Monday, April 30, 2007

Gov. Fails on Schools

Voters losing hope on school issues, poll finds
Blame for problems placed at governor's feet, same survey concludes
Inside Bay Area
Article Last Updated:04/26/2007 08:11:48 AM PDT
SACRAMENTO — In surprising poll findings Wednesday, voters appear to have all but given up on fixing California's troubled education system and are blaming Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The governor, dealing this year with issues such as health care and prison overcrowding, postponed tackling school woes — like equalizing fund allocations between poor and rich areas. He instead declared next year his "Year of Education Reform."
In reaction, Schwarzenegger's overall job approval rating of 62 percent plummeted to 34 percent when focused on his handling of
education, according to the poll by the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California.
Legislators fare little better.
While 38 percent approve of lawmakers' overall job performance, only 29 percent are satisfied with their handling of education, the poll found.
"While education remains a critical issue for most Californians, they clearly see a lack of progress and appear to be questioning the return on all the investment and activity of recent years," said Mark Baldassare of PPIC in a statement.
In the past decade, voters have faced education-related measures on just about every ballot and have passed nearly $45 billion in school bonds.
Once Schwarzenegger's "Year of Education Reform" does arrive, Baldassare said, "The question is — does the public have the will and the faith in state leaders to tackle this complex and controversial issue?"
Most Californians (80 percent) still believe the quality of K-12 education in the state is something of a problem, the poll found. Out of those, 52 percent believe schools are in big trouble.
But even so, they lack confidence in officials, their ability to allocate resources properly and are reluctant to hike education spending without greater fiscal responsibility.
Slightly less than half (48 percent) of those responding to the survey said the state needs to spend more wisely and increase the amount it spends on schools, while 37 percent expressed the belief that the state can improve education quality by just making better use of existing funds.
Respondents were divided over raising state taxes to benefit schools. The only universally popular concept for raising more funds is not new — boosting the state's income tax rate on the wealthiest Californians.
Support for raising more money for schools increases if voters were assured more funding would go to poor areas, teachers were given greater incentives to work there, and more counselors and social workers were hired to help boost graduation rates in those regions.
Findings were based on a telephone survey of 2,500, conducted between April 3-17. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Imposed teacher assessment reforms do not make sense

A little common sense please.
Current legislation imposes untested, invalid teacher performance assessments in California as of 2008. All future teachers will be required to pass these assessments.
It would make a lot more sense to develop the assessments. Then have 2-3 campuses test them.
After 2-3 campuses tested them, we should have a real, authentic, analysis of the value and validity of these assessments.
Then, if the assessments are valid, and they add value; then they should be implemented state wide.
We need to stop writing law by ideology and then imposing it blindly.

Duane Campbell
for more see:

CFA Resolution

As part of a massive movement by the State Commission on Teacher Credentialing to reform credential programs in California (SB2042, 2000), new accountability measures have been implemented, some without financial funding. As part of these mandates, the State of California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing has mandated that all teacher education programs implement Teacher Performance Assessments for credentialing candidates (TPA) by July, 2008.
The TPA as an assessment tool is based on reductive, corporate-driven teacher performance expectations (TPEs). As an assessment tool, it is even more simplistic and rigid than these expectations, requiring the development of lower-level teaching skills needed to teach the scripted curriculum regulated by the high stakes tests required under No Child Left Behind. It may be inferred from the content of the TPA that programs employing this tool will lose quality in terms of equity and social justice as well as critical thinking, creativity, and the holistic growth of all participants: faculty, student teachers and teachers. These requirements imposed upon teacher education are only the beginning of state and national efforts that are currently referred to as student learning outcomes, assessment and accountability. These efforts are directed towards corporate control and standardization of all disciplines of higher education.
Whereas, the CFA values the development of complex processes of accountability for teaching and learning if these processes are not framed in terms of reductive standards;
Whereas, the current move towards accountability contributes to the standardization of higher education from the ‘top down”;
Whereas, this standardization has serious implications for the academic freedom of all CSU faculty;
Whereas, the development and implementation of assessment tools are unfunded mandates that have serious workload implications, as well as implications for faculty, students, student teachers and teachers in terms of educational goals, practices and experiences.

Be it resolved, that CFA encourage faculty to become involved in a dialogue with others on campuses to learn more about these unfunded mandates, and
And be it further resolved that the CFA encourage faculty to decline to participate in the development and implementation of unfunded, reductionist assessment tools.

October 21, 2006

Unanimous support from Teacher Education Caucus , CFA
Majority support from the Peace and Justice Caucus

ELL Advocates

Dear Colleague:

Please join with us in building the Institute for Language and Education Policy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting research-based policies for educating English and heritage-language learners.

Details about our activities, founders, bylaws, and organizational structure may be viewed at Information on how to become a member of the Institute appears below.

We believe that our mission has never been more critical. In a time of misguided “accountability” measures, high-stakes testing, cutbacks in school funding, and English-only activism, strong advocacy for children is essential. Scientific knowledge about what works -- not political ideology or expedience -- must guide public policy.

Our goals are ambitious:

– Encourage and disseminate research on education policy and practice.
– Educate the public and policymakers about the benefits of bilingual and heritage-language education for individuals, communities, and the nation as a whole.
– Represent the needs of English language learners as Congress moves to reauthorize -- and, we hope, reform -- the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
– Support grassroots efforts by local and professional organizations to secure adequate resources for quality language programs at all levels.
– Combat English-only legislation that threatens to restrict the rights and educational prospects of language-minority Americans.
– Create professional development opportunities for educational practitioners.

To succeed in these efforts, we need your help. One way is to volunteer your time and talents -- for example, by organizing meetings in your school or community, contacting members of Congress, or writing articles for our web site.

Another way is to become a member of the Institute -- just fill out and return the application below -- and provide financial support for our advocacy work. The annual membership fee is $50 for professionals, $25 for parents and full-time students. Contributions over and above those amounts are naturally welcome. Our membership form is attached below. For a Web version, please click on

Member benefits include participation in an email listserv to discuss legislative and policy developments; access to the latest research on educating English and heritage language learners; eligibility to participate in Institute elections and to serve on professional committees; and a 25% online discount on books published by Multilingual Matters. Additional benefits in the planning stage -- which we hope to provide soon -- include a monthly newsletter and online access to the new International Multilingual Research Journal.

Since incorporating as a nonprofit group last year, the Institute has signed up members in 29 states and several foreign countries, including many leaders in our field who are dedicated to advocacy for English and heritage-language learners. We urge you to join with us in this important cause.

James Crawford, President
Institute for Language and Education Policy

Institute for Language and Education Policy
P.O. Box 5960
Takoma Park, MD 20913

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Teachers dropping out too

From the Los Angeles Times
Teachers dropping out too
A study blames working conditions. Higher pay isn't the answer, it says.
By Howard Blume
Times Staff Writer

April 27, 2007

As a mid-career professional with a doctorate in chemistry, Maurice Stephenson appeared made to order for the Los Angeles Unified School District, especially because he was eager to teach at a high-poverty campus in a system woefully short of qualified science teachers.

But the honeymoon ended abruptly after less than two years. Fed up with student insolence and administrative impotence, he stalked out of Manual Arts High School on March 12 and never went back.

Few teachers quit so dramatically, but leave they do. In California, teachers are departing the profession in alarming numbers — 22% in four years or fewer — but simply offering them more money won't solve the problem, according to a report released Thursday.

The real issue is working conditions, which are the flip side of a student's learning conditions, said Ken Futernick, who directs K-12 studies at the Center for Teacher Quality at Cal State Sacramento.

His study, which was based on a survey of nearly 2,000 California teachers, maps a growing crisis that fundamentally affects student learning.

The study also casts doubt on commonly pursued remedies both for the teacher shortage and student achievement in general.

Classroom interruptions, student discipline, increasing demands, insufficient supplies, overcrowding, unnecessary meetings, lack of support — all play a role in burning out teachers.

"They're not just driving teachers crazy; they're driving teachers out of the classrooms," Futernick said.

Stephenson is among the 35% of L.A. Unified teachers who quit within five years, according to school district data.

And as in most other cases, salary wasn't the primary factor.

In fact, L.A. Unified's data lists salary as the No. 9 reason why new hires leave. No. 1 is "moving." But also cited are "lack of support from administrator," "student discipline policy" and "unmotivated students."

Those results are consistent with Futernick's findings: "When teaching and learning conditions are poor, we discovered that many teachers see their compensation as inadequate. When these teaching and learning conditions are good, not only do teachers tend to stay, they actually view their compensation as a reason for staying."

The findings suggest that when teachers unions advocate primarily for salary, they have it somewhat wrong. On the other hand, Futernick said, administrators are clearly misguided when they focus single-mindedly on getting rid of "bad teachers."

That issue pales in importance to teacher retention. Moreover, at a struggling school, "one is hard-pressed to know the good teachers from the bad. Such a place is not conducive to good teaching," he said.

At high-minority and high-poverty schools, teacher turnover typically runs at 10% annually.

