a 12:1:1 classification “does not guarantee a withdrawal.”

Asked this month about that remark, she said that she was saying only that the parent of a 12:1:1 student would not be required to take the student out, and was not alluding to any effort to ensure the child would leave.

Mixed Messages
Some of the parents whose children were on the list said that while some school employees were advising them to leave, others were sending reassuring messages.

On Feb. 2, a teacher, Hannah Hodari, wrote an email to Ms. Jeffrey about her son’s progress in math. “I can totally tell you have been working with him, he was very enthusiastic today and his work and focus was much improved,” the teacher wrote.

In June, after Ms. Jeffrey had decided to withdraw her son, Ms. Hodari urged her to reconsider, saying in an email that she would be “so excited” to see him return and “watch him be successful” in first grade.

“However,” the teacher added, “I also understand where your concerns and doubts come from.”

Ms. Powell, the spokeswoman, said: “We make tremendous efforts to keep all children. We do this because morally once a child enters our doors, they are ours, and we want them to succeed.”

She also named three mothers of children on the “Got to Go” list who were still at the school, saying they would be able to describe the efforts that Success had made to keep their students there.

One of those mothers, Aisha Cooper, said her son, now in second grade, had struggled with his behavior because he was easily distracted, had difficulty keeping his eyes on the teacher and would sometimes call out in class. She said he was suspended once in kindergarten for throwing a snow globe across the room, and she recalled his kindergarten teacher’s once suggesting that maybe Success was not a good fit for him.

Ms. Cooper said she never felt as if the school wanted him gone. She said she liked the school so much that she was planning to send her daughter there for kindergarten next year.

But when a reporter asked if she knew that her son had been included last year on the “Got to Go” list, Ms. Cooper said she did not.

“I’m a little upset about that,” she said after a minute. “They could have let me know he was on a list that he ‘had to go.’ And I would have asked them why, because he’s not a bad child. He just talks too much sometimes.

“He doesn’t hit kids, he doesn’t knock kids over, he doesn’t scream, he just talks too much. So I don’t understand why he’s on this list.”

Are you a current or former charter school student in New York City? We would like to hear from your perspective about what it’s like to attend a charter school. Please email with your response, which will be kept confidential and will not be published. However, an editor or reporter may contact you for a possible future article.

A version of this article appears in print on October 30, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Charter School’s ‘Got to Go’ List Singled Out Difficult Students .

October 30, 2015

What the national drop in 2015 NAEP test scores really means

Filed under: NAEP — millerlf @ 10:37 am

By Valerie Strauss October 28 Washington Post

See graph at:

The 2015 scores for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are out, and the news isn’t good for those who think standardized test scores tell us something significant about student achievement.

NAEP is often called the nation’s report card because it is the only measure of student achievement given periodically to a sampling of students around the nation. It is seen by many as a high-quality test though it has many critics, too, some of whom say that the NAEP definition of “proficiency” is unnaturally high, and that the test cannot measure many of the qualities students must develop to be successful.

My Post colleague Emma Brown reports in this story that math scores for fourth-graders and eighth-graders across the United States dropped this year, the first time since the federal government began administering the exams in 1990. Reading scores weren’t much better; eighth-grade scores dropped while fourth-grade performance was stagnant compared with 2013, the last time the test was administered. Since 1990, scores had generally edged up with each administration, though achievement gaps between white and minority students have remained large.

School reformers who have touted NAEP score increases in the past as evidence of success are now trying to spin the newest results as anything but their the failure of their reforms. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in 2013 for example, credited Common Core implementation for higher NAEP scores in some states. He said:
“In 2013, reading and math scores edged up nationally to new highs for fourth and eighth graders. It is particularly heartening that reading scores for eighth graders are up, after remaining relatively flat for the last decade. Achievement among the largest minority group in our nation’s public schools—Hispanic students—is also up since 2011. And higher-achieving students as a whole are making more progress in reading and math than in recent years.

