Educate All Students, Support Public Education

February 26, 2013

Diane Ravitch Opposes the Common Core Standards

Filed under: Common Core Standards — millerlf @ 12:11 pm
Why I Cannot Support the Common Core Standards

by dianerav

I have thought long and hard about the Common Core standards.

I have decided that I cannot support them.

In this post, I will explain why.

I have long advocated for voluntary national standards, believing that it would be helpful to states and districts to have general guidelines about what students should know and be able to do as they progress through school.

Such standards, I believe, should be voluntary, not imposed by the federal government; before implemented widely, they should be thoroughly tested to see how they work in real classrooms; and they should be free of any mandates that tell teachers how to teach because there are many ways to be a good teacher, not just one. I envision standards not as a demand for compliance by teachers, but as an aspiration defining what states and districts are expected to do. They should serve as a promise that schools will provide all students the opportunity and resources to learn reading and mathematics, the sciences, the arts, history, literature, civics, geography, and physical education, taught by well-qualified teachers, in schools led by experienced and competent educators.

​ For the past two years, I have steadfastly insisted that I was neither for nor against the Common Core standards. I was agnostic. I wanted to see how they worked in practice. I wanted to know, based on evidence, whether or not they improve education and whether they reduce or increase the achievement gaps among different racial and ethnic groups.

After much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t wait five or ten years to find out whether test scores go up or down, whether or not schools improve, and whether the kids now far behind are worse off than they are today.

I have come to the conclusion that the Common Core standards effort is fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation.

The Common Core standards have been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia without any field test. They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.

Maybe the standards will be great. Maybe they will be a disaster. Maybe they will improve achievement. Maybe they will widen the achievement gaps between haves and have-nots. Maybe they will cause the children who now struggle to give up altogether. Would the Federal Drug Administration approve the use of a drug with no trials, no concern for possible harm or unintended consequences?

President Obama and Secretary Duncan often say that the Common Core standards were developed by the states and voluntarily adopted by them. This is not true.

They were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation. There was minimal public engagement in the development of the Common Core. Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states.

​ In fact, it was well understood by states that they would not be eligible for Race to the Top funding ($4.35 billion) unless they adopted the Common Core standards. Federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from prescribing any curriculum, but in this case the Department figured out a clever way to evade the letter of the law. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia signed on, not because the Common Core standards were better than their own, but because they wanted a share of the federal cash. In some cases, the Common Core standards really were better than the state standards, but in Massachusetts, for example, the state standards were superior and well tested but were ditched anyway and replaced with the Common Core. The former Texas State Commissioner of Education, Robert Scott, has stated for the record that he was urged to adopt the Common Core standards before they were written.

The flap over fiction vs. informational text further undermined my confidence in the standards. There is no reason for national standards to tell teachers what percentage of their time should be devoted to literature or information. Both can develop the ability to think critically. The claim that the writers of the standards picked their arbitrary ratios because NAEP has similar ratios makes no sense. NAEP gives specifications to test-developers, not to classroom teachers.

I must say too that it was offensive when Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice issued a report declaring that our nation’s public schools were so terrible that they were a “very grave threat to our national security.” Their antidote to this allegedly desperate situation: the untried Common Core standards plus charters and vouchers.

Another reason I cannot support the Common Core standards is that I am worried that they will cause a precipitous decline in test scores, based on arbitrary cut scores, and this will have a disparate impact on students who are English language learners, students with disabilities, and students who are poor and low-performing. A principal in the Mid-West told me that his school piloted the Common Core assessments and the failure rate rocketed upwards, especially among the students with the highest needs. He said the exams looked like AP exams and were beyond the reach of many students.

When Kentucky piloted the Common Core, proficiency rates dropped by 30 percent. The Chancellor of the New York Board of Regents has already warned that the state should expect a sharp drop in test scores.

What is the purpose of raising the bar so high that many more students fail?

Rick Hess opined that reformers were confident that the Common Core would cause so much dissatisfaction among suburban parents that they would flee their public schools and embrace the reformers’ ideas (charters and vouchers). Rick was appropriately doubtful that suburban parents could be frightened so easily.