"If this churning is going on, you can be sure you have a dysfunctional school," Futernick said. "As long as we think of these schools as combat zones, we'll never solve the retention problem and we'll never close the achievement gap" between white and Asian students and their black and Latino peers.
"I told everybody I would teach as long as it was fun," said Barbara Millman, who left her teaching job at a school in San Pedro for the severely disabled at age 63. "They kept squeezing more kids into a class and trying to get by with less assistants. I felt the kids were not getting the kind of attention they needed and that we also were not valued as experts."

Other states, including Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina, use teacher survey information in ways that California does not, Futernick said. North Carolina, in particular, has adopted workplace standards that protect teachers from unnecessary interruptions, paperwork and meetings.

Such standards seem a universe apart from the experience of a former Los Angeles middle school teacher who said she taught at a rodent- and roach-infested campus where students read at a second-grade level and frequently wandered the grounds because no one made them go to class.

"It got to the point where my morale was so low, and I cared so little that I would show up 15 minutes late, with my students waiting outside. No one ever said a word to me. I was still a star," said the former teacher, who asked not to be named because she has returned to the school system for a job outside the classroom.

She had to leave the classroom because "I saw myself turning into the others. What we attract are the martyrs and the lazy, and the conditions perpetuate it."

For the report, go to teacherquality/retention.



Why teachers leave

Top 10 reasons cited by California teachers who quit or planned to quit teaching, or who planned to transfer out of their current schools, because of job dissatisfaction:

Percent saying each reason affected decision

Bureaucratic interference: 57%

Poor support from district: 52%

Low staff morale: 45%

Lack of resources: 42%

Unsupportive principal: 42%

Poor compensation: 41%

Too little decision- making authority: 405

Too little time for planning: 36%

Accountability pressures: 35%

Lack of teamwork: 35%


Note: Responses are from 220 current and former California teachers who participated in a 2005 online survey by the California State University Center for Teacher Quality.


Source: California State University Center for Teacher Quality

Los Angeles Times

Thursday, April 26, 2007

More on the legislature and teacher preparation

Good morning.
In the legislature you win some and you lose some. Last night we lost on AB 750 regarding the unfunded mandate imposed on future teachers by SB 1209/Scott. (see prior posts)
We needed 6 votes to get out of the Education Committee. We got 5 votes. At a critical moment a critical assesmblyman left for another crisis. Without his vote, we lost.
(There were only two negative votes).
So, this effort in the legislature ends.
Our long range effort has just begun. Our effort is to educate, agitate, and organize about these invalid assessments has just begun. Our opponents now know we exist.
The CSU Chancellor’s office disappeared from the room rather than take questions.

If we return to the capitol in a future fight – as proposed- we need more allies. When CTA stood silent on our bill hurt us significantly. Legislators wanted to know why CTA was not with us.

Of particular significance was that Education Committee Chair, Gene Mullin was not with us. In an earlier bill he left the Chair to introduce CTA’s bill on mandatory Kindergarten. He introduced Barbara Kerr. All members were deferential to him and C
TA. They had a near unanimous support.
Then, in our case, he declined to vote. He assured the committee members that there was a “deal” and that the TPA’s would be funded.
All of the Republican votes were against us from the start.

Also. If we return to the capitol.
The legislature, both Republicans and Democrats are convinced that more assessments are necessary. When they say assessments, they mean TPA’s, not the broader definition of assessments. Of the few legislators who understand this issue, former CTC staff are well placed in their committees. Thus, they get a CTC view as normal, natural, uncontested.

We will now begin to develop our next steps. I refer you to the strategy section of the paper at:

This morning I feel like the day after having lost an election such as Prop. 209, or 227.
But, as Cesar Chavez taught us, you lose and you lose, time after time, right up to the day when you win.

Thank you for your work.
Duane Campbell

For the AB 750 team.

Career Education: Jack Scott,1,7596294.column?coll=la-headlines-california
From the Los Angeles Times
Vocational education can keep students hooked on school
George Skelton
Capitol Journal

April 26, 2007

Sacramento — Sen. Jack Scott, a career educator, remembers when his daughter broke the news that she was going to marry a commercial fisherman.

"This guy was not too happy," the Altadena Democrat says, referring to himself.

His daughter's suitor "was not highly educated; he'd never gone to college," recalls Scott, who at the time was dean of instruction at Orange Coast College, and later would become president of Cypress College and then Pasadena City College.

Scott's attitude reflected the typical academician's mind-set of the day — indeed, much of society's. If you weren't a rock star, a big league athlete or a rich heir, you needed a four-year college degree to become a success. Short of that, you were doomed to be second class, if not a failure.

The senator's view has changed, in no small part by watching his son-in-law Paul, whose father and grandfather also had been commercial fishermen.

Paul went to Alaska, bought his own boat, then another, and acquired an interest in a third. He fished for cod, pollock, halibut and crab in the Bering Sea. He worked and froze his rear off and "made enough to retire at the early age of 42," Scott says with admiration and amusement.

"The lesson is," the lawmaker continues, "we find our own self-fulfillments. We make a real mistake if we think everyone is going to receive their self-fulfillment by studying humanities or pure math. They may get self-fulfillment by being good plumbers or auto mechanics or nurses. Or commercial fishermen. We've got to design our courses to meet the needs of these people.

"If not, they'll just drop out."

And that is what they've been doing.

In California, roughly a third of ninth-graders eventually drop out of high school. In L.A., it's around one-half of blacks and Latinos.

A Gates Foundation survey of high school dropouts nationwide found that 88% were getting passing grades. So most must have left school because they were bored.

One major reason they're bored in California is that classwork doesn't seem to bear any relationship to whatever they envision as their life's work. It relates primarily to getting them qualified to enter the state university system, which many either aren't interested in or consider a pipedream. Only around 20% of ninth-graders ever will graduate from a four-year college.

Meanwhile, there are hundreds of thousands of students each year who could be learning middle-class job skills — as future nurses, auto mechanics, computer programmers, home builders. Name it. There are some successful school-business training partnerships, but not nearly enough. There's a shortage of skilled workers in California, business groups contend.

Our public schools used to offer many vocational education courses — metal shop, drafting, etc. — that have been drastically reduced in recent decades. In 1987, three-fourths of high school students took at least one voc ed class. By 2005, only one-third did.

"Those great shop classes have disappeared," says state Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch), a former teacher who intends to run for state superintendent of public instruction in 2010. "That's a tragedy. Because those classes motivated students to stay in school."

The classes have disappeared because of two primary reasons: First, the elitist attitude that it's on to the university or bust; everybody else just get out of the way. Second, voc ed courses, with all their equipment that constantly needs updating, aren't cheap. They're among the first to land on the chopping block whenever state politicians face one of their periodic budget crises.

"The notion of voc ed went out of favor with many education bureaucrats," says Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Escondido). "What's tragic is that while all other industrialized nations have highly developed systems, our existing system has been battered.

"It was replaced by a notion that was well intentioned, but utterly foolish and communicated incessantly that the only thing of value for a young person is a college degree. Not only that, the message was that you're not of value unless you're going to college. The name 'voc ed' connoted being less worthy."

But voc ed now is making a comeback under a new euphemism: career tech.

It's not the top priority at the Capitol, but it is a priority. Scott, Torlakson and Wyland all have introduced legislation aimed at upgrading career tech.

Scott has a bill to simplify credentialing for career tech teachers and provide more flexibility in what they can teach. Wyland wants to eliminate the requirement that voc ed teachers have a bachelor's degree. Torlakson proposes requiring every high school student to take at least two career tech courses.

The $10.4-billion school construction bond approved last year by voters contained $500 million for career tech facilities.

There's also $52 million in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget for various career tech programs. The trick will be keeping it there, since the state is spending with red ink and tax revenues have been falling below expectations.

But the public will back the politicians' spending on career tech. A poll being released today by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that 67% of adults consider career tech curricula to be "very important." The figure is even higher, 71%, for parents with kids in school.

Schwarzenegger has been promoting voc ed. "I myself," he told a "summit" on the subject last month, "am a product of career tech education. Between the time I was 15 and 18 I went to school in Austria to learn how to be a salesman."

He learned very well.

George Skelton


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Kucinich: Impeach Cheney Resolution

Kucinich Introduces Historic Articles of Impeachment
Against Vice President Richard Cheney - April 24, 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, your tireless efforts for
impeachment have finally borne fruit.

Your countless emails, calls, letters, town hall
meetings, street protests, and huge marches have
persuaded one courageous Member of Congress to start
the impeachment process.

That Member is Dennis Kucinich, and here are his
Articles of Impeachment, officially known as H.Res.
more on Kucinich:
Articles of Impeachment (H.R. 333):

In a nutshell, Kucinich believes Cheney should be
impeached because he:

1. Manipulated intelligence to fabricate a threat of
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction
2. Manipulated intelligence to fabricate a relationship
between Iraq and al Qaeda
3. Openly threatened aggression against Iran absent any
real threat to the United States

Let's show our support for Kucinich's heroic efforts by
asking the rest of Congress to co-sponsor these
Articles , and by telling the media we demand
impeachment now.