“While progress on the NAEP continues to vary among the states, all eight states that had implemented the state-crafted Common Core State Standards at the time of the 2013 NAEP assessment showed improvement in at least one of the Reading and/or Mathematics assessments from 2009 to 2013—and none of the eight states had a decline in scores.

Fast forward to today, and Duncan has a different explanation for the lower scores. Brown reported:
Duncan defended those policies in a call with reporters Tuesday, saying that massive changes in schools often lead to a temporary drop in test scores while teachers and students adjust. But the new standards and other policies, Duncan said, are poised to improve student achievement — and students’ lives — in the long term.

“Big change never happens overnight,” Duncan said. “I’m confident that over the next decade, if we stay committed to this change, we will see historic improvements.”

Here’s a look at what the NAEP scores mean — and don’t mean — as explained by Carol Burris, who retired this year as an award-winning principal at a New York high school. She is the author of numerous articles, books and blog posts (including on The Answer Sheet) about the botched school reform efforts in her state. She is also the head of the nonprofit Network for Public Education, an organization co-founded by Diane Ravitch that works to support the improvement of public education.

Today’s National Assessment of Educational Progress score flop should come as no surprise. You cannot implement terrible education policies and expect that achievement will increase.

NAEP is a truth teller. There is no NAEP test prep industry, or high-stakes consequence that promotes teaching to the test. NAEP is what it was intended to be—a national report card by which we can gauge our national progress in educating our youth.

During the 1970s and ’80s, at the height of school desegregation efforts, the gap in scores between our nation’s white and black students dramatically narrowed. You could see the effects of good, national policy reflected in NAEP gains.

The gaps have remained, however, and this year, the ever so slight narrowing of gaps between white and black students is due to drops in the scores of white students—hardly a civil rights victory.

It is difficult to see any real growth across the board since 2011, with math scores backsliding to 2009 levels, eighth-grade reading flat for four years, and a small uptick in fourth-grade reading that is not a significant increase from 2013, which, in turn, was not significantly different from 2011.

Considering that the rationale for the Common Core State Standards initiative was low NAEP proficiency rates, it would appear that the solution of tough standards and tough tests is not the great path forward after all. For those who say it is too early to use NAEP to judge the Common Core, I would remind them that in 2013, Education Secretary Arne Duncan used NAEP increases to do a victory dance about the states that had already implemented the Core at that time—and I never heard any reformer complain.

Two years ago, Duncan attributed Tennessee’s, Hawaii’s and the District of Columbia’s NAEP score increases to their enthusiastic adoption of Race to the Top. Likewise, he attributed increases in Kentucky, Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi and North Carolina to their early embrace of the Common Core.

This year, the District of Columbia and Mississippi had fourth-grade score gains in mathematics, but the rest of Duncan’s superstars had mathematics scores that dropped or were flat. All of Arne’s superstar states had eighth-grade scores that dropped or did not budge.

The District of Columbia, Mississippi, Kentucky and North Carolina had score gains in fourth-grade reading this year, but so did states like Oklahoma and Vermont that have resisted Race to the Top reforms. And in Grade 8 reading, all of Duncan’s superstars had scores that were flat or took a dive.

Colorado, a state that recently received high praise from Bill and Melinda Gates for its implementation of corporate reforms, had reading scores that were flat and math scores that significantly dropped.

NAEP scores were not the only disappointment this year. A few months ago, we saw a significant drop in SAT scores—7 points in one year alone.

Although NAEP and the SAT were not designed to align to the Common Core, they measure what the Common Core Standards were supposed to improve—the literacy and numeracy of our nation’s students. Considering the billions of dollars spent on these reforms, one would expect at least some payoff by now.

The fans of reforms are already beginning the spin. Some are blaming demographic changes (which conveniently ignores the drop in white student scores on 3 of the 4 tests), while others are attributing the stagnation to the economy (which was far worse in 2011).

The very folks who gleefully hold public schools accountable based on scores, evade using them to evaluate their own pet policies. For those of us who had first row seats to the disruption and chaos they have caused, we have one simple message—no excuses.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

October 28, 2015

See Video of Student Brutally Attacked in South Carolina School. Also Read Report on School Cop Use of Force.

