You Be the Judge

On Monday, October 12, 2015 I submitted the Op-Ed piece below to The Denver Post.  The editors accepted it for probable publication the following Sunday, October 18.  I was cautioned not to make the piece too political.  I agreed because I believed the message of the failures would make the politics self-evident. My piece did appear but what the editors failed to tell me was:

  1. My offering would be part of a point/counterpoint presentation. The Post solicited a piece from a “reformer” without having the courtesy of telling me that was going to be the case;
  2. The title of my piece would be changed from “You Be the Judge” to “NO: Dismal stats provide the answer” and would part of the more argumentative format.

Three of seven DPS Board of Education seats are being contested this November.  Two of the seats are being held by incumbents who strongly support the status quo of the past ten years.  The third is an open seat where the “reform” candidate has filed a campaign finance report showing close to $100,000 raised, mostly from the national “reform” organization, Democrats for Education Reform. There is an enormous national push to make Denver’s board unanimous in its push to silence the public.  This is an all mail-in election.  Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 3.  If you care about the future of public education in Denver, and if you read the below article and think these data are unacceptable and this District is headed in the wrong direction and if you think the public should be welcomed in questioning some District decisions, here are your candidates:

Kristi Butkovich, District 1 , Southeast Denver

Michael Kiley, District 5, Northwest Denver

Robert Speth, At-large Candidate


We have ten years of data on education “reform” in Denver, Colorado. Three out of seven seats on the Denver School Board are being contested this November 3. (Really, the election starts mid-October since this is an all mail-in election and ballots will be sent out then). Here are some important Denver Public Schools data with which you should be acquainted before you vote:



  • ACT scores (the bar by which “reformers” cite college readiness) have remained stagnant with a slight drop to 18.3 in 2015. Twenty-one (21) is the number generally cited for college readiness i.e., no need for remediation. Twenty-six (26) is the average score needed to enter CU Boulder.
  • DPS graduation rate is 62.8%. The state of Colorado’s rate is 77.3%. The last available remediation rate stands at 52.4%
  • Academic proficiencies for Denver Public Schools students are:
    • Reading   54%
    • Math        47%
    • Writing    44%
  • Achievement gap INCREASES since 2005 based on economics – free and reduced lunch students and paying students:
    • Reading 7  percentage points from 29 to 36
    • Math 14 percentage points from 20 to 34
    • Writing 9  percentage points from 27 to 36
  • Achievement gap INCREASES based on ethnicity – white students and Black and Hispanic students
    • Reading 4 percentage points from 36 to 40.  The gap increase from 2013 to 2014 alone has been 2 points.
    • Math 3 percentage points from 34 to 37 points.  The gap between white and Black students is the highest at 47 percentage points. The gap between white and Hispanic students is 40 points. All gaps are widening, 1 point from 2013 to 2014.
    • Writing Less than 1 percentage point decrease to 42  percentage points between white and Hispanic and Black students but increasing since 2011


  • Resegregation of Denver Public Schools: Three-quarters of DPS schools are what the New York Times has termed “demographically homogenous.”
    • 65% of DPS schools have student bodies with over 70% students of color
    • 11% of DPS schools have students bodies with less than 30% students of color
    • 65% + 11% = 76%

The Sunday, October 11, 2015 Denver Post had even more unfavorable statistics.


  • Teacher Turnover: 22% per year. DPS is experiencing the highest teacher turnover in the metropolitan area.


  • Principal Turnover: 30% per year. Since Superintendent Boasberg took over in 2009 approximately 90% of DPS traditional schools have experienced at least one change in leadership.


  • Academic Innovation Office, a new department within Denver Public Schools which oversees charter and innovation schools, not traditional schools, has 54 directors, managers, assistant directors, with salaries totaling $5.3 million. Average salary: $100,000.


Finally, just last Wednesday, October 7, 2015, the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, released a report/report card on the status of 50 urban school districts who have been actively engaged in education reform. Thirty-seven districts supplied enough achievement gap data to be evaluated. Denver Public Schools was dead last (37th) in both reading and math with gaps of 38% and 30% respectively. The average for the other districts was around 14 percentage points for each subject. As for graduation rates, Denver ranked 45th out of the 50 districts.


The Denver Plan 2020 emphasizes reducing the gaps and increasing graduation rates (Goals 3 and 5). Given the performance of the past ten years, is this a District going in the right direction to achieve this? You be the judge.


All data are from DPS, CDE, Chalkbeat Colorado, Denver Post.

If you wish to link to the published piece, here it is.

















A Conversation about Denver: Petrilli, Me, Kaplan

Diane Ravitch published the post below with a self-explanatory title.   I hope you will find the conversation as well as the comments fascinating.

Since this email conversation occurred, I attended a forum on educational equity sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the University of Colorado.  The panelists highlighted a few tenets of public education in the United States today:

1.   To achieve meaningful educational equity the challenges  and solutions for educating children in poverty and children who  speak English as a second language must be addressed and solved;

2.   “Reformers” are hypocrits because they have developed an educational system most would never subject their own children to;

3.   Charter schools (and there is little difference between for profit charters and charters run by private charter management organizations which include most of Denver’s charters) are not public schools and “reformers” who keep saying that are naive or misinformed or worse;

4.  Ten years of “reform” have failed when you keep hearing words like “slow progress,” “gliimmer of hope,” better than other Colorado metropolitan districts.”

I have copied her post below as well as provided the link.

Source: A Conversation about Denver: Petrilli, Me, Kaplan


After I posted an article about Denver yesterday, in which former board member Jeannie Kaplan asserted that corporate reform had failed in Denver, I received a note from Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. I responded and copied Kaplan, since she wrote the post. I think it is an interesting discussion. Please read it from the bottom.

From Mike Petrilli at 9:26 pm:

If it’s everything in the chain below, yes.

On Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 9:18 PM, Diane Ravitch wrote:

Mike, would you be okay with my posting your exchange with Jeannie Kaplan?

Diane Ravitch

On Oct 9, 2015, at 3:30 PM, Jeannie Kaplan wrote:

Sorry, Mike, but I totally disagree with you. When you make reducing the gap a main tenet of measuring success and this gap increases for ten years, you are failing. That’s like changing the rules in the middle of the game. But I guess it is all about winning, just not for the students.

And I would love to hear what you see as success in Denver. We have more segregated schools than any time since before bussing, we have the highest teacher turnover of any district in the metropolitan area, we have the most bloated administration in recent memory, etc., etc. The bottom line for me is telling the truth, and the truth is Denver is our kids are not being educated. That’s what matters. Taking tests isn’t educating. Reducing curricula isn’t educating. Pretending this is success isn’t telling the truth. My greatest fear when I was first elected in 2005 was Denver would be left as a district for those who have no other choice. I believe that is what we could easily be seeing in the not too distant future, especially when you have a board and administration that absolutely refuses to listen to anyone but themselves. And, frankly, like you, insist this is success.

Show me the (money) progress! And don’t cite 1+% gains. For all the hoopla that doesn’t cut it. The first Denver plan (2006) had very high standards and goals, none of which were ever reached. No accountability. I get asked repeatedly, where is the accountability and why does Tom Boasberg still have his job? Because when you buy the board and when you have no press, and when you have organizations like yours pretending this is working, you can say whatever you want and no one challenges. Reformers here have been very clever – a form of mayoral or superintendent control of the board without asking the voters to approve it. We are outgunned financially. Your side has poured 300,000 dollars per race into getting the six board members elected. I will expect nothing less this time.

And meanwhile, as your side hides the truth or spins it, our children and communities and Dps employees suffer. But you are certainly winning the pr battle!


On Oct 9, 2015, at 3:14 PM, Michael Petrilli wrote:

Hi Jeannie. What I’m saying is that we might find some common ground here. Looking literally at gaps turns everything into a zero sum game. Certainly we don’t want to root for white or Asian or middle class kids to do worse.

The right goal is to see progress across the board. Which is what Denver is demonstrating. Not that it’s perfect, but its progress is real, and promising.



On Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 3:05 PM, Jeannie Kaplan wrote:

We seem to be crossing emails. Answering this I would say when reformers claim to be all about data, and when they point to reducing the gap as a mark of success, and when the Denver public schools has seen an increase in the gap in all three academic subjects based on free/reduced lunch as well as ethnic categories – white v. Black and Hispanic – for ten years it just might be time to try something different.

And if we were to stop using the gap as an indicator what might you suggest to replace it?


From Mike Petrilli at 3:12 pm

Yes, and then stagnation in the late 80s and most of the 90s, and then progress again with test based accountability. See:

On Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 2:57 PM, Diane Ravitch wrote:

No, read Paul Barton on the black-white gap.

Biggest narrowing was late 1970s-early 80s. Smaller classes; early childhood; economic opportunities for African American families; desegregation.