Ask your Congress Member to support impeachment
proceedings against Vice President Cheney:

Improving ELL in California

"Obvious" Ways to Improve Education of ELLs in California
Providing learning materials and making available assessments in students' native languages, and hiring teachers and staff who speak students' primary languages are some of the "obvious" ways that California schools could improve how they teach English-language learners, according to a couple of researchers in the state.

I find it interesting that Patricia Gándara, a professor of education at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Russell W. Rumberger, a professor of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have chosen the word "obvious" in their recent recommendation for an increase in the use of students' native languages in a state where voters approved a ballot initiative in 1998 to try to get rid of bilingual education.

What's obvious to the researchers was OBVIOUSLY not obvious to many Californians in 1998, and I wonder if much has changed since then. (Readers, tell me what you think.) Though Proposition 227 provides a way for schools to provide bilingual education through a parent waiver process, the number of English-learners in bilingual education has decreased dramatically since the initiative's passage.

But Ms. Gándara and Mr. Rumberger persist in trying to get the word out that research findings indicate closing the achievement gap between language-minority students and students who speak only English (See Claude Goldenberg's glossary) is most likely to occur with a bilingual curriculum. Their view and others they hold for how to improve education for English-language learners in California based on their research or review of research are published in a 4-page summary of a study, "Resource Needs for California's English Learners," released last week along with 22 other studies about the financing and governance of public education in California. Education Week's Linda Jacobson wrote an article about the studies.

Also last week, Mr. Rumberger published an article analyzing research data showing that Spanish-speaking, language-minority students in California aren't doing as well in keeping up with their peers who speak only English as are their counterparts nationwide. The results of Mr. Rumberger's analysis "call into question California's current efforts to educate the state's growing linguistic-minority population--especially Spanish-speaking students--and to close the sizeable achievement gap with other students," he writes.

He doesn't mention Proposition 227 in his article, which was published in a newsletter of the University of California's Linguistic Minority Research Institute and which I wrote about for Report Roundup on Education Week's Web site.

Posted by Mary Ann Zehr on March 19, 2007 10:51 AM | Permalink
Mary Ann Zehr writes for Education Week.

Monday, April 23, 2007

NCLB: How Karl Rove reframed the debate on school reform

'Framing' the Debate over NCLB
The No Child Left Behind Act – though a policy failure in many ways – has nevertheless been a rhetorical triumph. For NCLB proponents, the emphasis on overcoming racial "achievement gaps" has served as a moral high horse, enabling them to gallop roughshod over critics while decrying "the soft bigotry of low expectations." Accusations of "making excuses for failing schools" and "believing that minority children can't learn" have proved to be effective weapons in the debate.

As a result, most organizations representing educators find themselves on the defensive whenever they raise concerns about NCLB's impact. Who wants to be labeled as "against accountability," much less "bigoted" against minority children? So those favoring fundamental changes in NCLB often find themselves at a tactical disadvantage in enounters with Stay the Course forces.

Credit for all this belongs largely to Karl Rove, White House adviser and Republican apparatchik extraordinaire, who has been deservedly dubbed "Bush's Brain." It was Rove who made NCLB, both the slogan and the concept, a centerpiece of the 2000 presidential campaign. He saw it as a way to position George W. Bush as a "compassionate conservative," to soften his party's hard-hearted image, and to outflank Democrats on a key domestic issue.

In effect, Rove "reframed" the issue of school reform to gain a political advantage for Republicans. Whereas conservatives had traditionally opposed a strong federal role in education and had tended to stress academic excellence over equity, the Bush Administration took up the cause of "disadvantaged" students in order to advance other Republican objectives, such as the privatization of public schools. Using the rhetoric of civil rights and anti-poverty, it enlisted many Democratic followers as well. Hence the overwhelming bipartisan support for NCLB in 2001.

New Terms, New Politics
Terminology is central to framing, as the linguist George Lakoff explains:

"Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world. When you hear a word, its frame is activated in your brain. Reframing is changing the way the public sees the world… New language is required for new frames. Thinking differently requires speaking differently."

NCLB has relied on several terms to reframe the debate over school reform, including accountability, adequate yearly progress, scientifically based research, and perhaps most important, achievement gap.

Disparities in test scores between socioeconomic groups are nothing new, of course. (Nor are they restricted to American schools.) But when did "the achievement gap" become a focus of public discourse? Quite recently, it turns out. An archive search of the New York TImes found that the term appeared rarely in the 1980s, sporadically through most of the 1990s, and then frequently beginning in 1998 – often in reference to the Bush presidential campaign and later, of course, in connection with NCLB.

Meanwhile, a long-established term – equal educational opportunity – was going out of common usage. From 2001 to 2005, it appeared in just 10 articles, as compared with 173 articles mentioning achievement gaps. The shift in terminology, albeit subtle, signaled a reframing of how the American public thinks about school reform.

Whereas "equal educational opportunity" had framed the issue in terms of educational inputs – resources, curriculum, facilities, materials, teacher training, best practices – "achievement gap" now highlights only educational outputs, as measured by standardized tests.

Responsibility for inputs is broadly shared among policymakers at all levels. Outputs are seen as the job of schools, which will be "held accountable" for achievement gaps. Hence NCLB's constricted version of accountability. The law essentially removes political leaders from the picture, ignoring their responsibility to provide adequate and equitable resources, and shining the spotlight on educators alone.

Another sign of reframing: The phrase “failing schools” appeared in 306 New York Times articles between 2001 and 2005, as compared to just 69 between 1991 and 1995.

James Crawford

Unstated Assumptions about NCLB-Style Accountability
'Accountability' at What Price?
What Kind of Accountability?
A Better Way To Hold Schools Accountable for ELLs

Copyright © 2007 by the Institute for Language and Education Policy. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to reprint or repost material from this site unless copyrighted by third parties, for educational, advocacy, and other noncommercial purposes. All other permission requests should be directed to the Institute at

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Reading First: How the Bush Admin. operates

Key Initiative Of 'No Child' Under Federal Investigation
Officials Profited From Reading First Program
By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 21, 2007; A01

The Justice Department is conducting a probe of a $6 billion reading initiative at the center of President Bush's No Child Left Behind law, another blow to a program besieged by allegations of financial conflicts of interest and cronyism, people familiar with the matter said yesterday.

The disclosure came as a congressional hearing revealed how people implementing the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program made at least $1 million off textbooks and tests toward which the federal government steered states.

"That sounds like a criminal enterprise to me," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House education committee, which held a five-hour investigative hearing. "You don't get to override the law," he angrily told a panel of Reading First officials. "But the fact of the matter is that you did."

The Education Department's inspector general, John P. Higgins Jr., said he has made several referrals to the Justice Department about the five-year-old program, which provides grants to improve reading for children in kindergarten through third grade.

Higgins declined to offer more specifics, but Christopher J. Doherty, former director of Reading First, said in an interview that he was questioned by Justice officials in November. The civil division of the U.S. attorney's office for the District, which can bring criminal charges, is reviewing the matter.

Doherty, one of the two Education Department employees who oversaw the initiative, acknowledged yesterday that his wife had worked for a decade as a paid consultant for a reading program, Direct Instruction, that investigators said he improperly tried to force schools to use. He repeatedly failed to disclose the conflict on financial disclosure forms.

"I'm very proud of this program and my role in this program," Doherty said in the interview. "I think it's been implemented in accordance with the law."

The management of Reading First has come under attacks from members of both parties. Federal investigators say program officials improperly forced states to use certain tests and textbooks created by those officials.

One official, Roland H. Good III, said his company made $1.3 million off a reading test, known as DIBELS, that was endorsed by a Reading First evaluation panel he sat on. Good, who owns half the company, Dynamic Measurement Group, told the committee that he donated royalties from the product to the University of Oregon, where he is an associate professor.

Two former University of Oregon researchers on the panel, Edward J. Kame'enui and Deborah C. Simmons, said they received about $150,000 in royalties last year for a program that is now packaged with DIBELS. They testified that they received smaller royalties in previous years for the program, Scott Foresman Early Reading Intervention, and did not know it was being sold with DIBELS.

Members of the panel said they recused themselves from voting on their own products but did assess their competitors. Of 24 tests approved by the committee, seven were tied to members of the panel.

"I regret the perception of conflicts of interest," said Kame'enui, former chairman of the committee, who now works at the department as commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research. "But there was no real conflict of interest being engaged in."

The intricate financial connections between Reading First products and program officials extend beyond issues the committee explored yesterday.

Another researcher, Sharon Vaughn, worked with Kame'enui, Simmons and Good to design Voyager Universal Literacy, a program that Reading First officials urged states to use. Vaughn was director of a center at the University of Texas that was hired to provide states advice on selecting Reading First tests and books.