Filed under: Racial Justice,School to Prison Pipeline — millerlf @ 8:05 am

View South Carolina student brutally attacked by school-assigned police officer called “Slam”  at:

Following is an article from July of this year that addresses violence against students that has taken place within schools:
Chokeholds, Brain Injuries, Beatings: When School Cops Go Bad

At least 28 students have been seriously injured—and one killed—in the past 5 years.
By Jaeah Lee Tue Jul. 14, 2015 Mother Jones

A Louisville police officer is facing assault and misconduct charges after his alleged use of force at a middle school. Screenshot from school surveillance footage

Over the past year, video footage from around the country of law enforcement officers killing citizens, many of them black, has brought scrutiny on policing in the streets. Yet, another disturbing police problem has drawn far less attention: Use of force by cops in schools. According to news reports and data collected by advocacy groups, over the past five years at least 28 students have been seriously injured, and in one case shot to death, by so-called school resource officers—sworn, uniformed police assigned to provide security on K-12 campuses.

As with the officer-involved killings that have been thrust into the national spotlight, government data on police conduct in schools is lacking. And while serious use of force by officers against school kids appears to be rare, experts also point to a troubling lack of training and oversight, and a disproportionate impact on minority and disabled students.

Here are some of the recent cases, which Mother Jones has looked into further:

• Chokehold and a brain injury: In March, Louisville Metro Police officer Jonathan Hardin was fired after his alleged use of force in two incidents at Olmsted Academy North middle school: He was accused of punching a 13-year-old student in the face for cutting the cafeteria line, and a week later of putting another 13-year-old student in a chokehold, allegedly knocking the student unconscious and causing a brain injury. In April, a grand jury indicted Hardin on assault and misconduct charges for the chokehold incident, and his trial is pending. The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office is also considering charges against Hardin over the punching incident, a spokesperson for the attorney’s office told Mother Jones. Hardin’s attorney declined to comment, citing the ongoing criminal litigation.

• Beating with a baton: In May 2014, Cesar Suquet, then a 16-year-old high school student in Houston, was being escorted by an officer out of the principal’s office after a discussion about Suquet’s confiscated cell phone. Following a verbal exchange, police officer Michael Y’Barbo struck Suquet at least 18 times with a police baton, injuring him on his head, neck and elsewhere, according to the lawsuit Suquet’s family filed against the Pasadena Independent School District. In its response to the incident (which was captured on video according to court documents), the school district admitted that Y’Barbo struck Suquet but denied allegations of wrongdoing. Y’Barbo, in his response, denied striking Suquet on the head, stating that he acted “within his discretionary duties” and that his use of force was “reasonable and necessary.” A spokesperson for the school district told Mother Jones that Y’Barbo remains on regular assignment including patrol.

• Taser-induced brain injury: In November 2013, student Noe Nino de Rivera was trying to break up a fight at Cedar Creek High School in Bastrop County, Texas, when two officers arrived and told Nino de Rivera to step back. Within moments, one of the officers, Randy McMillan, tased the 17-year-old, who fell to the ground and hit his head. Nino de Rivera was taken to a hospital, where he “underwent surgery to repair a severe brain hemorrhage and was placed in a medically induced coma,” according to the family’s lawsuit against McMillan, Bastrop County, and the school district. The teen remained in a coma for 52 days, a family attorney told CNN. Attorneys representing the county said that Nino de Rivera had failed to comply with orders and that McMillan “used the reasonable amount of necessary force to maintain and control discipline at the school.” In May 2014, a grand jury declined to indict McMillan, and that month he received a promotion. Three months later, the county agreed to pay Nino de Rivera’s family $775,000 to settle the lawsuit.