Diane Ravitch

On Oct 9, 2015, at 2:47 PM, Michael Petrilli wrote:

Well, if that’s the case, you should stop using gaps to hit reformers over the head.

However, we did see major gap closing from the late 1990s into the 2000s, probably because of test-based accountability. Though that has now plateaued.


On Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 2:39 PM, Diane Ravitch wrote:

We know the reasons for the gaps

The reformers have cynically politicized the issue by claiming that they can close it. No they (you) can’t and you won’t, [My addition here: not with test-based accountability. Tests are a measure, not a cure.]

Diane Ravitch

On Oct 9, 2015, at 2:28 PM, Michael Petrilli wrote:

Hi Diane. Just FYI:

1. Denver is one of the few urban districts in the country with about 30% white non low-income kids (and some very high end kids) so kids are starting out far apart.

2. Both low-income and non-low income kids have grown. Low income kids growing at 1-2% per year while non low-income kids growing at 1.5-2.5% per year so the gap grows

But do we want to start rooting for affluent kids to do worse? As you’ve said, “closing the achievement gap” is good rhetoric but we don’t want to take it too literally. The goal is for everyone to learn more.


76 Comments Post your own or leave a trackback: Trackback URL

  1. Diane, please check your email for an urgent message from me. Thanks.

  2. Linda

    “The goal is for everyone to learn more.” Including you too, Petrilli. Get certified as an educator and you will finally learn more about teaching and learning.

    • jcgrim

      It’s hard to take Petrelli seriously given his support for segregation of kids with disabilities from academically high achieving students.

    • Jack

      **** SPECIAL BULLETIN ***

      **** WE INTERRUPT YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING to bring you the latest on the pedophilia scandal swirling around Kevin Johnson, the current Mayor of Sacramento and prominent proponent of school privatization and union-busting … oh yeah, and the husband of Michelle Rhee.***

      BELOW is the recently-released police interview video — conducted during the 1996 investigation — with the alleged victim Mandi Koba herself. Here she recounts the horror of being molested by Michelle Rhee’s husband Kevin Johnson, the current mayor of Sacramento and a prominent proponent of busting teacher unions, and replacing public schools with privately-run charter schools.

      Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is the same man who has no court-mandated limits on his access to the two daughters of his current wife Michelle Rhee (who are also, of course, the daughters of her ex-husband and former Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.) Conceivably, these two daughters, when visiting their mother Michelle Rhee and their step-father Kevin Johnson in Sacramento, could be left alone with this perv, without any supervision whatsoever.

      Scary stuff. (Mr. Huffman, if you’re reading this, what are you going to do about this?)

      Watch the video and judge for yourself.

      Keep in mind, folks, that this is a sixteen-year-old girl, recounting events of a few months prior when she was just fifteen. The video is even dated July 19, 1996 ( “7-19-1996” )
      ( 00:37 – 01:35 )

      ( 00:37 – 01:35 )
      PHOENIX P.D. DETECTIVE: “What … what specific areas (of your body did Kevin Johnson fondle)?”

      MANDI KOBA: “My stomach. My breasts. My butt… ”

      PHOENIX P.D. DETECTIVE: (almost whispering) “Anywhere else?”

      MANDI KOBA: “As it progressed.”

      PHOENIX P.D. DETECTIVE: “Where ELSE did it progress?”

      MANDI KOBA: “Between my legs.”

      PHOENIX P.D. DETECTIVE: “Okay, and what do we call that area?”

      MANDI KOBA: “My vagina.”

      PHOENIX P.D. DETECTIVE: “And – and I know some of the questions sound stupid. Okay? And I apologize for it, but there are certain things I’m looking for. Unless I know these things, then…

      MANDI KOBA: “I understand.”

      PHOENIX P.D. DETECTIVE: ” … then I don’t know what’s going on.”
      — (PAUSE)
      “He (Kevin Johnson) had HIS clothes off?”

      MANDI KOBA: “Yes.”

      PHOENIX P.D. DETECTIVE: “What happened after the fondling?”

      MANDI KOBA: “That’s … we didn’t have intercourse… It was… just a lot of THAT. I don’t know how long it lasted, and then… ummm ”


      (ONE SIDE NOTE: what’s up with choosing a male detective to conduct this incredibly sensitive and delicated interview? Wouldn’t this be better handled by a female detective? Just askin’.)

      There’s so much to be asked here.

      If this video were about the predations of a prominent teacher—especially one in the anti-corporate reform movement, or perhaps a prominent teacher union leader…

      —what do think Campbell Brown would be doing in response to this video?

      What would Ben Austin would be doing in response to this video?

      What would Michelle Rhee be doing in response to this video?

      The same question goes for Eli Broad, Mike Petrilli, Wendy Kopp, Richard Barth and the rest.

      Before she went on her campaign to take away all teachers’ rights and job protections, Campbell Brown first came to prominence with her accusations that among the unionized teachers of New York City were hundreds of pedophiles on the loose, thanks to their being protected by their union. When all of that was proven to be nonsense, she simply moved on to her current crusade.

      Now that Ms. Brown and the rest of the corporate reform world have video proof that one of their pro-charter, union-hating allies Kevin Johnson (and also the husband of one of their most prominent allies) is a pedophile, the question must be asked:

      What is Campbell Brown doing now? SILENCE

      Where is Kevin Huffman doing now? SILENCE

      From this shameful silence, they communicate to the world that they apparently view this girl in the video above — and Johnson’s other victims — as collateral damage in the movement to bust unions and privatize the public school system. Now that Kevin Johnson has successfully pulled off a hostile takeover of that Black Mayors’ association, he will be instrumental in privatizing hundreds of schools in those cities run by black mayors in the organization. Since the ends justify the means, someone like Johnson who is that key in the anti-union movement to privatize public schools must be given a pass for his fondness of teenage female flesh.

      To watch the entirety of this video in context, watch here:

      There’s more about Johnson rubbing his … against her leg. I’m not doing any more transcribing, as this is seriously creeping me out.

      ONE MORE THING: the reason for “SPECIAL BULLETIN” parody at the top of this post is that this in actually four-days old, having been released by DEADSPIN four days ago… and there has been ASBOLUTELY NO COVERAGE OF THIS WHATSOEVER FROM THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA.


        Fraud, corruption, and this scandalous behavior lies in the context of BETRAYAL… and I think that more os us, need to use this word when we describe the criminality.

  3. Re: Mike Petrilli, and all the Charlatans from the piece I am writing, because Mike fits the bill.

    This is a time of great betrayal. The betrayal of trust is the essence of what is happening across our nation. When we speak of corruption, and the lack of accountability we are speaking about BETRAYAL. But there is another kind of betrayal, the spinning of the truth as Mike Pitrilli does…by dint of being an ‘expert’ or a ‘pundit.’

    At the core of this betrayal is the mendacity that is a facet of our culture today… the  bold-faced lying, the artful ‘performance’ that has replaced authentic  action.  Donald Trump personifies this… a charlatan who artfully spins lies about what he can do, but from the get-go, plans to betray us once he gains the throne and the bully pulpit,

    The last thing we need, today is charlatans who the public looks to as a pundit, for they betray us all by leading us astray with their promises and rhetoric, which is then spun endlessly as  ‘truth,’ by our corrupted media.

    It is time to hear truth, because it is only truth that can lead to solutions. Patrol offers only lies, and thus no solutions.

    Out with the charlatans who betray the public trust!

    or just plain ‘shut up!’ when people like Diane and Jeannie speak truth!

    • jcgrim

      I love it. Plain talkin’

    • Ellen Lubic

      In this vein of discussion re truth….here is Robert Reich’s column today re Hillary Clinton. Hope that Lily and Randi both read it closely and see who they have pledged the teachers of their major unions to support. Disgraceful that they colluded with the Clintons who are the close friends of Eli Broad.

      Yes, Susan, there are too many charlatans who betray the public trust.


      This post originally ran on Robert Reich’s website.

      “Giant Wall Street banks continue to threaten the wellbeing of millions of Americans, but what to do?

      Bernie Sanders says break them up and resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act that once separated investment from commercial banking.

      Hillary Clinton says charge them a bit more and oversee them more carefully.

      Most Republicans say don’t worry.

      Clearly, there’s reason to worry. Back in 2000, before they almost ruined the economy and had to be bailed out, the five biggest banks on Wall Street held25 percent of the nation’s banking assets. Now they hold more than 45 percent.

      Their huge size fuels further growth because they’ll be bailed out if they get into trouble again.

      This hidden federal guarantee against failure is estimated be worth over $80 billion a year to the big banks. In effect, it’s a subsidy from the rest of us to the bankers.

      And they’ll almost certainly get into trouble again if nothing dramatic is done to stop them. Consider their behavior since they were bailed out.