The publisher of that product, Voyager Expanded Learning, was founded and run by Randy Best, a major Bush campaign contributor, who sold the company in 2005 for more than $350 million. Now Best runs Higher Ed Holdings, a company that develops colleges of education, where former education secretary Roderick R. Paige is a senior adviser and G. Reid Lyon, Bush's former reading adviser, is an executive vice president.

"I'm very disappointed and saddened by the information that was provided at the hearing today," said Lyon, who had been a strong defender of Reading First, which he said had nothing to do with his new job. "The issues appear much more serious than I had been led to understand."

Despite the controversy surrounding Reading First's management, the percentage of students in the program who are proficient on fluency tests has risen about 15 percent, Education Department officials said. School districts across the country praise the program.

Members of both parties continue to support the goals of Reading First even as they attack its management. Miller and Senate education committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) joined Republicans yesterday in pledging to tighten restrictions on conflicts of interest in No Child Left Behind.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who declined to comment yesterday, has said management problems with Reading First "reflect individual mistakes." But Doherty said nearly every aspect of the program was carefully monitored by the department and the White House, where Spelling was Bush's top education adviser.

"This program was always firmly under the watch and control of the highest levels of the government," Doherty said.

Staff writer Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Reading first and honest use of data

At least we should be able to agree to look at data honestly. The President and his staff can not make this claim.

The President and Secretary of Education constantly
maintain that Reading First has had a positive effect
on national tests, because of an increase on NAEP
trend test scores for fourth grade reading between
1999 and 2004, from 212 to 219. (Margaret Spellings
said this at the NCLB summit in April, 2006, and it
was repeated a year later, in April, 2007 on the White
House website, with many repetitions over the last

Trend tests, considered appropriate for comparison,
were not given between 1999 and 2004. Gerald Bracey
(2006a) has pointed out that Reading First did not go
into effect until 2002-2003, so it is not clear that
Reading First deserves the credit for the increase
(according to the recent GAO report, 25 states were
funded in 2002-2003 and 25 more in 2003-2004). In
fact, several analyses show that reading scores have
not improved since Reading First went into effect.
(Fuller et. al., 2006; Lee, 2006).

Bracey (2006b) also doubted that many children in
districts that did Reading First took the NAEP in
2004. The test is given to nine year olds, and Reading
First is aimed at grades three and lower.

Data from the recent GAO report confirms Bracey’s
suspicion. The report tells us that 1,200 districts in
the US were awarded Reading First grants. That’s only
seven percent of all districts in the US.

Let us give Reading First the benefit of the doubt and
ignore all the counterarguments presented above. Let
us give Reading First even more benefit of the doubt
and assume that even though only seven percent of
districts did Reading First, these districts were
gigantic, and that 21% of all children who took the
NAEP in 2004 had Reading First. If Reading First is
to take credit for the seven-point gain, those
children would have had to outscore their 1999
counterparts by a fantastic 33 points, a score that is
nearly exactly at the 75% percentile. If the Reading
First districts contributed only seven percent of
those who took the test, they would have had to score
312, outscoring their 1999 counterparts by 100 points
(The 90% percentile in 2005 was 263).

Again, several studies tell us that there was no gain
on national tests after Reading First went into
effect, and Bracey gives us reason to doubt that many
Reading First children were old enough to take the
test. But even ignoring these arguments, all estimates
of the number of children who took the test who were
in Reading First districts makes it highly unlikely
that Reading First deserves any credit for the
1999-2004 increase.
S. Krashen

Bracey, Gerald. 2006a. The 16th Bracey Report on the
Condition of Public Education. Phi Delta Kappan 18
(2): 151-166

Bracey, Gerald. 2006b. Letter to Congressperson George
Miller and Senator Edward Kennedy, September 25, 2006.

Fuller, Bruce, Gesicki, Kathryn, Kang, Erin, and
Wright, Joseph. 2006. Is the No Child Left Behind Act
Working? The Reliability of How States Track
Achievement. University of California, Berkeley:
Policy Analysis for California Education

GAO 2007. Reading First GAO 07-161 (States report
improvements in reading instruction, but additional
procedures would clarify Education’s role in ensuring
proper implementation by states.)

Lee, Jaekyung. 2006. Tracking achievement gaps and
assessing the impact of NCLB on the gaps: An in-depth
look into national and state reading and math outcome
Cambridge, MA: The Civil Rights Project at Harvard

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

California High School Exit Exam and ELL

English Learners and the State Exit Exam
Sent to the Ventura County Star, April 17, 2007

California State Superintendent of Instruction Jack
O’Connell is “deeply concerned” that students
classified as English Learners did not do as well as
other groups on the State High School Exit Exam (“More
seniors are passing state exit exam,” April 17).

Half of the test is English Language Arts. It has a
reading section and a writing section, which includes
an essay. According to the Department of Education
website, statewide, for all grades combined, 28% of
those considered to be English Learners passed the
English Language Arts part of the test in 2006.
Overall, 61% passed. Statistics for Ventura County are
similar, with 30% of English Learners passing, and 60%

This is no surprise. Students are classified as
English Learners because they have not yet acquired
enough English to succeed in school. If they are able
to pass an exam that demands a high level of
competence in English, they should not be considered
English Learners.

The low passing rate for this group simply confirms
that the classification system is accurate.

Stephen Krashen

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Schools and democracy : Deborah Meirer

Posted by Deborah Meier at 4/17/07 6:00 AM
Tags: Education Policy

Some people wake up with great ideas. But I’m a night person. Right before I fall asleep I think I’ve finally found just the right way to say what it is I’m thinking. Often when I wake up I've either forgotten it or it seems banal.

But here are two ideas that keep reoccurring, and it is morning now so I’m going to try to capture them.

Great Idea 1:

The whole point of public education (vs job training or even some forms of private education) is to prepare a public for its responsibilities which, in a nutshell come down to exercising careful, thoughtful and reasonable judgment in the face of complex evidence. In the two tasks that confront 18 year olds--voting and serving on juries--these are the presumptions that lie behind the privilege. Our best judgment is what in the end we bring to the table. Note there are neither admissions tests, nor licensure requirements for either voting or serving on a jury. It's the unspoken and awesomely heavy presumption and also the most irrational facing governance by democratic principles and practices. It makes no sense, except (as Churchill said) it's better than any of the alternatives. But for every problem confronting this absurd idea--that everyone has a "right" to such power--there is a solution. Better education.

Not just formal K-12 schooling, surely not just or even college—which comes too late for many voters and jurors and is not open to everyone. But, as the slogans say, our aim is “lifelong” learning, on-going adult education. Newspapers are one of these educating forces, as are all the new technologies. Public access to books, libraries full of resources for getting at "the truth", public spaces for communicating one’s ideas, and for demonstrating on behalf of them, etc, etc. I’m enamored even of the idea of subsidizing adults for going back for a liberal arts education later on, when they are more likely to appreciate its usefulness. But the one and only institution we set aside for this and only this purpose--with no obligation to make a buck in return--is our K-12 system of schooling.

I challenge any of us to spend a day with a kid in an average school and try to connect the dots between what is being learned there--formally ad informally--and what a citizen of a democracy requires (in contrast to citizens perhaps of countries that don't even pretend to be democratic). The world is full of virtues. And economic necessities. But what are the explicitly democratic predispositions, skills, habits of mind and heart that we are not born with, but could learn in a setting devoted to such a purpose?

Great Idea 2:

Then, one night it occurred to me, that for all my ranting and raving against the term accountability, in fact the idea of being accountable lies at the heart of democracy. Democracy is a form of accountability--a concept intended to hold the powerful’s feet to the fire. Naturally as our schools have moved further and further away from being attached to their publics, it has become more and more important for us to invent other non-democratic, bureaucratic, “mandarin” forms of accountability. When there were 200,000 school boards serving a population less than half the size of today’s, a lot of people knew who was making judgments about their schools. Today with as few as 10,000 school boards, and with some of them having almost no realistic power over anything but floating bonds, well.... No wonder! There ought to be a half million school boards or more, if--big if--we really believe in democracy as our most special and effective form of accountability.

Given that I'm not a fan of many of the decisions reached by democratic decision making bodies--including many school boards as well as state legislatures and Presidents--this is a leap of faith. I make it because I still agree with Churchill about the alternative to holding on to this often counter-intuitive and even counter-reasonable faith. Neither various forms of benign dictatorship or market-place utopias seem more reasonable . Although if I got to choose the dictator it does some nights appear to be the solution. But by morning I have to face the fact that it’s unlikely to be someone of my choice; and if it were I’d probably be in the opposition the day after—coercion just has its limits when it comes to the important stuff—the stuff inside our hearts and minds.

These two ideas have become more than nighttime fantasies, but daytime ones too. I long for a more robust discussion. We confront the increasing daily power of BOTH my dystopias-- increased centralization of public schools in the hands of the few, and increased “selling off” of our schools to private interest groups. And yet we confront a very thin response to both.

What, Forum readers, would we have to do to make these issues part of the conversation about K-12 schooling among our friends, parents of our children’s friends, colleagues, fellow citizens?

copyright © 2007 The Forum for Education and Democracy

Monday, April 16, 2007

Reading first: Another Bush failure

Has Reading First Helped?