Jeb Bush, at a conference of business leaders, confidently predicted that the high failure rates sure to be caused by Common Core would bring about “a rude awakening.” Why so much glee at the prospect of higher failure rates?.

I recently asked a friend who is a strong supporter of the standards why he was so confident that the standards would succeed, absent any real-world validation. His answer: “People I trust say so.” That’s not good enough for me.

Now that David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards, has become president of the College Board, we can expect that the SAT will be aligned to the standards. No one will escape their reach, whether they attend public or private school.

Is there not something unseemly about placing the fate and the future of American education in the hands of one man?

I hope for the sake of the nation that the Common Core standards are great and wonderful. I wish they were voluntary, not mandatory. I wish we knew more about how they will affect our most vulnerable students.

But since I do not know the answer to any of the questions that trouble me, I cannot support the Common Core standards.

I will continue to watch and listen. While I cannot support the Common Core standards, I will remain open to new evidence. If the standards help kids, I will say so. If they hurt them, I will say so. I will listen to their advocates and to their critics.

I will encourage my allies to think critically about the standards, to pay attention to how they affect students, and to insist, at least, that they do no harm.

dianerav | February 26, 2013 at 6:10 am | Categories: Common Core, Race to the Top | URL:


February 23, 2013

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Voucher Expansion: “Walker’s voucher plan goes too far, too fast”

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 11:33 am

We urge the Legislature to substantially modify the governor’s plan or kill it outright.

Feb. 19, 2013 MJS Editorial
We have long supported choice in public education. We still believe that, despite its flaws, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program should have a place in the cafeteria of publicly funded options for city parents.
But Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to expand the voucher program more broadly in Wisconsin is ill-advised. We urge the Legislature to substantially modify this wrongheaded idea or kill it outright.
Walker’s proposal, coming in Wednesday’s budget address, likely would open the voucher program to these districts: Beloit, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Sheboygan, Superior, Waukesha and West Allis-West Milwaukee. Long a bullet point on some Republican wish lists, the expansion would begin with 500 new students this fall, increasing to 1,000 next year and an unlimited number after that.
Our concerns:
  • Judging from years of evidence in Milwaukee, where the program has existed since the 1990s, there is precious little data to show that students in the voucher program do any better than students in the mainline Milwaukee Public Schools. The voucher program is a part of the education landscape in the city – and low-income parents don’t have the same choices that middle-income and wealthier families do. But there is little solid educational evidence that choice produces better educational outcomes. And accountability remains a concern.
  • Any expansion should target low-income families who don’t have other choices. That was the original intention of the voucher program; it was not intended to become a parallel system statewide. Last year’s move by the Legislature to expand the program by relaxing income limits was a mistake.
  • Traditional districts would lose state aid and property tax dollars as students migrate to new voucher schools. Advocates for choice argue that voucher schools are a better value because they educate children with fewer state resources, but how will traditional schools make up those lost dollars – especially coming after several years of budget pain? Districts will be stretched even thinner, and their students may be harmed.
  • We’re persuaded by an argument voiced by state Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center). “We have a hard enough time to support one education system in this state, let alone two,” he said. He’s right.
Walker likely will argue that he’s also boosting support for traditional public schools. Don’t believe it. It’s a mirage. Walker is proposing an increase of at least 9% in taxpayer funding for private and religious voucher schools but plans to hold flat the per-pupil revenue limit for traditional K-12 schools.
That means those schools couldn’t tap additional resources he claims to be sending their way without first asking voters. That could be a major body blow to MPS, which had been counting on at least a $50-per-pupil increase that now may not come.
Walker’s budget proposal increases state aid to kindergarten-through-eighth-grade voucher schools to $7,050 per pupil from $6,442 in the 2014-’15 school year, an increase of $608 per pupil, or 9.4%. For voucher high schools, the per-pupil aid would rise to $7,856, an increase of $1,414, or 21.9%. For public schools, Walker is proposing a 1% increase in state general aid and some additional state money for specific purposes. But because the revenue cap would not increase, mainline districts would have to win referendums if they want to spend more.
The governor indicated he might be willing to limit access to new voucher schools only to students attending “failing” schools in a district. That’s an idea worth debating, but our concerns about limiting the program to the poor and its long-term financial effects on traditional districts remain.
Schultz and Republican state Sen. Michael Ellis (R-Neenah) would require districts to hold a binding local referendum before students are allowed to attend voucher schools. Republican Sen. Rob Cowles of Allouez also backs that idea. So do we.
In addition to the voucher schools expansion, Walker will propose a state board to authorize more nonprofit entities to approve new charter schools, which operate independently of traditional school districts. In Wisconsin, they only exist in Milwaukee and Racine. In Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Common Council can authorize such schools. In Racine, UWM authorizes an independent charter school. Increasing the number of charter schools, if carefully monitored, has promise.
But we urge lawmakers to be very wary of Walker’s voucher school expansion. The evidence that these schools work better than traditional schools is thin. In any case, they should be reserved for low-income students; for the families who don’t have other choices. Building out a separate, perhaps less accountable system, to satisfy an ideological goal is misguided.