      In 2012 JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank on Street, lost $6.2 billion betting on credit default swaps tied to corporate debt – and then publicly lied about the losses. It later came out that the bank paid illegal bribes to get the business in the first place.

      Last May the Justice Department announced a settlement of the biggest criminal price-fixing conspiracy in modern history, in which the biggest banks manipulated the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency market in a “brazen display of collusion,” according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

      Wall Street is on the road to another crisis.

      This would take a huge toll. Although the banks have repaid the billions we lent them in 2008, many Americans are still living with the collateral damage from what occurred – lost jobs, savings, and homes.

      But rather than prevent this by breaking up the big banks and resurrecting Glass-Steagall, Hillary Clinton is taking a more cautious approach.

      She wants to impose extra fees on the banks, with the amounts turning not on the bank’s size but how much it depends on short-term funding (such as fast-moving capital markets), which is a way of assessing riskiness.

      So a giant bank that relies mainly on bank deposits wouldn’t be charged.

      Clinton would also give bank regulators more power than they have under the Dodd-Frank Act (passed in the wake of the last banking crisis) to break up any particular bank that they consider too risky.

      And she wants more oversight of so-called “shadow” banks – pools of money (like money market mutual funds, hedge funds, and insurance funds) that act like banks.

      All this makes sense. And in a world where the giant Wall Street banks didn’t have huge political power, these measures might be enough.

      But, if you hadn’t noticed, Wall Street’s investment bankers, key traders, top executives, and hedge-fund and private-equity managers wield extraordinary power.

      They’re major sources of campaign contributions to both parties.

      In addition, a lucrative revolving door connects the Street to Washington. Treasury secretaries and their staffs move nimbly from and to the Street, regardless of who’s in the Oval Office.

      Key members of Congress, especially those involved with enacting financial laws or overseeing financial regulators, have fat paychecks waiting for them on Wall Street when they retire.

      Which helps explain why no Wall Street executive has been indicted for the fraudulent behavior that led up to the 2008 crash. Or for the criminal price-fixing scheme settled in 2012. Or for other excesses since then.

      And why even the fines imposed on the banks have been only a fraction of the banks’ potential gains.

      And also why Dodd-Frank has been watered down into vapidity.

      For example, it requires major banks to prepare “living wills” describing how they’d unwind their operations if they get into serious trouble.

      But no big bank has come up with one that passes muster. Federal investigators have found them all “unrealistic.”

      That’s not surprising because if they were realistic, the banks would effectively lose their hidden “too-big-to-fail” subsidies.

      Given all this, Hillary Clinton’s proposals would only invite more dilution and finagle.

      The only way to contain the Street’s excesses is with reforms so big, bold, and public they can’t be watered down – busting up the biggest banks and resurrecting Glass-Steagall.”


      We must be very cautious about who we support in Denver, LA, Cleveland, Chicago, and nationwide. We all know that data and stats can be manipulated and used for cross purposes…as the Billionaire Boys Club reformers show us, minute by minute, everywhere.

      • Exactly.

        We talk here, and he and all the brilliant minds talk about what is happening in America, but I wish to FRAME the conversation as BETRAYAL on the deepest level.

        We call all the lies, and frauds ‘corruption’ but that is the underlying cause, AS THESE PEOPLE WHO KNOW BETTER, who are people we NEED TO rely upon, betray our trust at every level.

        “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

        There are the principles upon which all government is based, and if you look at the supreme court which is destabilizing the laws that have already been passed “to promote the general welfare” they are promoting INJUSTICE; what domestic tranquility can there be if the unions are destroyed. Betrayal, pure and simple!

        And, BTW, how is bombing a hospital providing for the common defense! Our military betrays our faith them.

        And how to our militarized police secure the blessings of liberty when they can shoot people in the back, beat them up, throw them in jail with no way to pay bail.

        That’s look at all the fraud and corruption, and tell these people that they have betrayed the trust!

  4. Fl Teacher

    I would like to see Mr. Petrilli respond to Ms. Kaplan’s last post. I doubt he will.

    It’s a shame that so much money is being spent on a failed endeavor: too many people making a living on this fiasco and too hard for the deep pocketed egomaniacs to admit they are wrong. Then you have the really dark side of this – the people who KNOW it doesn’t work but realize they can still make a LOT of money raping the system for all its worth.

    • …for all it’s worth AND then having the audacity to act as if educators are the ones taking advantage with their huuuuuuge salaries.

      Michelle Rhee makes more money in an hour bashing teachers, than I do working all year helping kids.

    • The greatest betrayal is that of the Supreme Court, which we American TRUST to monitor the Congress.

      The money that pours into the pockets of those we must trust– our legislators, our governors, our leaders and our media — is so much more than corruption of our laws. It is a betrayal of our democracy. Money dictates behavior in all societies. Here monied interests betray us all

      Read Rob Kall’s “Democracy Sold”–To-158-Fa-by-Rob-Kall-2016-Elections_Billionaires_Citizens-United_Democracy-151010-764.html#comment566649

      An excerpt:
      The damage the five Supreme Court Justices have done to democracy in America is evident with these numbers.The NY Times reports, Just 158 families gave nearly half the early money in the presidential race.

      We reveal who they are.

      The article informs us that 138 of them supported Republicans, 20 supported Democrats, all giving at least $250,000. Then there were another 200 families who gave more than $100,000. Between the two groups, they provided more than 50% of the “money in the presidential election.” And it was primarily given to Republicans. The prime reason they give is to affect regulations which impact their ability to make more money.

      The article mentions backers of Republicans on the right and Hillary Clinton on the left. Sanders is not mentioned in the article at all.”

      and I, Susan adds: That, by the way, is because WE THE PEOPLE SUPPORT HIM.
      so contribute here and help an authentic voice rise to the top.

      • Ellen Lubic

        Indeed, Susan…when some of the Supremes seem to be colluding with the other branches of government, the Executive, and even possibly with the lobbyists and Congress, and seemingly with corporations, that gives us no democracy, but rather it creates fascism.

        The ultra reactionary judges Scalia, Alito, Thomas, are led by the generally Right-tilting Roberts, and too often joined by the waffler, Kennedy, to produce some the most activist court decisions in US history.

        Citizens United, expanded by McCutcheon, left us with the dirtiest politics possible. Now the richest people in the country, and in the world, choose the candidates and pay for their campaigns…all without having to show “who’s on first.”

        Denver is only one more city which is feeling the brunt of the oligarchs power, and anyone who fights back is deserving of our support. But the case of Friedrich v. CTA is to be decided soon, and SCOTUS can kill the American union movement with this far reaching decision.

      • And they will, for they are the top-dogs on this mountain of Charlatans who are betraying the public trust.

        I am writing the first piece on that, and Ihope you will add your commentary to it, when It is posted on Oped.

      • bethree5

        I like your replies because they keep nudging us back to the point that the democratic system itself has been corrupted. It is good to note the ongoing instances of grifters riding on the back of the test-&-punish movement and making a mint– grass-roots outrage has to start with taxpayers who recognize their own pockets are being picked. But political energy needs to be directed as well beyond individuals who are reaping windfalls as a result of a corrupted system. Think whack-a-mole.

  5. It’s wonderful to see people on opposite sides of these issues engaging in respectful dialogue.

    • Laura H.Chapman

      Thanks for posting this exchange. It is clear that Diane and Jeanne have far more ample views of education than Mike.

      People who think that increments in test scores and reductions of differences in the test scores of students (gap closing) can be generalized to make claims about student achievement need to get some new glasses and “mindsets” for thinking about education. (“Mindsets is hot off the stove educational jargon).

      Referring to test scores as if increases in the scores represent “growth” is either a symptom of ignorance or it is a deliberate and cynical effort to undermine the meanings of growth in education—full spectrum human growth with development over time part of that.

      Nothing about test taking bears on “student growth.”

      The national and international fixation on test scores as the be-all-and-end-all of education is a case of navel gazing with none of the potential benefits of insights from that contemplative exercise.

  6. Diane,

    I really don’t see the problem here. Let’s assume we are talking about the gap between how many students should be college ready and how many truly are.

    For whites and Asians, that gap closed due to rising performance.

    For blacks and Hispanics, that gap closed due to rising performance.

    It’s win-win.

    Are you suggesting that if white scores had fallen faster than black scores, you would be giving Denver kudos? Nobody expects you to actually answer this question because you don’t answer problematic questions but I thought I’d try.

    As we close the gaps against foreign students who are better prepared, we should celebrate and take those best practices to all schools.

    • Virginia…your last all encompassing sentence leaves no room for facts often posted on the site. Closing gaps against SOME foreign students who may SEEM to be better prepared in SOME disciplines, can be celebrated, but your statement does not allow for the many US public schools which showed in international stats to be doing better than other foreign countries. Search Diane’s archives for this info.