• Shot to death: On November 12, 2010, 14-year-old Derek Lopez stepped off a school bus outside of Northside Alternative High School, near San Antonio, and punched another student, knocking him to the ground. Officer Daniel Alvarado witnessed the altercation and ordered Lopez to freeze, and then chased a fleeing Lopez to a shed behind a house, where he fatally shot him. Alvarado later testified that Lopez had “bull-rushed” him as he opened the shed door. Lopez, who was unarmed, died soon afterward. In August 2012, a grand jury declined to indict Alvarado. The Northside Independent School District school board later agreed to pay a $925,000 settlement to Lopez’s family. Alvarado has since been terminated from Northside for unrelated reasons, an attorney for the school district told Mother Jones.

The US and state governments do not specifically collect data on police conduct in K-12 schools. But some data has been gathered at the county and state level by the ACLU and other advocacy groups, including in Texas and North Carolina. Using news reports, the Huffington Post identified at least 25 students in 13 states recently who sought medical attention after getting tased, peppersprayed, or shot with a stun gun by school resource officers. (For more on these harsh tactics and a lawsuit they led to, read this Mother Jones story.)

The US Justice Department spent $876 million to fund nearly 7,000 school resource officers nationwide after Columbine, and another $67 million following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.

From the war on drugs to “zero tolerance policies,” cops have been utilized in K-12 schools for decades. But the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999 caused their ranks to swell, with the number of police officers patrolling K-12 campuses approximately doubling to 20,000 by 2006, according to the National Association of School Resource Officers. The US Department of Justice spent an estimated $876 million after Columbine to fund nearly 7,000 school resource officers across the country. Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, the DOJ has spent another $67 million to fund an additional 540 cops in schools. Many school districts and local police departments have funded their own sworn law enforcement personnel for the job.

But much about this field remains unclear: According to a recent report from Philip Stinson, a Bowling Green University criminologist, “The existing research offers few answers to such basic questions as to how SROs are selected, the nature and extent of SRO training, and the strategic uses of SROs.”

Michael Dorn, a former school district police chief in Georgia, says that misconduct cases by school cops are rare and that overall their presence has helped improve campus safety. But the programs need to be better evaluated based on data, he adds. Studies in some school districts have shown that school cops helped reduce crime, truancy, and bullying. But others have found that the presence of cops in schools leads to increased ticketing and arrests for minor infractions. Jason Langberg, an attorney in Virginia who has represented victims of alleged abuse, explains that many officers end up stepping into matters of routine student discipline. They deal with “minor scuffles, a bag of marijuana, or even just talking back,” he says. “The vast majority of incidents don’t involve guns in schools.”

Dewey Cornell, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia who studies school safety, suggests that the rise of school cops has been based on misguided fear. After Sandy Hook, the NRA proposed putting them in every single school in America. But relative to overall gun violence, “schools are one of the least likely places for a shooting to occur, and pulling officers off the street and putting them on guard in a school lobby is short-sighted and dangerous,” Cornell says. “The fear of school shootings has been greatly overestimated because of the attention to a handful of tragic cases.”

Black students are arrested by school cops at a disproportionate rate, according to recent data from the US Department of Education.

Last March, the US Department of Education reported that 92,000 students were subject to school-related arrests in the 2011-2012 academic year, the first time the agency collected and published such data. Black students comprised 16 percent of the total students enrolled but accounted for 31 percent of arrests. And a quarter of the total arrested were students with disabilities, despite that they comprised only 12 percent of the student population. In recommendations to the White House published in May, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing advised that law enforcement agencies analyze data on all stops, frisks, searches, summons, and arrests—and seperate out the data for school detentions. “Noncriminal offenses can escalate to criminal charges when officers are not trained in child and adolescent development,” the report noted.

Often young police officers are on the job, according to the advocacy group Strategies for Youth, which works with police departments and school districts on training. Yet, a national survey conducted in 2013 by the group found that police academies in only one state, Tennessee, offered training specifically for officers deployed to schools. The majority of academies, the survey noted, “do not teach recruits how to recognize and respond to youth with mental health, trauma-related and special education-related disorders.”