USA Today (“Textbook scandal reaches Congress,” April
16 ) notes that a Center for Education Policy report
found that Reading First has helped schools. This
report only asked officials in states and districts
that improved in reading whether they thought Reading
First had helped. There was no discussion of cases in
which Reading First was used and there was no

Reports from Harvard and Berkeley have found that
Reading First has not resulted in gains on national
tests. Also, the achievement gap between high- and
low-income students is the same as it was before
Reading First.

The President and the Secretary of Education continue
to insist that reading scores on national tests have
increased, but recent gains all occurred before
Reading First went into effect.

The Reading First hearings, in addition to
investigating potential conflicts of interests, should
also probe the unsupported claims that the program has
been a success.

Stephen Krashen

Analysis of Center for Education Report
Krashen, Stephen. 2006, Did reading first work?

No improvement in national test scores:
1. Fuller, Bruce, Gesicki, Kathryn, Kang, Erin, and
Wright, Joseph. (2006). Is the No Child Left Behind
Act Working? The Reliability of How States Track
Achievement. University of California, Berkeley:
Policy Analysis for California Education
2. Lee, Jaekyung. 2006. Tracking achievement gaps and
assessing the impact of NCLB on the gaps: An in-depth
look into national and state reading and math outcome
Cambridge, MA: The Civil Rights Project at Harvard

Stephen Krashen

Textbook scandal reaches Congress

By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY
A slow-motion scandal surrounding a federal
multibillion-dollar reading program has its first
congressional hearing this week, but it remains to be
seen whether the scrutiny will shed any new light on a
complex, contradictory tale of textbooks, tests and
allegations of federal arm-twisting.

A key part of President Bush's efforts to remake
public education, Reading First was launched in 2002,
giving schools $1 billion a year to improve reading in
early elementary grades. Five years later, early
evidence suggests that it may be helping. But
investigators say a handful of advisers have
railroaded schools into buying textbooks and other
materials that they and associates developed.
The result: a conflict-of-interest case that took two
years to jell as investigators in the Education
Department connected the dots. To date, no criminal
charges have been filed, but Democrats, now in control
of Congress, promise to give the case a full airing.
"The purpose of Reading First is to help
schoolchildren learn to read, not feather the nests of
a select group of well-connected individuals and
organizations," says Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who
chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor.
Miller and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., are
conducting probes. Kennedy plans hearings later this
Miller will preside at the first hearing Friday, which
brings together Chris Doherty, the program's former
director, and three top advisers.
Atop the witness list: John Higgins, the Education
Department's inspector general, who has issued six
reports detailing how Reading First leaders and
contractors looked the other way at possible conflicts
of interest among advisers and others — several of
whom authored textbooks. He also found that Doherty
and others strong-armed states and school districts
into choosing from a small selection of materials that
stress phonics.
In one e-mail Higgins cited, Doherty said of a
publisher whose books downplayed phonics, "They are
trying to crash our party, and we need to beat the
(expletive) out of them in front of all the other
would-be party crashers who are standing on the front
lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags."
Doherty quit in September after the report's release.
Higgins also found that a 2002 conference for
educators focused too exclusively on a few programs,
creating what investigators said was a perception that
there was an "approved list" of texts.

A related probe last month by the Government
Accountability Office found that officials from 10
states complained that the Education Department told
them to eliminate reading programs or tests that they
didn't endorse. Federal rules prohibit the department
from endorsing any curriculum.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who until 2005
was a White House domestic policy adviser, says the
troubles occurred before her move to the Education
Department. But Mike Petrilli, a former associate
deputy secretary under Spellings' predecessor, Rod
Paige, says Spellings "micromanaged the implementation
of Reading First from her West Wing office." She
already has told lawmakers she is beefing up oversight
of the program.

But even a few critics cautiously concede that the
program has been a boon to schools. The Center on
Education Policy, a Washington think tank that has
criticized Bush's education programs, in September
said Reading First is having "a significant impact" in
A five-year, $30.5 million evaluation, begun in 2003,
should produce complete results next year.
Cindy Cupp, a Savannah, Ga., educator, was among the
first to complain in 2005, after Reading First schools
in Georgia passed over her homegrown phonics program.
Cupp compiled a huge dossier outlining the links
between publishers, federal advisers, universities and
the Bush administration. In findings issued last
January, Higgins largely upheld her complaint.
She says it's irrelevant whether Reading First works:
"To rationalize breaking the law by saying the program
has been effective is just that — a rationalization."
She also notes that part of the evaluation bid went to
RMC Research Corp., which Higgins cited for turning a
blind eye to conflicts of interest among three top
advisers it hired. All three are scheduled to testify

Friday, April 13, 2007

Oppose new, unfunded mandates on teachers

Regular readers will recognize that last Spring I posted several items on SB 1209, an Omnibus Education Bill in the California legislature, and how it was meddling and pandering rather than improving teacher preparation.
With the help of CFA, we have now prepared to repeal one part of the mandate.

April 12, 2007
Members, Assembly Education Committee

Fr: Susan Meisenhelder, Chair, Political Action and Legislative Committee
David Balla-Hawkins, Legislative Director

Re: AB 750 (Carter) – SPONSOR
Removal of CSU Teacher Assessment Unfunded Mandate

On behalf of the 23,000 faculty, counselors, coaches and librarians who teach at the California State University system, the California Faculty Association is the SPONSOR of AB 750 to eliminate an unfunded mandate affecting teacher credential students.

In lieu of this change, institutions such as the CSU will be required to pay for these teacher assessments – or will simply pass the estimated $400 per assessment costs onto students – when adequate state funding is not provided.

The Need for AB 750

Along with an array of important K-12 teacher credential reforms, a small change resulting from last year’s SB 1209 (Scott) also created an unfunded mandate that – unaddressed – will adversely impact CSU students seeking a teaching credential. Beginning July 1, 2008, CSU teaching candidates will be required to complete teacher assessments as part of their graduation requirement. Unfortunately, SB 1209 changed existing law that made these assessments contingent on the availability of state funding, thus creating a new CSU unfunded mandate.

At the CSU, where over half of all K-12 teachers are taught, student enrollment fees have already nearly doubled in just five years. Having the state require a new assessment of credential students, without providing the necessary funding, would discourage students from seeking a teaching credential by making it more cost-prohibitive – or simply more difficult – by forcing CSU teacher credential students to pay $400 more in higher fees, or eliminating other essential student services and/or classes to pay for these assessments.

AB 750 will simply reinstate existing language that was deleted by SB 1209, thus making teacher assessments contingent on the availability of state funding. Unaddressed, these assessment costs – if continued as an unfunded mandate – will further deplete limited CSU funds or restrict the financial ability of students to obtain a K-12 teaching credential.

It is for these reasons that CFA respectfully requests you vote “AYE” on AB 750.

What you can do.
Write letters of support to your Senators and Assemblypersons. Support AB 750.

For a detailed description of the complex problem and the strategy see
Duane Campbell

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

NCLB: What you can do

Overhauling NCLB: What You Can Do

Rethinking, Spring 2007

Illustration: Toles
© 2007 The Washington Post

By Monty Neill

The most important thing progressive educators can do at this time, aside from teaching well, is to help ensure that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) does not reproduce the destructive components of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Make no mistake: if the act is reauthorized without significant changes, progressive education initiatives will remain on the defensive, squeezed out by NCLB's focus on standardized tests and punitive sanctions.

The first step in overhauling NCLB is to block its rapid reauthorization, and then to press for positive alternatives. This process could move quickly in 2007 or, if progressives are successful in blocking a status-quo reauthorization, continue into 2009.

The main multi-organizational organizing effort to press for positive changes involves The Joint Statement on No Child Left Behind, now signed by over 100 education, civil rights, religious, disability, and civic organizations.

Many signers of the Joint Statement, such as the National Education Association, are also organizing among their members to transform NCLB.

Here are things you can do to prevent a rapid reauthorization that largely leaves NCLB intact:

Get school boards and other groups to endorse the Joint Statement and other progressive proposals to overhaul the NCLB.

Set up meetings with members of Congress and their staff. Bring a diverse delegation to the meeting, then follow up repeatedly.

Lobby your state legislators to pass resolutions in line with the Joint Statement and other progressive alternatives.

Hold public forums on problems with the current NCLB and on much-needed information on the NCLB, including various actions you can take to help prevent the law's status-quo reauthorization.

Use the list of Joint Statement signers to reach out to their local and state affiliates.

Write letters to the editor of your local paper.

In short, get active, organize and mobilize.

Websites on NCLB

Following is a list of websites with alternatives:
Includes special sections on NCLB, vouchers, privatization.
Leading advocate for progressive assessment practices, information on NCLB.
Large collection of NCLB information, stories, research.
NCLB site of education writer Jamie McKenzie.
National Education Association NCLB site.
American Federation of Teachers on NCLB.
Educator Roundtable and its petition against NCLB.
Public Education Network NCLB site.