    • Laura…hope you don’t mind my posting this comment of yours on another issue…but you say it all far better than I, and with depth of knowledge so that Virginia, and all of us, can learn from this info re NAEP and data.

      Laura H.Chapman

      October 10, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      The “backpack” metaphor for stored data is more intimate than the “cloud” metaphor.

      Both are misleading.

      People who think that the data hounds are only operating in the hope of making profits should note that the National Assessment of Educational Progress is not only set up to deliver secondary analyses of data to selected groups, using the “backpack” metaphor.

      The NAEP Governing Board has become an echo chamber for this era’s truncated view of education as college and career prep.

      In fact, the lead writer of the ELA Common Core Standards, Susan Pimenthal, has served on the NAEP governing board since 2007, rising to vice chair in 2012, completing her term this year 2015. She is hardly the only board member who has deep ties to the Common Core.

      I continue to be amazed at the nearly complete takeover of once independent agencies and associations by the campaign to impose standardized education on all public schools, with data mongering forwarded especially by Bill Gates’ Teacher Student Data Link project and USDE’s Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Grant Program for early learning through the workforce (P-20), including individual student records. Those records can be used by approved “stakeholders,” not necessarily the educators working directly with individual students.

      The assumption that data-informed decisions will improve student learning and outcomes is ridiculous. Data, treated as if facts, do not speak for themselves.

      In a recent study of how teachers interpret data, researchers concluded there was a definite “messiness of data use,” especially if teachers are working in a school that has not met accountability targets,” and instructional coaches are certain teachers can and should use the data derived from questions on the test for one purpose: to raise test scores. Bertrand, M., & Marsh, J. A. (2015). Teachers’ Sensemaking of Data and Implications for Equity. American Educational Research Journal, 0002831215599251.

      • West Coast Teacher

        Please, I read the data for confirmation of what I already knew. The data was the same every year for the school in which I taught. Getting to HOW to overcome the needs that gave us the data was the crucial part.

      • Ellen Lubic, I don’t quite follow. I don’t believe every child should go to college. If kids who want (should) take a different track score below proficient on the PARCC/SBAC/ACT/SAT, that’s not a problem is it?

        I assist customers with metrics for a living. We don’t always target “100%”. Maybe an org who meets a certain criteria 55% of the time is doing well. The % that meet the standard is never the same as the normal 90% = A, 80% = B, etc. Still not sure why folks are going nuts because there is a 35% proficiency rate on the new tests.

        Are you now saying that NAEP is “corrupted” because their proficiency standards result in 1/3 of students meeting them?

      • Virginia, you don’t understand NAEP achievement levels. NAEP proficiency is not a passing mark. It is equivalent to an A. Why would we expect all or most students to reach such a high level? By using that as the passing bar, we are setting most students up for failure. That’s just plain dumb.

      • Linda

        David Brooks wrote in his column today, “On almost every college campus…(they’re) stemming the careerist tide and, widening the system’s narrow definition of achievement….the future of the university will be found in its original moral and spiritual mission…in an open and aspiring way.”
        Reformies with a new guise and regrouping? What are Petrelli’s thoughts?

  7. wdf1

    This standardized-test-defined achievement gap is like taking a child’s temperature if she’s not feeling well. If the temperature reads high, then it’s an indicator to ask broader questions — do you feel achy? tired? etc. You go to a doctor and get additional observations and presumably a diagnosis — flu, or some other disease, or some other issue.

    This test differential is like that — an invitation to ask further and broader questions. It’s an indication of a fever or a high temperature in the system. But the conventional response is the “tylenol strategy” — work on curing the symptom and then the malady will go away, just as if a parent would give Tylenol to a child with temperature to make it go away.

    This generation of reformers isn’t moving beyond trying to cure the symptom. Probably because the cause (poverty) is bigger and more complex issue to deal with.

    • bethree5

      Truer words never spoken.

    • NY Teacher

      Not sure they even want to cure the symptom. They just keep sticking their thermometer in the kid’s mouth screaming, “My God, this kid’s fever is so high! It must be her parents fault.” And at the same time they get to define a “fever” – 98.6 F!!!!

  8. KrazyTA

    With all due apologies to Jeannie Kaplan: from the first paragraph of her 3:30 PM response—

    “When you make reducing the gap a main tenet of measuring success and this gap increases for ten years, you are failing. That’s like changing the rules in the middle of the game. But I guess it is all about winning, just not for the students.”

    A quibble. When the rheephormsters go all in on the scores from standardized tests—and most of their multiple measures of assessment circle back to whatever raises those scores—and they fail miserably at their own narrow measure of success, then proclaiming the (by now obvious and self-wounding) insufficiency of that measure is not “like” changing the rules in the middle of the game, that is cynically and self-servingly changing the rules of the game because by their own most sacred and inviolable measure, rheephorm does not measure up.

    And a quibble about terminology. The “gap” in question is not properly and accurately described as one of learning and teaching, it is a “test score gap.”

    Look at practice, not hype and spin and sales points. Sacrificing genuine teaching and learning to those all-important numbers results in what Ms. Kaplan describes: “Taking tests isn’t educating. Reducing curricula isn’t educating. Pretending this is success isn’t telling the truth.”

    Campbell’s Law. Not “Campbell’s Conjecture” as per Dr. Raj Chetty.

    Or as Charles Goodhart stated it years before Campbell:

    “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

    While I second Bob Shepherd comment just above, I respectfully must add:

    I do not think there are enough excuses in all of the self-proclaimed “education reform” movement to excuse the insufficiency of Mr. Petrilli’s responses. If this is the best he can do then he is, in his own words, a “non-striver.”


  9. brcrosby

    The other elephant in the room is that when Arne Duncan threw $5 billion at reform and only funded the test-based, hold teachers accountable and fire the lowest 5%, and use only “research based” (and often scripted) lessons model and others suggested that perhaps there were other models we should be trying as well … we heard over and over from Geoffrey Canada, Arne, Rhee, and too many more, “We don’t have time for that, our kids don’t have time for that … we believe in this model and our kids deserve it.” (the message being if you advocate for something else you are not for what’s best for kids and for the status quo … so shut up! In the meantime other models weren’t funded or even considered and the model the neo-reformers pushed as a sure thing hasn’t been … more time has gone by, and because other models weren’t supported we lost the opportunity to learn if all or even parts of those other models and pedagogies may have made a difference.

  10. MathVale

    Test based accountability has failed. The amount of spin and gaming is astounding. It has gotten to the point we are measuring nothing. Not learning. Not teachers. Not “rigor”. If Petrilli and other Reformers truly had the interests of students in mind, they would realize the test and punish approach has separated from reality. Reformers are desperate.

    The Reformers have succeeded in destroying education. The effect of their scorched earth policies will take at least a decade to correct. So sad is we will have lost an entire generation to this grand, failed experiment.

  11. I think Mike Petrilli wears a filter inside his head that only sees what he writes and he ignores everything else while he keeps repeating the same message.

    Repeat a lie enough and it becomes the truth. Who said that?

  12. TC

    “1. Denver is one of the few urban districts in the country with about 30% white non low-income kids (and some very high end kids) so kids are starting out far apart.”

    And I think Denver had merit pay. Probably a lot of that merit pay went to teachers who taught the “30% white non low-income kids (and some very high end kids)”. Thus, increasing the gap.

    Somehow, they build systems where the resources always flow to the kids at the top. Whether this is because they can’t design systems worth a damn, or just nefarious intent, I do not know.

    • Former Teacher

      Resources…that word. I wonder the extent to which resources flow to the kids at the top…or are the resources always there due to educated households, money, good neighborhoods/higher tax base. Instead of spending all of these funds on this data-driven hoax, money should be spent supplying resources where resources are needed, especially our lower middle and poverty classes. I’m not challenging your statement, just wanted to state my $0.02, for what it’s worth.

      I agree about the merit pay going to teachers teaching those students at the high end. It also probably went to those few teachers at the low end that overly taught “to the test”. They earned their merit pay, but those poor students weren’t set up for success as they most likely didn’t learn the curriculum they needed. Ugh.

  13. West Coast Teacher

    No, Petrilli. One expects everyone to gain. When one teaches something, someone learns it. Some learn it better and faster. However, you are supposed to be speeding up the rate of the low-income. That rate IS the gap!

    Shouldn’t the question be, Why are the low-income only growing 1-2% per year on the tests while the mid-high income are growing 1.5-2.5% per year. That is a large gap. Why isn’t that rate gap closing?

    I would guess that if the tests measure actual knowledge growth, then one could argue that the low-income started behind and have not caught up. But the goal was to catch up! So the low-income should be at a higher growth rate.

