We are approaching a real crossroads. Educators, parents and students have come to loath NCLB and the tests that have become ever more intrusive in our schools. Secretary Duncan and well-paid functionaries from all sides have promised that the "next generation" of assessments will be so superior that we will no longer object to high stakes being attached to them. Unlike any large scale standardized tests ever devised before, they will measure and promote critical thinking. But we n longer need to suspend our judgment. Teachers in Seattle have seen the future. Their verdict is clear. The emperor has no ...

The drive towards Common Core State Standards and standardized assessments to enforce them has been described as an unstoppable train, and teachers are warned that we had better get on board with the process, or risk being run over. But opposition to this juggernaut is emerging from some surprising places, which creates the possibility of some unusual alliances.

The "charter movement" has recently recognized that they are vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy if they demand that traditional public schools be closed for poor performance, but fail to enforce the same standards on charters. This report proposes that we spread the churn that currently plagues public schools into the charter sector. This may be more "fair," but is not, from my perspective, likely to make things much better for students.

I have become increasingly concerned that public education in the United States is seen as a private commodity rather than a public good. Too often, value is defined as something that I have and you don't, if we both have it, it can't possibly be valuable, regardless of what the "product" actually is. The current achievement disparity between different groups of students is not only a moral imperative, it's an economic one. If we don't better serve children that are poor, African-American, differently-abled, Latino, immigrant or English Language Learners, our economy will greatly suffer because the tax base will decline ...

In the president's inaugural speech, the few signs of his thinking about education and poverty offer no hope that policy in the next four years will differ from the last four. Bleak poverty will continue, education will be constrained within the boundaries of educating to "compete in the global economy," the curriculum will be narrowly crafted toward that goal, corporate attacks on the public schools will be promoted through more support of privatized alternatives, and the president will continue to regard charter schools as "incubators of innovation". It will be in stark contrast to the schooling that Martin Luther King, ...

But the marketplace and the drive for profits are proving to be very poor at delivering equitable outcomes for many of our students. Why is this? Perhaps the very design of these school choice systems allows - even promotes - the systematic abandonment of students with lower levels of motivation and parental support.

In today's State of the State speech, California Governor Jerry Brown continued to blaze a path in a new direction on education reform. He explicitly rejected the dominant reform paradigm which closely manages schools through test scores, and embraced local control, which he argued for using a concept called "subsidiarity." He also called for funding that recognizes the burdens poverty imposes on schools. Here is what he said:

What would have happened if the Gates Foundation's Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) research had been conducted before the "Billionaires Boys Club's" preferences were codified into law in Race to the Top and the Department of Education's NCLB waiver requirements? How would their final report, "Ensuring Fair and Reliable Measures of Effective Teaching," read if its findings were reported before value-added evaluations were imposed on the nation's schools? Even if the same researchers had used the same methodology and made identical findings, how would that evidence have been presented?

You may have heard recently about a 19 year old activist who has been shaking things up in Louisiana. Zack Kopplin cares about science, and when creationists attempted to sway the science textbook process in 2010, he got involved. More recently he has been fighting the diversion of public funds to schools that teach creationism. I asked him to share a bit about his work.

Last week there were two important studies released. One tells us that the international test data used to declare our schools broken and uncompetitive is bogus. The other tells us we have a very different crisis we should be concerned about: the percent of students who are engaged and excited about school drops dramatically between elementary and high school. The policies being pursued to fight the first, phony crisis are likely to be making our real crisis in student engagement worse.


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