Monty Neill is executive director of the Boston based FairTest ( and chair of the Forum on Educational Accountability (, which is spearheading the Joint Statement.

Spring 2007

Monday, April 09, 2007

NCLB: Classroom Cast System

Classroom Caste System

By David Keyes
Monday, April 9, 2007; Page A13
Washington POst

Written five years ago to reduce the "achievement gap," the No Child Left Behind Act has in fact created a gap in American education. Its pressure to raise test scores has caused many schools to give poor and minority students an impoverished education that focuses primarily on basic skills.

As it comes up for reauthorization, members of Congress should consider the unintended consequence of the act: a new gap between poor and minority students, who are being taught to seek simple answers, and largely wealthy and white students, who are learning to ask complex questions. In my work as an elementary school teacher, I have seen this new gap and I worry about its impact on my students' future prospects.

Although supporters and critics of No Child Left Behind agree on little, both would acknowledge that testing lies at the heart of the law. Schools approach the act's testing requirements differently, depending on the students they serve.

Fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, American schools remain largely segregated. Schools serving mostly wealthy and white students have a distinct advantage when it comes to testing. Their students are far more likely to be raised in an environment that gives them the necessary tools to succeed on tests. They grow up with the intellectual abundance their wealth provides: books, educational videos and Baby Einstein games, to name a few. Having these resources may not make children smarter, but it does educate them in many of the skills -- such as letter sounds and addition facts -- that are covered on standardized tests. Knowing their students are likely to succeed on tests gives these schools freedom to teach higher-level thinking skills.

Poor and minority children also come to school with rich backgrounds. They speak foreign languages, make music, tell vivid stories and have other skills not typical of their peers. Their backgrounds, however, often do not provide them with the academic skills needed to succeed on standardized tests. Fearful of poor test scores that can bring punitive measures, schools spend an inordinate amount of time preparing their students for the tests.

Schools often use test-prep programs to try to raise test scores. The problem with these programs is that they teach the skills covered on tests, and only these skills. Poor and minority students spend hours repeating "B buh ball" and two plus two equals four. Every hour spent drilling basic skills is an hour not spent developing the higher-level thinking skills that are emphasized in wealthier school districts.

I have worked in both types of schools. Currently, I teach in an almost exclusively minority, high-poverty elementary school. Administrators require teachers to strictly adhere to a months-long test-prep program. My students recoil at the sight of their test-prep books. Last year, some of my students cried, wracked with anxiety over the tests.

My students are 7 and 8 years old.

I did my student teaching in an almost exclusively white and wealthy school. There, the students studied the role of quilts on the Underground Railroad, brainstormed plans to save wolves from extinction and performed dances based on retellings of Cinderella. The children learned to think and they loved it.

At the end of the year, test results will come out for these two schools. Educators and politicians will trumpet any reduction of the so-called achievement gap. This misses the point. Students will leave these two schools and schools like them with a widely varying set of skills. As the achievement gap is being reduced, another gap is being created. Students in largely wealthy and white schools are learning to ask larger questions; students in poor and minority schools are only being taught to answer smaller ones.

The effect of this gap will be long-lasting. Students taught higher-level thinking skills will be able to compete for jobs at the upper echelon of the 21st-century economy. Students who receive an impoverished education focused on basic skills will be stuck at the bottom.

The No Child Left Behind Act is creating a caste-like system in which students' future prospects are likely to be similar to those of their parents. This undemocratic development is at odds with a society that prides itself on being a meritocracy. As Congress debates the renewal of the law, members should consider not only whether the act is reducing the achievement gap but also the skills gap it is creating.

The writer is a second-grade teacher at Bel Pre Elementary School in Silver Spring.

NCLB: Lacks evidence

Deputy Secretary of Education Raymond Simon feels that
“Testing critics ignore [NCLB’s] ‘positive record”
(April 4). Not so. It is Secretary Simon who appears
to have ignored the record.

Simon claims that since NCLB (No Child Left Behind)
was passed, “reading and math scores have risen
sharply and achievement gaps have narrowed to record

Several recent reports have concluded that the
increase in reading on national tests occurred before
NCLB went into effect, not after. There has been no
improvement in reading on national tests for fourth or
eighth graders since NCLB went into effect. In math,
the rate of improvement after NCLB is the same as it
was before NCLB. The research also shows that the gaps
among racial groups and between high and low poverty
groups are mostly unchanged.

Just in case Simon and his colleagues at the
department of Education have missed this research,
here is a reading list:
1. Bracey, Gerald. 2006. The 16th Bracey report on
the condition of public education, Phi Delta Kappan,
2. Crawford, James. 2007. Selling NCLB: Would you buy
a used law from this woman?
3. Fuller, Bruce, Gesicki, Kathryn, Kang, Erin, and
Wright, Joseph. (2006). Is the No Child Left Behind
Act Working? The Reliability of How States Track
Achievement. University of California, Berkeley:
Policy Analysis for California Education
4. Krashen, Stephen. 2006, Did reading first work?
5. Lee, Jaekyung. 2006. Tracking achievement gaps and
assessing the impact of NCLB on the gaps: An in-depth
look into national and state reading and math outcome
Cambridge, MA: The Civil Rights Project at Harvard

Stephen Krashen

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Moratorium on Commissions on Education

Time for a Moratorium on Commissions on Education in California
By Peter Schrag

We've had a bumper crop of new education reports from the eminent and powerful of late, all with one basic message: American public schools are lousy and urgently need reform, if not replacement.

One came in December from the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, which included California State University Chancellor Charles Reed, a couple of former U.S. secretaries of education, a couple of former secretaries of labor, some business executives, as well as other fancy people. It says the whole system is obsolete and should be privatized. The report is available online.

Another, a joint report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the liberal Center for American Progress, concludes that "the measures of our educational shortcomings are stark indeed." In their rating of the states, California gets an F.

Most American fourth- and eighth-graders, they say, "are not proficient in either reading or mathematics. Only about two-thirds of all ninth-graders graduate from high school within four years. And those students who do receive diplomas are too often unprepared for college or the modern workplace." Details of the report are available at

Sound familiar? Prophecies of educational disaster seem to peak at least once every generation. The early 1950s produced books like "Educational Wastelands" and "Why Johnny Can't Read" and articles from Adm. Hyman Rickover, "father of the atomic submarine," that the Soviets were killing us in the education of scientists and engineers.

Those warnings were reinforced when the Russians launched the first Earth-orbiting satellite in October 1957: The education system, it was said, was dangerously flabby; this was a matter of national security. While Russian kids were doing their calculus, Americans were planning the high school dance. Unless the schools (and the kids) shaped up, the Soviets would beat our brains out.

In 1983 came the federal report "A Nation at Risk" with its warning that if we didn't reverse the "rising tide of (educational) mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation," the Germans and Japanese would beat our economic brains out. (When the report was released, President Reagan promised to fix things by working for tuition tax credits, vouchers, voluntary school prayer and the abolition of the Department of Education.)

Now the mis-educated products of those crummy schools of the 1950s and 1980s are sounding the alarm (once again) that if we don't shape up the schools, all the good high-tech jobs will flow to China, India and elsewhere.

"Tough Choices or Tough Times," the report of the Skills Commission isn't quite clear how better training will keep tech jobs from going to places where the same work can be done for as little as one-fifth of U.S. wages. It merely suggests that better schools will produce the creative, innovative people who will keep America competitive.

This isn't to say that American schools are great, or that there's not a lot riding on their success.

It's a call to reality to all those fancy folks, few of whom have ever had to deal with a classroom of 30-plus kids of varying abilities and disabilities, temperaments and backgrounds -- often with little support -- and haven't a clue what the job entails.
Published on the California Progress Report.

Schrag gets it mostly correct. What further needs explaining is how scores on California tests improve by over 100 points while scores of the same kids on the national NAEP exams remain stagnant.
Its amusing to read Schrag on this. The last paragraph on this excerpt is precisely how I often feel after reading Schrag, he doesn't have a clue on what the job entails. Although his son did complete teacher preparation so perhaps he is listening to a teacher during vacation visits. I hope so.

Duane Campbell

George Bush's Lawyers

THE OTHER SHOE....Ever since Monica Goodling, a graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University, made news by invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to testify about Purgegate, I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop regarding those 150 graduates of Regent that are now populating the executive branch. Via David Kurtz, the Boston Globe doesn't really drop the shoe, but certainly gets it dangling a little further:

In a recent Regent law school newsletter, a 2004 graduate described being interviewed for a job as a trial attorney at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in October 2003. Asked to name the Supreme Court decision from the past 20 years with which he most disagreed, he cited Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling striking down a law against sodomy because it violated gay people's civil rights.

"When one of the interviewers agreed and said that decision in Lawrence was 'maddening,' I knew I correctly answered the question," wrote the Regent graduate . The administration hired him for the Civil Rights Division's housing section — the only employment offer he received after graduation, he said.