    If the tests are measuring testing skills, then why are not the low-income caught up in testing skills?

    No matter how one looks at this statistic, the low-income are not caught up. If the rate maintains, there will still be a difference. The low-income need to grow much faster than the others, either in knowledge or testing skill to close the gap.

    Would someone tell me how Mike’s comments make any sense?

    Tell Mike learning is exponential, not incremental. Tell Mike that testing skills are easily taught. Tell Mike that the continuing gap is due to economic factors beyond teachers, unions, charters, vouchers control. Tell Mike that whether he knows it or not teachers who deliberately taught in low-income schools have long known that teaching is about changing culture, stimulating thirst for knowledge, motivating the unmotivated, providing rich and deep knowledge, easing the move from one framework to a new one for viewing one’s place in the world, overcoming learned helplessness, inspiring self-confidence, combatting the view that education is either for some other class of people or that education is white people’s method of oppression. Tell Mike there is a difference between no money and poverty. Public schools have always dealt easily with no-money students (the middle-class poor) but real poverty poses boundaries that block academic learning.

    I was never satisfied with a one-year growth on a reading score in a year because that is a normal rate of growth and is meaningless. A two year or more growth might mean something. I found I could achieve that in six months by teaching test-taking skills and motivating the test-taking. Since my test-taking skills were based on teaching test writing the students learned something, although I doubt it was to read better.

    I also found scores could be raised about two years by reading aloud and motivating the students to follow along. In this way vocabulary grew as did internalization of written language structures. Especially, if the teacher read only one author.

    I rather suspect that charter students who are low-income, reluctant readers, and deprived of multiple experiences will not make the grade, even if they can perform the test. It takes steady, broad, and deep reading habits and experiences to gain all the knowledge some kids gain by being the kids of middle to high income parents and the experiences these parents provide.

    This is expensive as any middle-class parent can tell you. And as a public expense, no one wants to make it. Furthermore, the gifts of Walton, Gates, Broad, etc. will not go to the existing institutions to help make this a goal. There are no ego points in such a mundane operation.

    • Former Teacher

      I hear you. I didn’t teach “to the test”. I taught my students a modified curriculum and pushed them hard, with motivation, and everything a teacher does to support learning.

      What do I mean by modified? My students were placed into an 11th grade algebra 2 course after completing their “algebra 1” and “geometry” courses, which were data-driven. Long story short, they came in with no algebra 1 skills, and poor basic math skills (I had a group of students in 11th grade who couldn’t tell the difference between parallel and perpendicular lines). It was a thought year. Even after their “data-driven” curriculum and their previous teacher “closing the gap”, most of these students enrolled in my course severely unprepared and under the wrong impression of how a math course operates. I had to teach math, math learning strategies, and discipline in studying math. Students would fight me when 40% of them didn’t perform well on an exam, but would later explain they didn’t prepare a dime for it.

      All this to say my students, after much tough love and “fighting” learned more than than they expected: math and skills that will aid them in college. OH – and the point of my story is that the kiddos scored the highest math ACT scores compared to other open enrollment high schools in our area, and we showed much growth compared to other “ACT subjects” in the school.

      My principal approached me my last year before I resigned and told me I needed to be on board with their data driven environment and that she knew I cared about the kids (implying that my method of instruction meant I didn’t care for the kids). I told her absolutely not, because I care about my kids.

      One day I hope for this nonsense to stop. Diane and everyone, thanks for letting me rant.

    • I can tell anyone who listens why the low income kids aren’t catching up to the mid-to-high kids, and it isn’t the fault of the teachers. It’s poverty. It’s poverty. It’s poverty.

      Many mid-to-high kids come from homes with books, magazines and newspapers. Most of the low income kids go home to a house devoid of books, magazines and newspapers. If anyone wants to see for themselves, just watch a propaganda film funded by corporate reformers designed to make public schools look bad, but they got one thing right.

      The title of the film is “Won’t Back Down” and Maggie Gyllenhaal plays the single mother fighting to get her kid into a better school. That film clearly reveals the mother is a low income parent and she doesn’t want to be the parent she should be to support the public school’s teachers.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but In the scenes in her apartment, there is no sign of books, magazines and newspapers and the only thing I see her daughter doing is watching TV—that the reason why low-income kids are not catching up.

      That mother and clearly the psychopathic, fraudulent corporate education reformers are taking advantage of this, doesn’t want to be a supportive parent. She wants the teachers to do her job for her so she can come home from work and flop down in front of the TV and watch it with her daughter who isn’t reading or doing the homework.

      Children growing up in a home that has books, magazines and newspapers who watches parents who read usually ends up being a reader too. The opposite is true of children from low income homes.

      Public school teachers have been turned into scapegoats for this fact and have been told that they msut overcome that child’s environment outside of the school but with no support and no power to change that home environment.

      Both of my parents dropped out of high school at age 14. My dad was a gambler and an alcoholic. When I was born, my family lived in poverty. Eventually, thanks to a labor union, my dad landed a job that paid a living wage and we climbed out of poverty into the lower end of the middle class. The only different between my home environment and many children who are born into low income famlies was that both of my parents were avid readers. My dad loved to read westerns and mysteries. My mother read mostly sanitized romances, the hand holding only type, and the Bible. Every night even with the TV on, they both read from a paperback. I was a horrible student K – 12 and would have earned an extremely low score on those high stakes tests linked to Common Core but I grew up to be an avid reader and in high school, even though I didn’t study or do most of the homework, I polished off two Science Fiction or historical fiction books a day, and when I went to college on the GI Bill after leaving the Marines in 1968, I had the literacy level to understand and do college work.

      No bubble test in the world is going to motivate low income children to read books like I did.

      • Former Teacher

        Excellent share. My siblings and I, too, had parents similar to your situation. We grew up lower middle class because my step dad worked on the line for Ford (thanks Detroit). My mom didn’t graduate high school, but my step dad did.

        Because if this, we went to a decent high school. My parents didn’t promote education, but something felt so right about learning – so my sister and I did (my brother, not so much). My sister is currently studying for her PhD in Chemistry and I’m an engineer (and former teacher, thinking about pursuing PhD in Ed. Policy). We are first generation college students.

        I guess the point I’m trying to make is that our high school supported our academic interests, with a full curriculum, not a data-driven one. We didn’t have all the support of education growing up, but our school did. I pushed myself and my sister to be educated (my brother is another story – middle child syndrome). I know that if I had a “data-driven” system, we wouldn’t have learned all we needed to learn and wouldn’t have been exposed to all that we should be exposed to. I’m not sure we would have become who we became today. And if we were to have, it would have taken us much longer because we most likely would have been behind our college competition academically.

      • Yes, the public schools I attended K-12 had that same support system and the public schools where I taught (1975-2005) had it too, but all that support can’t help a student learn who doesn’t want to learn.

      • Take a look at the Messy curricula described on that blog that Diane recommended the other day. , Educating All Our Children.

        One thing that struck me when I read the “Messy” essays: MOTIVATION, WAS THE FIRST ACTIVITY we teachers had to list — back in the days when we were autonomous in our own PROFESSIONAL PRACTICES (I.E classroom) !

        We were REQUIRED to list in our LESSON PLANS, IN 1963 and forever, when I taught, and was AUTONOMOUS in my CLASSROOM PRACTICE.

        They are after all CHILDREN, and anyone who thinks that a ‘core’ curricula that ignores motivation and can still engage children to learn anything (especially SKILLS) — ignores human psychology.
        I wrote my own ‘messy’ curricula in 1990, when East Side Middle School opened in NYC, and they gave me room, and a pupil list. I immersed the entire 7th grade in the stories –the characters and plots– and the stunning language that allowed the authors to ‘speak’ their philosophy to a reader — to engage a reader.

        Through reading, and through my speaking the way that language was meant to be spoken, (so they could hear how it sounds, not just how it look on paper) these 13 year old NYC kids learned to THINK ABOUT LANGUAGE and to write like adults. It was no different in then my practice in second grade, when the objectives were all about learning to read and to write… and to think and speak well, too.

        I could have followed a curricula like the one I used when I subbed in seventh grade English classrooms, in East Ramapo, (back in the day when it was rated third in the state) . Theirs was a traditional seventh grade approach to grammar objectives— punctuation and usage— (Warriners Grammar, the center of all lessons).

        This ‘curriculum had not engaged my own sons, or myself —when I was in 7th grade in the fifties… so I ‘messed’ it up with wonderful stories that I loved, and movies that showed how stories could be constructed. We compared and contrasted this to that, and we talked and wrote and read what we wrote… and I posted their writing in the halls. “WOW,” said Harvard and Pew, and the rest was history.