What is your opinion of Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to expand choice schools in Wisconsin? To be considered for publication as a letter to the editor, e-mail your opinion to the Journal Sentinel editorial department. Please see letters guidelines.

February 19, 2013

Proposed special needs voucher program draws parents’ concerns

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 4:10 pm

•  By Meghan Chua Daily Cardinal 2/18/13

A provision of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget that would create a voucher-like program for special needs students drew concern from activists across the state Monday.

Walker announced Monday the budget would create a Special Needs Scholarship Program that would provide state-funded scholarships for children with special needs to attend a school of their choice, which could be private or public.

Beth Swedeen, Executive Director for the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, likened the Special Needs Scholarship Program to a voucher program.

Swedeen said she is concerned about the lack of accountability for private schools to serve a disabled student specialization to his or her needs.

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires institutions that accept federal funding to provide a certain standard of services, including special education, to students with disabilities.

“[The program] drains resources out of the public system, which is accountable for student outcomes, into a private system where there is no accountability,” Swedeen said.

Parents and their students, many with disabilities, from across the state gathered in the Capitol Monday for a news conference sponsored by Stop Special Needs Vouchers, a statewide organization.

Tracy Hedman, who spoke at the conference, said she was concerned about vouchers’ effect on her son’s education.

She said her relationship with the school her son attends “would have been far different if [he] was not protected under IDEA, and went to a school that wasn’t obligated to follow the law.”

School Choice Wisconsin President Jim Bender said the school choice expansion, including the Special Needs Scholarship Program, is “great news for parents.”

“Parents…have been empowered to have an active role in matching the uniqueness of their children with a school that best suit their needs,” Bender said in a release Monday.

Read more:

February 18, 2013

School Administrators Alliance Critical of Walker’s Proposed Education Budget

Filed under: Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 5:53 pm

Please direct inquiries to:
John Forester, 608-242-1370
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 18, 2013
Governor’s Budget Proposals Continue Defunding of Public Education
Walker to freeze public schools, expand private school vouchers
MADISON, Wis. — Two years after passing historic budget cuts that took away more
than $800 million from public education, Governor Scott Walker is proposing to inflict
further harm on public schools and students across Wisconsin.
His latest proposal freezes the amount that school districts can spend on public school
children under revenue caps. Meanwhile, the governor wants to increase funding for
private school vouchers by $600 per K-8 student and $1,200 per high school student,
and allow the expansion of private voucher schools that have little to no accountability
and that do not result in higher levels of achievement for students.
“Considering that public schools make up more than 40 percent of the state budget and
Governor Walker has $1.7 billion in available revenues for new spending, I am shocked
that he is proposing a revenue cap freeze for public schools,” said John Forester,
director of government relations for the Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance (SAA).
In his 2011-13 budget, adopted in June 2011, Governor Walker cut the public school
revenue limit by an average of $550 per student, while private voucher school per-pupil
allocations were held harmless. And at the same time the state was cutting more than
$800 million from Wisconsin public schools, it was increasing the amount given to
voucher schools by about $23 million.
“The disastrous defunding of public education continues unabated,” Forester said.
“Given that this is coming on the heels of the last budget’s massive cuts, it’s safe to say
that this proposal represents the worst state budget for public school students in
Wisconsin history.”
Despite overwhelming evidence that private school vouchers do not improve student
achievement and lack adequate financial accountability to the public, Governor Walker
continues to pursue private school voucher expansion. His current proposal would open
private school vouchers to nine new school districts and special needs students.
“Make no mistake about it,” said Forester. “The ultimate objective of voucher advocates
is a statewide system of private school vouchers for all Wisconsin school children. This
takes critical resources away from students in public schools, leaving most school
districts in Wisconsin with no choice but to increase local property taxes and make
greater reductions in quality educational opportunities for all students.”
“Clearly, Governor Walker is attempting to privatize public education for the exclusive
few at the expense of the many,” said Forester.
Rather than continuing to defund public education, the SAA is calling for the governor
and legislature to reaffirm the state’s investment in Wisconsin’s students. At a minimum,
the state must provide a $200 per pupil increase on the revenue cap, fully funded with
general school aid. And private school voucher expansion is such a fundamental
change in educational policy in Wisconsin that it should stand as a separate piece of
legislation—away from the budget—to allow the public’s voice to be heard.
“In the days and weeks to come, we will work with legislators of both parties to
encourage them to do the right thing and provide more resources to Wisconsin’s public
schools and students,” said Forester. “Budgets are about choices, and we need to send
the message that our priorities lie in our children, not in tax cuts, road builders and
private school vouchers.”
# # #

Scott Walker Wants You To Think He Is Increasing Money to Public Schools by $129 Million

Filed under: Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 2:04 pm

Let’s do a little School Funding 101.

Governor Scott Walker claims he’s raised the funding for public schools by $129 million.

Sounds good. But here’s the problem:  The amount of funding for Wisconsin public schools has a corresponding restriction – a revenue limit (cap). If that cap is not raised, any increase in State funding translates into an equivalent decrease in the amount that goes to the schools from property taxes (State funding is increased by $129 million. Therefore property tax funding is decreased by $129 million.) Revenue for school districts remains the same.

Example: Say the revenue limit (cap) were $10,000 per student, paid equally by $5000 from the State and $5000 from local property tax. When the State increases its contribution, say by $1000 per student, for a total of $6000 in State contribution, the property tax contribution would be reduced to $4000 unless the revenue cap were raised. The amount per student would not change.

In short, less funding will come from property taxes, thereby constituting “property tax relief.” But schools and students are getting the same amount of money, not an increase. With inflation, the amount actually constitutes a loss of funding for public schools.

Scott Walker’s $129 million is actually “property tax relief” while public school funding declines.

This is all going on at the same time Walker is increasing $73 million for general vouchers, $21 million for special education vouchers and  $23 million for charters.


Gov. Walker Advances Failed Voucher System

Filed under: Scott Walker,Vouchers — millerlf @ 1:37 pm

Governor Walker previewed his state budget address this week by announcing the expansion of the taxpayer-funded private school voucher program to school districts that 1) have at least 4,000 students and 2) have at least two school buildings receiving the 4th or 5th lowest rating on the school report cards.

School districts that meet these criteria are:  Beloit, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Sheboygan, Superior, Waukesha and West Allis-West Milwaukee.

The state budget proposal would also open the door to future expansion as other school districts meet the criteria.

Under Walker’s proposal, enrollment would be capped at 500 students in the 2013-14 school-year and at 1,000 students in the 2014-15 school-year.

Walker also proposes increasing the voucher payment amount from $6,442 per child to $7,050 for students through 8th grade and to $7,856 for high school students starting with the 2014-15 school-year.

February 11, 2013

Louisiana Recovery District Schools Average “D” or “F” on State Report Card

Filed under: New Orleans,Recovery District — millerlf @ 8:34 am

Louisiana’s Recovery School District oversees 80 schools — 68 of them in New Orleans, where the state took over most schools after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Some are directly operated by the Recovery District, while others are run as charter schools managed by independent organizations.