The graduate from Regent — which is ranked a "tier four" school by US News & World Report, the lowest score and essentially a tie for 136th place — was not the only lawyer with modest credentials to be hired by the Civil Rights Division after the administration imposed greater political control over career hiring.

And how did all those Regent grads get hired at DOJ? Easy. Bush hired one of Regent's deans to be director of the Office of Personnel Management and John Ashcroft changed DOJ rules to end the practice of having veteran lawyers screen applicants. It seems to have worked well.

—Kevin Drum 3:07 PM Permalink |
From the Washington Monthly

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bill of Rights for Test Takers

Bill of Rights for Test Takers: a Family and Student Testing Protection Act

Purpose: To protect students, families and local communities from abusive assessment practices, violations of due process and civil rights.

Problem I:
Students are being denied promotion, access to programs and schools, or barred from receiving high school diplomas or graduation certificates based solely on standardized test scores. These students are disproportionately poor, African American, and from immigrant families whose home language is not English. There are also large numbers of students, including the very talented, and students with disabilities who do not perform well on conventional standardized tests.

1. The use of standardized tests as the sole or primary basis for determining promotion, student access to advanced programs, schools, and awarding of certificates or diplomas is prohibited. Non-standardized, qualitative modes of assessment should be available to students or particular groups of students whose education is served by alternatives to standardized tests.

2. An Educational Impact Report is required prior to imposition of a system of assessment or particular method of assessment by a governing authority. This report would seek to determine immediate and longer term effects on students, schools, and local communities (disaggregated by race, gender and family income), and to assess the human and material resources required to fulfill the assessment requirements. Assessment goals or standards may not be raised or changed if the resources required for meeting these standards are not provided.

3. Parents have the right to exempt their children from tests and assessments that they deem as harmful or inappropriate. No punitive consequences may be applied by governments to students or schools if parents choose to exercise their right to exempt a child from taking a particular test or set of tests.

Problem II
Among the more destructive provisions of NCLB and state testing regulations is that schools that fail to meet certain numerical targets set by standardized tests scores face being ‘restructured’ or dismantled. The are numerous documented cases of exemplary schools that have closed or are under threat of closure.

No school or program within a school may be disestablished or restructured based solely or primarily on rankings of students on standardized tests.

Problem: III
The pressures on schools to raise standardized test scores, particularly those that serve poor and children of color, narrows the curriculum, ignoring crucial areas of children’s and adolescents’ development and growth. Among the casualties are music, the arts, bilingual education, community internships, civic education, fitness and health education.

State and federal governments have the authority to set general guidelines and standards under this Act. However, governments are forbidden to mandate local school priorities, or specify curriculum content and pedagogy.

Problem IV
The federal government using power it claims under the NCLB Reading First program is dictating to states and school districts how reading should be taught. The US Department of Education currently approve funding for materials that meets the federal government’s interpretation of the NCLB Reading First provisions

The determination of good and appropriate practice resides with the teachers and local educational authorities. A legal requirement for ‘scientifically based’ materials and approaches may not be construed as granting government the authority to dictate to schools’ personnel policies, teaching methods, and expenditures for texts and curriculum resources.

Problem V
Parents and students are rarely informed by schools of their rights with respect to testing and assessment. Information about test content, technical specifications and methods of analyzing and reporting test results are often kept secret and withheld from students, parents and the public.

Student and family testing and assessment rights including those specified in this Act must be prominently broadcast and displayed. Teachers and school officials have both the right and the obligation to inform families, and students of their rights. These rights include the right to be fully informed about of a test’s technical details, such as standard error of measurement , on whom and how was the test normed or scaled, how cut scores or proficiency levels were determined, and what content, skills, or competencies are being measured and evaluated by the test.