        My ‘kids’ over 8 years of my tenure, won every award for writing that was offered, and when the first ELA writing exam proved that 3/4 of NYC kids could not write, my students, now in grade 8, were third in the state.

        I had a book offer from Stenhouse to tell “how I did it ” —the same question that Harvard asked when Pew made my practice the cohort for the real, genuine NATIONAL STANDARDS RESEARCH (THE PRINCIPLES OF ‘EFFORT-BASED’ LEARNING.

        But of course, I NEVER wrote the book, even though I was now (1998) the NYS Educator of Excellence (NYSEC). They jailed me… —in a rubber room accused of INCOMPETENCE… betrayed by the administration, the union , and those who ruled NYC — all the people upon whom teachers rely!

      • “Public school teachers have been turned into scapegoats” BETRAYED by those who should support their professional practice.

        ” a propaganda film funded by corporate reformers designed to make public schools look bad” A film of lies by charlatans pretending to be educators and BETRAYING THE PUBLIC.

        ” fraudulent corporate education reformers” job is to lie, and thus they betray the trust of the people…
        Lloyd, fraud, lies, corruption, are behaviors that are the symptoms of BETRAYAL.
        It is time, I think, that we FAME THE CONVERSATION, and talk of these things in one voice, putting this utter lawlessness and contempt for the people in the context of THE GREAT BETRAYAL THAT IT IS.

        The Supreme court is set to betray the workers, the masses, the citizens of this nation by their decision on unions.

        Let’s talking one voice, and tell the people, END THE BETRAYAL. No more lies, and spin and Orwellian promotions that pretend to put children first when the intention is that they are the last consideration for the privateers.

        Truth, transparency and accountability are the new words our leaders and media must learn!

      • Yes, we should all shout the same message at the same time but try to get that many people to work together like that—even all the regulars here and the members of the Education Bloggers Network. It’s more like everyone is doing their own thing and no one is joining together the organize as one voice even for one day a week to share the same post written by one member.

      • There is a need to Frame the conversation… give it a context people can grasp, something that resonates beyond the static which all these lies produce… a background noise so powerful that ordinary folks do not hear the truth… which is out there, has been out there for a decade.

        I have begun to frame what is afoot in the nation as BETRAYAL.

        Lloyd, I have much more to add–things that I would say to you in an emaiL ABOUT GETTING THE TRUTH OUT THEREl, if I had your email address. I hate the way my commentary would crawl along the edge, so I am going to post the rest of my comment to the larger audience here.

        This is such a great place, but this WordPress format hurts the conversations.

        Moreover, there IS NO PLACE, where a reader of the blog, CAN GO BACK to a page where ALL THE COMMENTS for you or me, or anyone can be read. At OPED, there is a link to my essays,
        one to my posts which link to other writers and blogs (quicklinks)
        , and one where all my commentary can be accessed.

        And look at the long address that interrupts the flow of the idea, because there is no way to embed the link in the text. That needs a tweak.

      • bethree5

        Lloyd this is such a great point: “That mother and clearly the psychopathic, fraudulent corporate education reformers are taking advantage of this, doesn’t want to be a supportive parent. She wants the teachers to do her job for her so she can come home from work and flop down in front of the TV and watch it with her daughter who isn’t reading or doing the homework.”

        I would just expand from my own experience, this also applies to parents of kids w/learning difficulties trying to shepherd their square pegs through the round hole of the p.s. system. Those kids come home bouncing off the walls after 6 hrs of being frustrated, misunderstood, generally feeling that who they are isn’t good enough, carrying in backpacks multiple red-pencilled commentaries attesting to that perception. Husband was traveling during the week; I felt permanently exhausted & helpless to deal, blaming the system/ teachers, we all just wanted to retreat behind tv or game screens.

        One evening my wise sis, a SpEd teacher when my kids were young, listened to my phoned rant about the system calling them adhd etc. Then asked, “are you still watching TV during dinner?” And suggested we turn it off & try reading a story aloud, or exchanging jokes as we ate. That one little change began a new chapter in our family life.

      • For the thirty years I was a teacher (1975-2005), I had one parent in 1979-80 who met me after school one day and actually asked what she could do so her child in 7th grade, who was five years behind in her literacy skills, could catch up.

        My suggestion that that mother was to turn of the TV and replace it with reading time every day seven days a week 365 days a year. I told that mother she had to read at the same time in the same room and then after that reading time of a half hour minimum or more, she had to talk to and listen to her daughter about what they both read.

        That one mother was dubious, but she reluctantly said she’d do it. About eight months later near the end of the school year, her daughter tested at the 7th grade level. She’d made up that five year deficit in her literacy skills in one year, and that mother wrote a letter praising my advice and she mailed it to the district’s superintended. I was told that letter went into my file.

        During those thirty years, I worked with about 6,000 students and that one mother was the only parent who came to one of her daughter’s teachers, me, and asked for advice, and then followed through.

        Much later, a few years before I retired from teaching, one of my female students asked me what she could do to get out of the reading lab. This 9th grade student was in my grade level, college prep English class but she was reading far below grade level and she was stuck in two periods of reading lab in an attempt to catch her up. The reading lab out the high school is where all of the kids went to help them catch up. When the district wanted to cut the reading labs to save money during contract negations one year, the teachers voted to cut back their pay increase demands to keep that class. The teachers also agreed to teach more kids per class too. Concessions made by the teachers and their union to keep what teachers felt were vital services for kids who were reading below grade level.

        Anyway, I gave the same advice to this 9th grade student. I asked her if she read books at home. She said no. I told her to stop talking on the phone, watching TV, playing video games and listening to music and to read at least 30 minutes every day. I told her the more she read, the faster she’d get out of the reading labs. She did as I suggested but read several hours a day instead of the minimum of thirty minuets.

        She tested out of the reading lab in 10th grade because she caught up to grade level in her literacy skills. She also did all the work in my class and earned an A. To earn that grade, she had to do many of her assignments over to improve the grade on them.

    • Thank you West Coast Teacher, Former Teacher, and Lloyd for three of the best posts I’ve ever read on Diane’s blog. Petrilli would not stand a chance in a debate with the three of you.

      • Former Teacher

        Thanks! I’d love an opportunity to share my experiences and beliefs! Maybe I should bring data to prove my points LOL.

        Lloyd, I wanted to say that when students came to me asking what they could do to get their grades up I’d always tell them “do as much math and practice as much as you can – anything you are unsure about needs to be asked about”. The kiddos had to put in the work, behind grade level or not! If you put the work in and utilized resources provided (and believe me, I offered many resources: online discussion boards for students and parents, videos that I created myself on the material taught in class, and plenty of in-class time to get a start on assignments, preprinted notes, online communication system, supplemental materials available for students who may needed a brush up of basic facts…we didn’t skip a beat, which allowed all the time in class for questions and discussions). It was an amazing system and I miss it! The kids knew I didn’t play, and that was my reputation – gosh I’d be fired in a second in a data driven charter school. I want to teach again and make it even better!

        I guess how I want to end this post is to agree with you, Lloyd, about helping students who don’t want to help themselves. I wouldn’t ever give up on them, and I’d offer them resources (and sometimes we’d make other agreements specific to them that were between me and them)…but if they didn’t want it, there was only so much I could do – but I always tried to make it a learning moment. I feel like there’s this huge denial plaguing our public schools. Denial doesn’t fix a problem. America, your drowning our public schools. Do you want us to be the best of all of the developed nations? Stop this crap. You’re losing teachers, administrators, and the centers (or-could be centers) of our communities: our schools.

  14. kriskross

    “Test based accountability” is just nonsense, dreamed up by people who don’t understand how children learn. What world do they live in, anyway?

  15. vavrik2014

    Maybe Mike would like to comment on the inconsistency of curriculum, the RIB process and how many tenure teachers with good observations have been pushed out, the miss use of programs like Restorative Justice (in school suspension with a fancy name), the closing of schools while the community is not wanting it, the fact that they wipe out staff and rehire under the conditions of innovation when the staff should be in tact to vote for innovation, the number of non-certified teachers teaching, how much money is paid for alternative contract teachers, how long a teacher needs to wait to gain insurance, the one day off they are given while they wait, and the options that are forced on many disguised as choice. People would be interested in how Denver is meeting CRPE’s indicators and if the idea is to turn all schools into charter. More Strive anyone?

    • Former Teacher

      Funny you talked about “restorative justice”, another buzz word. In the school I previously worked for, “restorative justice” meant talking with a student about what they did wrong. If they did whatever they did wrong again, thy would be talked to again, and then again. After about the fifth or so time of talking with the student and discussing how their “actions have consequences and how their actions have hurt people”, they’d be assigned a detention.

      Give me a break. This coddling makes me sick.

    • Former Teacher

      But, I agree! I would love to see his responses to your questions.