New Orleans schools run by the Recovery School District still have a D grade on average while those outside of New Orleans received an F in the latest round of grades released in October.

The plan for next year is turn the remaining few New Orleans public schools into privately managed and deregulated charters as are all Recovery District schools.

New Orleans “Recovery District” a Dismal Failure

Filed under: New Orleans,Recovery District — millerlf @ 8:22 am

Post by Diane Ravitch 2/10/13

Bobby Jindal went to Virginia to boast of the miraculous transformation of education in Louisiana, all attributable to the magic of replacing public schools with privately managed, deregulated charters.

This is an oft-told tale, repeated again and again by advocates of privatization in both political parties and endlessly regurgitated by an uncurious and credulous media.

But something amazing happened when the Associated Press reported the story. It included the inconvenient fact that most of the charters in the much lauded Recovery School District had received grades of D or F.

Here is the astonishing quote from the story:

“However, New Orleans schools run by the Recovery School District still have a D grade on average while those outside of New Orleans received an F in the latest round of grades released in October.

“We’re not where we want to be but have made great progress in seven years,” Jindal said.”

Honest reporting, not just the customary recycling of the politicians’ press releases.

Now THAT is a miracle.

dianerav | February 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Categories: Charter Schools, Jindal, Bobby, Louisiana, New Orleans | URL:

February 8, 2013

MMAC Lobbying Legislature for a New Orleans-style “Recovery District” for MPS Low-performing Schools

Filed under: Privatization — millerlf @ 9:05 am

The MMAC is calling for a New Orleans-style “recovery district” for low performing schools in MPS. This district would not be under the MPS board’s jurisdiction and would have a separate superintendent.

Following is the MMAC Legislative Update on WisEye, from January 31,2013. Here MMAC representatives describe the “recovery district”:

February 5, 2013

Right-Wing Kicks-off Wisconsin Voucher Campaign Following School Choice Week

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 12:54 pm

Following is a news release from the Koch brothers funded organization, Americans for Prosperity.

Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin: AFP Foundation launches School Choice Academy Series, website

Juan Williams to headline Green Bay event

MADISON – Today, Americans for Prosperity Foundation – Wisconsin announced the start of their educational series on School Choice, AFP Foundation Academy. The Academy Series is an effort to educate the public on the importance of education reform and parental choice. In addition to announcing the town hall series, AFPF announced the launch of a new website, The website will feature news from around the state as well as a petition for Wisconsin residents to show their support for reform.“Our kids deserve the best possible education, regardless of zip code or family income,” said Luke Hilgemann, State Director of AFP Foundation – Wisconsin. “To compete on the world stage we need to embrace choice, competition and innovation. Our entire educational system is falling behind, and blindly throwing money at it simply isn’t the answer.”

The first series of town hall events will take place on Tuesday, February 5th in Beloit, Wednesday, February 6th in Kenosha and Thursday, February 7th in Green Bay. Fox News Analyst Juan Williams will headline the Green Bay event and Talk Show Host Tony Katz will be on the panel all three nights. Additional panelists include teacher Kristi LaCroix, Christian D’Andrea of the MacIver Institute, Jim Bender of School Choice Wisconsin and Brian Pleva of the American Federation for Children.

“By most measures, America has fallen out of the Top 10 countries when it comes to educating our children,” said Hilgemann. “This is absolutely unacceptable. Costs continue to rise, but results continue to flat line. We need radical reforms to move our system forward and prepare our children for the challenges of the 21st century. There is no silver bullet, but that can’t stop us from seeking a solution. The Academy series will help move the conversation forward.”

Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) is a nationwide organization of citizen-leaders committed to advancing every individual’s right to economic freedom and opportunity. AFPF believes reducing the size and intrusiveness of government is the best way to promote individual productivity and prosperity for all Americans. AFPF educates and engages citizens to support restraining state and federal government growth and returning government to its constitutional limits. AFPF is more than 1.9 million activists strong, with activists in all 50 states. AFPF has 34 state chapters and affiliates. More than 90, 000 Americans in all 50 states have made a financial contribution to AFP or AFP Foundation.

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