In February, Michael Reynolds, a black high school student in Detroit, testified to the task force about an interaction with a cop at his school. “Before I could explain why I did not have my [student] badge I was escorted to the office and suspended for an entire week,” he said. “Many young people today have fear of the police in their communities and schools.”

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October 26, 2015

State Support for Public Schools in 2014-15: 62.3 Percent

Filed under: Public Education — millerlf @ 2:57 pm

by Dan Rossmiller Wisconsin Association of School Boards

Estimated state support for public K-12 schools totaled just under 62.3 percent last year, according to a new analysis released today by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB). That percentage was calculated using the same “partial school revenues” method that was used to determine state support during the period from 1996-97 to 2002-03, when the state had a statutory commitment to fund two-thirds of K-12 partial school revenues statewide. That mandate ended in 2003.

The 62.3 percent figure is the share of state support as calculated on a statewide basis for the 2014-15 school year. The share of state support for each individual school district will vary according to how the district is treated under the state general aid formula, which is based to a large extent on a district’s property wealth per pupil.

The LFB memorandum released today provides information on the estimated level of state support provided for K-12 education statewide and to individual school districts in 2014-15. You can find it here.

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October 25, 2015

Alan Borsuk Reviews Voucher Expansion

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 9:28 am

See Borsuk’s commentary at:

Students in 4-year-old kindergarten play a game last year at HOPE Prima school in Milwaukee.
Students in 4-year-old kindergarten play a game last year at HOPE Prima school in Milwaukee.

The above photo accompanies Borsuk’s article. It was taken at one of Hope Christian Schools.

In August of this year I interviewed a member of the staff at one of the Hope schools.
Here is that blog post titled Hope Christian Schools: Another Voucher School Program Built on Half-truths, False Claims and Manipulated Data.
Previously I have addressed the failure of so-called high-performing voucher schools by exposing the facade created by St. Marcus Lutheran School (see: Response to MJS Article on Henry Tyson and St. Marcus Lutheran School ). Recently I was able to interview an educator from Hope Christian Academy describing similar failings to those of St. Marcus.
Hope Christian Schools (HCS) started in 2002 with one school serving 47 students. Today, they have six schools serving nearly 2,000 students.

The narrative presented to me by a teacher at HCS, does not represent transparency and fidelity in educating our kids.

For example:
Hope Christian Schools claims: “(MAP testing) At our K-8 level, our students have grown by 45% more than their peers, nationally, in both math and reading.”
The truth is that students retake the MAP test until they show demanded improvement.

Students have been expelled, not for fighting, but for simply showing aggressive behavior. Students are constantly warned, “Do you want to go back to MPS?” MPS is constantly berated and made fun of.

Special education: There are little accommodations for students with special needs. Students are placed into groups according to reading or math MAP scores but there is no special education. Students who have special needs are most likely categorized as chronically misbehaved and may be subject to being “counseled out” or expelled. There is no special education program and student IEP’s are fulfilled by MPS.

Hope Christian Schools claims: (WKCE testing): “At our K-8 level, students arrive at our schools scoring significantly below the district average. After 2 years at HOPE, our scholars not only met, but exceeded their district peers in both math and reading.”
The truth is that last year’s 8th grade at Fortis (31 students tested) saw only 6% of its students (2 students) test at proficient and zero percent tested as advanced for reading. The 5th grade at Semper had only 4% test proficient with zero percent testing advanced. (See at:

HCS brags about its graduation rates. But this year’s graduation cohort of 34 students had 51 students take the WKCE exam in 2012. What happened to the 17 students (36%) not graduating this year? Were they counted toward graduation rates as they would be with MPS’s graduation calculations?

HCS teaches very little social studies and history while focusing on “no-nonsense” Christian “character building”
. The staff person I interviewed described the culture as torture to watch, a jail.

Most teachers come from Teach For America and very few of the teachers at Semper and Fortis have a teaching license. Between these two schools (the person I interviewed estimated between 40 and 60 teachers) last year there was one African-American teacher.