  16. Christine

    I hear that common ground baloney from reformers bent on hairbrained ed schemes all the time. It’s their latest spin. Let’s hear from both sides b.s. When do they get off their failed theories? They are like a brainwashed cult, compleyely unable to see beyond their own belief system. Petrilli needs to stop. Just STOP!

    • Former Teacher

      The scariest part is how wide this “fad” has spread. These charters have plans of expanding over the next 10, 15+ years.

    • How do you force the charlatans to STOP, when the people have no idea of the extent of the betrayal that has been perpetrated already.

      You see, VAM — was not in existence when I, Susan Lee Schwartz, was eliminated… at the very moment when I was at the top of a four decade career, and the NYSEC Educator of Excellence.

      How did they do it, back then in the nineties?

      Why the same way that you would get a hospital to fail” take out theprofessionals who understand the complexities of the discipline. Medicine and pedagogy are not easily grasped by the public, which it is why the pundits who explain education cannot be charlatans selling magic elixirs.

      How did they begin the war on public education?
      They came after me, and all the ‘teacher-practitioners’ who understood how the brain of emergent learners actually ACQUIRES both SKILLS and KNOWLEDGE. Thinking critically (analyzing) is a very complex skill, and it needs an expert who can plan lessons that meet age-appropriate objectives.

      Replace that expert with an administrator, following a mandated ‘core’ unrelated to the needs of the human brain of a child, and the result is FAILING CHILDREN, and a failing school … which can be replaced by a CHARTER SCHOOL!

      Yes, it is Orwellian, and it was carefully planned, so that thenational conversation would be subverted from one about learning, which the professionals grasped, to one about teaching,which no one understood, but could easily be defined and attacked in the media.
      Thus, they began to ‘terminate’ the contracts and the careers of the veteran teachers who made NYC schools such a path to opportunity for so many.

      They began by eradicating the voice of the classroom practitioner who would never use the anti-learning curricula which was the Common Core?

      That was ME! For I had written my own curricula to meet the state objectives for the seventh grade, and the success of my students needed to DISAPPEAR, so I could be charged with incompetence.

      One hundred thousand EXPERIENCED TEACHER disappeared over two decades, and we talk, talk , talk about those charters, as the reproduce like bunnies.

      We need to speak in one voice to the public about this BETRAYAL that is ongoing under their noses.

      Betrayal must me a watchword., for that is what it is. The betrayal of the common good, that our children once learned.

  17. Randal Hendee

    Petrilli: “But do we want to start rooting for affluent kids to do worse?”

    This is the kind of disingenuous question the “trolls” ask. It’s a standard gambit for writers like Petrilli, and it disqualifies him from the conversation. When his supposedly substantive arguments fail–and they always do–he grasps at rhetorical straws.

    His career seems to be based on misconceptions about teaching and learning mingled with logical fallacies. He’s good at using those to spin a false narrative about public education, and that’s what he gets paid for. What his career isn’t based on is experience as a teacher or administrator (or a willingness to listen to teachers and administrators).

    When he claims “progress again with test based accountability,” he fails to note the circular nature of his claim. Besides, if you reduce the concept of progress to improved test scores–and then focus your efforts on improving those scores–even if scores do improve it doesn’t mean the kids have had a better education. Petrilli either doesn’t understand this, or he understands it very well but refuses to admit it. To admit it wouldn’t fit the agenda of the people who pay him.

    He claims to want rigor for kids, but from an intellectual rigor standpoint, his arguments are as flabby as they come. That’s why I’m not sure he deserves a bigger platform than he already has. But I guess his viewpoint offers a whetstone for Diane and others on which to sharpen theirs. So maybe it’s worth printing.

  18. Homeless Educator

    What a hoot! Petrilli provided this paper as evidence of “progress again with test based accountability,” when the paper itself actually used his own words to describe the lack of success of NCLB, the test-based accountability law, in closing the achievement gap, in the following statement (see page 4):

    “the lack of any effect in reading, and the fact that NCLB appears to have generated only modestly larger impacts among disadvantaged subgroups in math (and thus only made minimal headway in closing achievement gaps), suggests that, to date, the
    impact of NCLB has fallen short of its ambitious “moon-shot rhetoric” (Hess and Petrilli 2009).”

    They analyzed NAEP data, demonstrating how billions of dollars, and massive amounts of time and energy, have been wasted on RttT, CC and subsequent tests, when NAEP was already sufficient..

    Funny how 1% holds different meanings for different populations. 1% is just fine to “reformers” when it’s indicative of the billionaires who are now in charge of virtually everything important, and good enough when it describes the incremental progress of the disadvantaged post NCLB, but how many people with money put their savings in bank accounts that yield just 1% interest?

  19. NY Teacher

    The CORNERSTONES of test-and-punish accountability is a combination of MIS-TRUST of the teaching profession, BITCH-SLAP rhetoric, COERCION via THREATS, and UNFAIR/INVALID measures of accountability. DOOMED by its own guiding principles, test-and-punish accountability is DEAD in the water and Petrilli wants to give it mouth-to-mouth.

    Petrilli, You and your ilk should just stop and go away. You have violated the sacred oath of all those who work in the helping professions: Primum non nocere .

  20. Mike is nothing more then a paid huckster for Gates. He lost any and all credibility when he and Checker Finn sold out to the vendors. I wonder if Mike’s own children have to suffer through the pain and hurt brought on by Common Core.

  21. I’m impressed that he chose to allow you to put this out here, Diane.

    Every time I think of this man, I remember that ridiculous YouTube he put out, with him and his office mates cheerleading “Common Core” and ridiculing those who would question it’s validity and it’s motives.

    There has been little thought given for discussion and public debate on this issue. And it’s a very, very, very BIG issue.

    Thanks to both you and Jeannie for telling it like it is. I only wish Mr. Petrilli and those he represents would come down off of their self appointed thrones and listen to the people who really understand what’s needed in education. Too much money at stake, though. If wishes were fishes we’d all be casting nets.

  22. Please forgive me if I’m being banal, but what about the students who want to be truck drivers? Plumbers? What about the kids who have no clue whatsoever about what they want to be or do? Are they slackers and failures because they aren’t making it in Algebra?

    At first it was ALL about “college ready”. Then they threw in “…and career…”.

    This is grand standing. Words. Trying to make it seem so simple when it’s really not. At all.

    Not everyone is going to be “successful” by the time they graduate high school, no matter what standards are set or imposed. And who’s concept of “success” are we talking about here, anyway?

    To point fingers and label our education system as “failing” because we aren’t reaching all of our students is beyond absurd.

  23. Virginiasgp,

    Please do not forget that the Common Core standards and tests allegedly measure “college AND CAREER” readiness. Do you really believe that 2/3 of the children in this country are not suited either for college or careers? What shall we do with them? The tests are bunk. NAEP is an audit. We don’t need every child tested every year; no other nation does it. Why do we?

  24. Diane, what if the benchmarks were changed to:

    1. College-ready proficient

    2. Career-ready proficient

    3. Remediation-level

    4. Failing

    or something to that effect. Most would agree that there is some level below college-ready proficiency that nearly all students should attain. That is a lower standard than the NAEP’s “proficient”. Are we really just talking about semantics?

    You could even score the tests differently. For example, suppose students need to learn how to solve moderate level geometry and algebra questions to be ready for college. But for career readiness (own or work in a business), they really just need algebraic rate problems and more basic geometry. For college level readiness, we might expect students to explain the symbolism in novels whereas career readiness is more focused on understanding the content of basic contracts or instructions.

    The tests can classify questions based on content. So if a student missed all symbolism questions, those wouldn’t be held against his score for career readiness. For college readiness, the scores would be a composite across all skills.

    Would you be open to more nuanced views of the achievement of students? I think many agree that not all students can or even want to attend college. However, many politicians would disagree with that statement. Do you?

    (a little off-topic, but I am not even allowed to pick up my kids from school these days because I ask “critical questions” during PTA meetings. The autocratic tendencies are enshrined in all organizations and individuals if you let them wield their power without checks. That’s what you are seeing in the out-of-control charter schools as well)

  25. Virginia, there is no test that can measure college-readiness in 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, 7th grade, etc. The only college readiness test that has any predictive value is administered in 12th grade.

  26. Diane, fair point. But as a project manager, I must ensure that all of our work doesn’t occur on the last few days (weeks) or else we are doomed to failure. How do we ensure that students are on track in the 8th grade? Or maybe the 6th? It’s hard to learn geometry or algebra in 9th grade when you don’t understand fractions by the 6th? We set milestones to ensure that we can achieve the final goal by the final deadline. Surely you don’t suggest we wait until the 12th grade?