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March 28, 2007 v 1.3

Right Wing Media : A great little racket

The Iraq Study Group (ISG), co-chaired by inside-the-
Beltway heavyweights James Baker and former Rep. Lee
Hamilton (D-IN), seemed to represent the “adult supervi-
sion” so desperately lacking in the blind idealism—or, as
others see it, fervid ideology—behind the Bush adminis-
tration’s misadventures in the Middle East. While
President George W. Bush reportedly called the ISG
report a “flaming turd,” some observers have held on to
the hope that at the very least one cornerstone of the
current political scene, the neoconservatives, at long last
are being pushed out the door, and along with them their
radical ideas about reshaping the Middle East. “Like Mr.
Bush, [the neoconservatives] look to the long span of his-
tory for vindication. It will indeed be eons before anyone
trusts them again,” wrote Financial Timescolumnist
Jacob Weisberg in March 2007, after recounting his dis-
appointment at the lack of contrition or regret expressed
by neoconservatives for the bungled war in Iraq.
Although many of the core Bush neocons, including
Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, have been
pushed out of the administration, and recent weeks
have witnessed the emergence of a more conciliato-
ry posture toward America’s “enemies” that is the
antithesis of neoconservative policy proposals, neo-
conservatism remains a force to contend with. This
fact is highlighted by the influence of American
Enterprise Institute (AEI) ideologues in shaping the
“surge” plan announced by the president in early
January (see, for example, Jim Lobe and Michael
Flynn, “The Push Behind the Surge,” Right Web,
January 11, 2007).
So how do they do it?
One partial answer to this puzzle is the continued
strength of neoconservatism and its standard-bearers in
the nation’s media, a point made recently by Gideon
Rachman in the Financial Times. Wrote Rachman: “The
neocons stand accused of many errors: imperialism,
Leninism, Trotskyism (New York school), militarism.
Some believe that the real problem is that so many of
them are Jewish—this is an alarmingly popular theme, to
judge by my e-mails. But the problem with the neocons
is not that so many of them are Jews. The problem is
that so many of them are journalists.”
Calling neoconservative media pundits “journalists” is a
stretch—the fact is, most don’t report, they spin—but
Rachman’s point is a good one. From top to bottom,
from tabloid TV like FoxNews to powerhouse newspapers
like the New York Timesand Washington Post, neoconser-
vatives have extraordinary presence in the nation’s
media. And Washington always seems to be listening.
A case in point has been the fate of the ISG. Even before
the release of the ISG report the neoconservative media
outlets and pundits began a campaign of discrediting the
Baker-Hamilton group and describing its policy recom-
mendations as a blueprint for defeat in Iraq and the war
on terror.
In a late November Weekly Standardeditorial, one week
before the ISG report was to be released, former
Republican House Speaker and AEI fellow Newt Gingrich
warned that any proposal to ask Iran and Syria for assis-
tance in stabilizing Iraq was a sign of “defeat” and
Right Web Analysis
“A Great Little Racket”:
The Neocon Media Machine
By Eli Clifton | March 20, 2007
With the United States bogged down in an increasingly ugly war in Iraq, tensions rising between
Tehran and Washington, and public sentiment—which has turned en masse against deeper U.S. com-
mitment in the Middle East—often seeming a non-factor in White House decisionmaking, it is hard to
believe that in the past few months some pundits and politicos have been optimistically predicting a
dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy that could, like a deus ex machina, resolve the country’s overseas
Three days later, in a Washington Posteditorial, Iraq War
hawk Charles Krauthammer ridiculed the ISG’s sugges-
tion that engaging regional actors in the Middle East
might help to secure stability in Iraq. He opined:
“Perhaps in some long-term future they will want a stable
Iraq as a tame client state of the Syria-Iran axis. For now
they want chaos. What in God’s name will a negotiation
with them yield?”
Several days after the release of the ISG report, perhaps
even further emboldened by the Bush administration’s
declaration that it was not prepared to follow the ISG
advice to engage with Syria and Iran, Robert Kagan and
William Kristol wrote: “The Iraq Study Group, aided by
supportive American media, has successfully conveyed
the impression to everyone at home and abroad that the
United States is about to withdraw from Iraq.”
The ISG report was quickly sidelined and in its place the
nation was presented with a new plan for “victory,” one
apparently inspired in part by the AEI and vociferously
promoted by the entire neocon media infrastructure. The
president announced his surge plan on national televi-
sion, in front of an audience that, in large part, wanted
nothing to do with it. Part of the success of the surge
push no doubt lies with the president and his own ideas.
But there is little doubt that the neocon promotion
machine weighed heavily.
To understand the media network of the neoconserva-
tives, it is helpful to examine the origins of the move-
ment and how the packaging—and repackaging—of neo-
conservative ideas has evolved over the past several
Irving Kristol, widely regarded as a founder of neoconser-
vatism and a self-described “liberal who was mugged by
reality,” made his early mark largely in the areas of jour-
nalism and publishing in the 1950s and 1960s. But the
early intellectualism of his various journals like
Commentarygave short shrift to things like policy imple-
mentation. Rather, under Kristol’s stewardship, early neo-
conservatism tended to the philosophical, debate, and
thoughtful—if increasingly ideological—critiques of the
trajectory of the nation and its domestic and foreign poli-
Together with the likes of Norman Podhoretz, who took
over Commentaryafter Kristol departed, and a host of
like-minded “public intellectuals,” early neoconservatism
was more an intellectual conversation among a small
“band of brothers”—as George Weigel once put it—than
a Washington political faction. Kristol also founded the
culture journal Public Interestin 1965, and in 1985 the
foreign affairs journal National Interest. Both Interests
have had overlapping contributors; they were also both
bully pulpits for neoconservative heavyweights such as
Francis Fukuyama, Richard Pipes, and Krauthammer. The
origins of the neoconservatives’ stances on Social
Security, the “culture wars,” Generation X, crime and
punishment, and post-Cold War thought can be traced
back to articles published in these journals.
Irving Kristol played an important role in creating the
space for sharing ideas and ideology crucial to the evolu-
tion of the neoconservative vision. His publications were
widely read among academic and intellectual sympathiz-
ers of the movement; however, their distribution and
reach were not comparable to mainstream periodicals.
But even at this early stage in its development, there
were signs of what neoconservatism would evolve into
by the 1990s. Not long after Podhoretz took over the edi-
torship of Commentaryin 1960, the style of the magazine
turned sharply bellicose, in line with Podhoretz’s own
evolving left-to-right political trajectory. As Andrew
Bacevich writes in his 2005 book The New American
Militarism: “Podhoretz did much to create and refine the
fiercely combative neoconservative style. That style
emphasized not balance (viewed as evidence of timidity)
or the careful sifting of evidence (suggesting scholasti-
cism) but the ruthless demolition of any point of view
inconsistent with the neoconservative version of truth,
typically portrayed as self-evident and beyond dispute.”
However, it wasn’t until the 1995 founding of the Weekly
Standardby Irving Kristol’s son William that a definitive
shift in the media presence of neoconservatism truly
took hold, and the impact of the political group inside
Washington began to shift. Unlike Commentaryand other
early neoconservative journals, the Weekly Standard,
owned by the News Corporation, the media conglomer-
ate of Rupert Murdoch, was not targeted at intellectual
elites. Rather, it was targeted at conservative power bro-
kers. Under the editorship of William Kristol and Fred
Barnes, the Standardundertook an explicit mission to
affect immediate changes in policy and to serve as a
reflection of neoconservative policy campaigns on cur-
rent affairs. The pretense of intellectualism disappeared.
The influence of the Weekly Standardruns all the way to
the top of the U.S. government. Vice President Dick
Cheney’s office at one time reportedly received 30 issues
per week, apparently in order to remain on top of any
policy recommendations advocated by AEI (where
Cheney and his wife have both held positions) and the
Exposing the architecture of power that’s changing our worldp. 2
Project for the New American Century (PNAC), two neo-
conservative groups with close ties to the management
of the Weekly Standard.
The Weekly Standardhas served a pivotal role in what
could be considered the neoconservative “echo cham-
ber”—a collection of think tanks, media outlets, and
advocacy groups that strengthen and repeat neoconserv-
ative policies and ideology through constant media expo-
sure and reinforcement within organizations populated
by influential policymakers. Only with this system in
place have the neoconservatives, a group with no grass-
roots support base, been successful in influencing U.S.
foreign policy as well as public opinion.
A significant component of the neoconservative echo
chamber is its use of mainstream media outlets to dis-
seminate ideas. Neither the academic journals nor neo-
conservative periodicals have the readership and crucial
role in public opinion of the mainstream media. Both the
editorial pages of major newspapers and the Fox News
cable channel have played pivotal roles in selling neocon-
servative policies to a more mainstream, conservative,
and Republican audience. Max Boot at the Los Angeles
Times, David Brooks at the New York Times, Charles
Krauthammer and Robert Kagan at the Washington Post,
and numerous members of the Wall Street Journal editori-
al board, including Irving Kristol since 1972, have served
as liaisons between neoconservative writers and main-
stream America.
Fox News, launched in 1996 by Rupert Murdoch’s News
Corporation, has served as one of the media outlets of
choice for Bush administration rhetoric as well as high-
profile neoconservatives. For personalities such as Bill
Kristol, Fox News has served as a springboard from
which to launch himself into mainstream media circles.
The outrage and patriotic rhetoric and images employed
by Fox News cast neoconservative ideas and policy in
consumable and marketable packaging. Never before had
the neoconservatives gained such a mainstream audi-
ence. The views of the Bush administration, as well as
PNAC and various other neoconservative groups, were
regularly publicized through Fox News and regional news-
paper editorial pages during the lead up to the war in
Iraq. The sprinkling of neoconservative writers and pun-
dits throughout the U.S. mainstream media served an
invaluable role in pushing for neoconservative-crafted
Mideast policy.
The impact and influence of the neoconservative echo
chamber was felt when accusations of an Iraqi weapons
of mass destruction program and charges that Saddam
Hussein’s regime was harboring al-Qaida members flood-
ed the mainstream media during the buildup to the inva-
sion of Iraq. Despite the factual inaccuracy of nearly all
the Bush administration’s justifications for invading Iraq,
the media and policy lobbying wings of the neoconserva-
tive camp successfully disseminated their message and
promoted their vision of a democratized, U.S.-friendly
To argue that neoconservative influence is truly on the
wane, as Fukuyama and others have claimed, is to ignore
the continued impact of this echo chamber. Unlike the
early years of the movement, today’s neoconservatives
enjoy a serious—and powerful—presence within the
mainstream media. Though this level does not generate
the political faction’s ideas and policies, it does generate
influence. Access to the gates of mainstream media has
enabled the movement to actually implement and mar-
ket its objectives to America.
The attainment of this power owes a great deal to the
early neocons who saw value in becoming “gatekeepers”
of information and ideas. Starting with Irving Kristol’s
early days at Commentary, the movement gained a voice,
but one largely aimed at intellectual and academic elites.
In fact, the evolution of the neocon movement parallels
the growth of its founders as publishers and media fig-
ures. Later, when Bill Kristol founded the Weekly
Standard, the neoconservatives could present specific pol-
icy objectives to Washington elites.
Not by any accident, the neoconservatives’ time of great-
est influence on U.S. foreign policy coincided with the
explosive growth of mass media outlets from which they
could promote their policies. The omnipresent fluttering
American flag on Fox News exemplifies the new über-
patriotic packaging through which the invasion of
Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, and the escalation of
tensions with Iran are marketed packages.
When asked why the Weekly Standardand Fox News
have increased in popularity over the past few years,
Matt Labash, a senior writer at the Weekly Standard
responded that it was “because they feed the rage. We
bring the pain to the liberal media. I say that mockingly,
but it’s true somewhat. We come with a strong point of
view and people like point of view journalism. While all
these hand-wringing Freedom Forum types talk about
objectivity, the conservative media likes to rap the liberal
media on the knuckles for not being objective. We’ve cre-
ated this cottage industry in which it pays to be un-objec-
tive. It pays to be subjective as much as possible. It’s a
great way to have your cake and eat it too. Criticize other
Exposing the architecture of power that’s changing our worldp. 3
people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you
want. It’s a great little racket. I’m glad we found it actual-
If Irving Kristol intended to start a revolution with his
writing on the culture wars and U.S. Cold-War foreign
policy, he certainly laid the groundwork in academic jour-
nals and periodicals. What may never have entered his
imagination at the time was the degree of success the
second generation of neoconservatives would experience
in marketing neoconservative ideas to a mainstream
audience. The original network of journals and think
tanks has been amplified by a powerful, streamlined
media machine. The neoconservative revolution has,
quite literally, been televised.
Eli Clifton is a writer based in Washington, DC, and a
contributor to Right Web (
Gideon Rachman, “The Neo-Cons’ Route to Disaster,”
Financial Times, January 15, 2007,
Jacob Weisberg, “Are Neo-cons History?” Financial
Times, March 14, 2007,
Francis Fukuyama, “After Neoconservatism,” New York
Times, February 19, 2006,
Newt Gingrich, “Searching for Victory in Iraq: Why the
Baker-Hamilton Commission Ought to Visit Mount
Vernon,” Daily Standard, November 28, 2006,,pubID.25195/pub
Charles Krauthammer, “This is Realism? Iraq and Syria
Won’t Be Riding to Our Rescue,” Washington Post,
December 1, 2006,
Robert Kagan and William Kristol, “APerfect Failure:
The Iraq Study Group has reached a consensus,”
Weekly Standard, December 11, 2006,
William Kristol, “The Democrats ‘Slow-Bleed’ Strategy: A
Disgraceful Moment in Congress,” Weekly Standard,
February 26, 2007,
Matthias Küntzel, “Iran’s Obsession with the Jews:
Denying the Holocaust, Desiring another One,” Weekly
Standard, February 19, 2007, http://www.weeklystan-
“Interview with Matt Labash,”, May
Published by the Right Web of the International Relations Center (IRC, online at ©Creative Commons - some rights
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“Exposing the architecture of power that’s changing our world”
Recommended citation:
Eli Clifton, "'A Great Little Racket': The Neocon Media Machine," Right Web Analysis (Silver City, NM: International Relations Center, March 20, 2007).
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