Hope Christian Schools has many new buildings and is aggressively expanding with public money. But behind its shiny new exteriors, is it doing justice for our children?

October 24, 2015

How MPS Changed School Expulsions

Filed under: Education Policy — millerlf @ 8:09 am

Echoing national trends, school board has moved away from “zero tolerance.” Here’s why.
Terry Falk Oct 23, 2015

Zero-tolerance hasn’t worked. Both liberal and conservatives agree on that. We have filled our prisons with low level offenders through minimum sentences, three-strikes-and-you’re-out legislation. Today, Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate for black men in the nation, but the streets of Milwaukee and other Wisconsin cities are no safer.
Educators have come to the same conclusion with discipline in our schools. Zero tolerance in schools meant that expulsion had to be considered in every instance where a weapon or drugs were found. School fights, which were once handled by school officials, now meant a call to the police. Just a few years ago, Milwaukee was ranked at the top of school systems that suspended students, but such suspensions added little order to our schools.
Last summer the U.S. Department of Education launched “Rethinking Discipline” to come up with alternatives to the zero-tolerance school practices.

A few years earlier, Milwaukee School Superintendent Gregory Thornton took on the issue of suspensions in an effort to drive down those numbers. Suspending a student might get the student out of the hair of the school staff for a day or two. But often the students just sat at home watching Scooby Doo and eating Froot Loops. When they came back, no behavior had changed.

Recently, as a school board member, I pushed for changes in the MPS expulsion policy. Previously the system would expel a student without any educational services. It is unlikely that a student expelled for selling drugs would sit at home and contemplate the errors of his ways. Most likely the student would just learn to become a better drug dealer. Today MPS still expels students but the system offers alternative educational services while on expulsion.
But a group of “no-nonsense” charter schools have not rethought their discipline policies. Both U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan railed against excessive discipline practices by these schools.
“Too often, so-called zero-tolerance policies, however well intentioned they might be, make students unwelcome in their own schools; they disrupt the learning process,” said Holder in a Washington Post article last year.

The poster child in the Washington Post article was Roxbury Prep in Boston, that had one of the highest suspension rates in Massachusetts. Nearly 60 percent of its students had been suspended at one time or another in the previous year. While Roxbury touted the fact that students exceeded the state in achievement on state academic tests, critics of Roxbury pointed to the school’s high turnover rate. Their high standing was not based upon what they did with the students they had; rather it was a product of sorting through students keeping the most successful students and “counseling out” students who didn’t meet its standards.

Roxbury had an extensive waiting list of students who wanted in, and parents were thrilled when their children were accepted, but often parents changed their mind about the school when their children were ushered out the door.
This is why the Milwaukee school board had so much trouble in approving a new charter school, Milwaukee Excellence. This school followed the no-nonsense concept, directly referring to Roxbury Prep as its model. Ultimately the school board would approve its charter only after the school made changes to it discipline policy and its suspension and student turnover rate were added to its evaluation.

But this is hardly the end of the story.
Recently Secretary Duncan announced that he was leaving the Department of Education and his replacement is undersecretary, John King, none other than the man known as one of Roxbury Prep’s founding members.

Immediately the internet lit up. “The King of Suspensions” was the headline of several blogs. Conservative-turned-liberal education expert, Diane Ravitch, echoed the same concerns. And it doesn’t help that King not only has butted heads with teacher unions, but also had a poor reputation for listening to parent concerns when he was New York state education commissioner as he pushed for more testing along with his support for Common Core.

Ironically, as a youth, John King was kicked out of a private prep school and gives much credit for his success to the teachers who cared for him in traditional public schools. How he came to believe in no-nonsense schools is something of a mystery.

Will Secretary King reverse the “Rethinking Discipline” fostered under Arne Duncan? That is unlikely. And it may be too much ask that he repudiate the no-nonsense discipline policies he once supported for Roxbury Prep.
However he acts, people on both sides of the educational divide will be watching.

Terry Falk has served as a Milwaukee School Board member since 2007.

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