    And I’m not actually certain your definitive statement on the 12th grade test is correct. The SAT/ACT have as much predictive value as GPA but are often taken in the 11th or even 10th grade. If we analyzed PSAT results in the 10th, they might well be informative.

    But what about the core of my suggestion. I think we agree not all students should go to college. But shouldn’t there be different standards for different students? It’s hard to consistently report on readiness for skilled trades (electrician, nurse, contractor, etc.) so I’m not suggesting some grand testing regime. But if folks don’t think Algebra 2 is needed for all jobs (probably a fair point), then why don’t we create other benchmarks for various occupations that would discount those questions on the test? I realize that’s a long slog to create the consensus, but are you at least open to that perspective? (in the world of metrics, we try to get the most informative view for a specific target, that’s all this is).

  27. Virginia, It’s arguable that I wasn’t college ready until 1966 (I was 21), the moment a sniper in Vietnam came within a fraction of an inch of taking me out. As I lay in the dirt, with the safety off of my M14 and a round in the chamber, searching for a target I never found, I decided it was time to be college ready.

    Up until that moment I was not ready to go to college. In 1968 after the Marines honorably discharged me, I started college on the GI Bill. Two years later, I earned an AS degree and in 1973 I earned a BA in journalism. Years later I’d earn an MFA in writing.

    And because I was an avid reader as a child, after my mother beat learning to read into seven year old me with a wire coat hanger, in 1968 I had a literacy level that was adequate for college work. To reach that literacy level, I read thousands of books for fun starting at about age 10. I was even reading paperbacks in Vietnam that my mother mailed to me from the states.

    No high stakes Common Core Crap test has the power to make an individual ready for college. You are ready when you are ready or you are never ready. It’s an individual choice. Parents, of course, can help by raising their children to love to read on their own for fun starting as early as age 2—even if it takes a wire coat hanger to motivate the child to learn to read.

  28. Virginia, I agree that there should be different standards for different students. Not everyone wants to attend Harvard, Princeton or Yale. Those who do must meet higher standards than those who don’t. You just hit on one of the flaws in the Common Core standards. The assumption behind them is that every child will meet the same high standards, no matter what their interests, motivations, or goals. You may not be suggesting “some grand testing regime,” but the U.S. Department of Education shelled out $360 million for such a regime, hoping that every child in the country would take the same rigorous exams (different names, same rigor, same standards, same developmental inappropriateness). One of the glories of American education has been its willingness to allow 2nd and 3rd and 4th chances. A student who was not doing well in 4th grade might find something that lights her interests in 8th grade. We do not believe in determinism, or not until now.

    And by the way, it is well established and accepted, even by the SAT/ACT, that a four-year GPA has greater predictive value than the arbitrary score on a test taken on a single day. That is why nearly 1,000 colleges and universities are now test-optional.

  29. Virginia, you said, “It’s hard to learn geometry or algebra in 9th grade when you don’t understand fractions by the 6th.”

    I’m going to use me for an example.

    I barely graduated from high school and had no desire to go to college. That’s why I went straight into the Marines and ended up in Vietnam were I suddenly decided college was a good idea after all. In high school I only took general math. I never took algebra, geometry, trig, or calculus. I was a horrible student who just happened to be an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy and historical fiction. Textbooks, not so much.

    I started in a two year community college at age 23, and that’s where I was required to take algebra, geometry, trig, calculus and physics. I passed all those classes I never had in high school.

    Project managers are not needed in the public schools. Teachers are. But kids really do need parents who introduce them to books as early as age 2 if those parents want their children to be college ready by the end of high school.

  30. Diane, I think we agree on this. The CC standards are the top-end, 100% proficiency standards for college-ready students who will make the transition with ease. We know many (if not most) students won’t take the path of a four-year degree straight out of high school. So while “proficient” on PARCC/SBAC is the standard for the college-bound kids, a lower standard is appropriate for other careers.

    But let me make this point. I’m not saying that if say 60% correct equates to “proficient”, then say 40% correct equates to “career-ready”. I’m saying we analyze the actual questions that were answered correctly. A “career-ready” student should still understand how to use fractions or read non-fiction for comprehension. They could get 0% of the Algebra II or poetry symbolism questions correct but still should be able to answer most of the fractions and non-fiction comprehension questions. And since the standards are cumulative, answering questions up thru the 7th grade standards correctly on the 8th grade exam, should still result in a good score.

    Maybe you are correct that some reformers will try to beat public schools down if these nuanced approaches are taken. I highly doubt most will. Just like Petrilli was pleased with incremental growth, we need an honest, comprehensive assessment of the status quo and then strategies to improve the education for kids seeking different outcomes. I’m sure I am not the first one to think about this. What have those discussions yielded in the past?

    Lloyd, I agree that kids take different paths. I’m a big fan of endeavors that cause kids to grow up like the military. The Mormon missions seem quite effective. Or even things like peace corps. However, many kids are ready for college at 18. And even if they are not ready to buckle down for 4 years of college, having those skills at 18 is very useful. But that just shows why we need to have goals as well as differentiated targets for different career aspirations.

    As for the reading of books, that’s a good goal. But not all kids are going to read. And while reading opens doors to learn additional knowledge, I would argue that basic math understanding is just as important. When kids understand the core concepts of math at an early age, they never feel left behind. They enjoy math. But once they fall behind and fear math, it’s an uphill struggle. Parents can help but the truth is many can’t or won’t. If parents could/did teach everything we wouldn’t need teachers.

    This goes back to the ASA statement. Nobody says teachers don’t matter in learning or test scores. They do or else we wouldn’t need to pay them. There is a reason most can remember an inspiring teacher. One more inspiring than their parents’ lectures to study in school. We need great teachers. Parents are not enough.

    And yes, there are many paths to a college education. But are you really suggesting that kids take your route? It was great that you took algebra and geometry at 23 in community college. Do you recommend that strategy to your kids/grandkids and/or students? I rather doubt that. Even for grad school, it’s typically more likely one attends graduate school at a young age before life’s responsibilities (spouse, kids, house, etc.) interfere.

    So what exactly is wrong with the CC standards or with more nuanced standards for kids seeking different careers again?

    gitapik, I don’t think any reasonable person is saying students should be 100% “proficient” by PARCC/SBAC standards. We want to make a significant chunk of students ready for college (probably can increase from 1/3 up to 40%) and a much larger share of students “career ready” which I am defining as slightly lower standards than college-ready. If 35-40% of students are “college-ready”, public schools will not get slammed. That would be an improvement just like Petrilli notied in their district.

    Oh, and Diane, this slate article sums up why SAT/ACTs are very useful. They not only predict college success on par with GPAs, but combined they are superior to either one alone. And for low-income kids, the SAT/ACT is a major predictor of success with this coming from the Minnesota study:

    “In all the data sets, the SAT showed incremental validity over secondary school grades in predicting subsequent academic performance, and this incremental relationship was not substantially affected by controlling for SES.”

  31. Virginia,

    The Common Core standards don’t predict anything. How do you know they are a measure of college-readiness? No one has ever had 12 years of CC standards and then gone to college. They were never tested. No one knows whether they predict readiness for college. They certainly don’t predict readiness for careers.

  32. So, Diane, are you suggesting we take the ASA’s advice and provide caveats on the PARCC/SBAC test results so that parents and taxpayers understand these standards haven’t been fully tested? I would support that.

    Isn’t it great that we are going to get so much useful longitudinal data to prove whether it does predict readiness at earlier grades? As a researcher yourself, I’m sure you just love that aspect of CC. Isn’t that what academic excellence is all about?

    Surely you aren’t suggesting that we don’t need “early warning indicators” for both students, teachers and schools? For students, we need to know early on whether intervention is required. Students may be able to fool some teachers. We’ve seen athletes graduate with decent grades who can’t read. Standardized tests can help identify those situations. Teachers need early warnings regarding the effectiveness of their instruction. Many principals barely set foot in classrooms these days. If a teacher doesn’t teach the 4th or 8th grade NAEP subjects, there is no objective measurement of their instruction. Teachers deserve the feedback that growth scores provide. And I’ll be the first to admit that some schools with low test scores overall provide effective instruction. But we need to identify schools that don’t early on. As demographics change, the only way to determine the effectiveness of schools is by annual testing. My friend John Butcher (ex VA Attorney General employee) has identified wide discrepancies in the performance of Richmond schools with similar SES students.

    Reformers are open to novel ideas. Please provide them. But surely an “early warning system” for career and college readiness is essential if we truly intend to Leave No Child Behind.

  33. NYC public school parent

    The colleges themselves — and I mean the best ones — don’t think the common core tests predict anything. That’s why they don’t care about the results of the Regents’ exams or any other state tests. Now more of them don’t even care about the results of the SATs.

    Is Virginia claiming that not using SATs as the main admissions criteria demonstrates that colleges have low standards these days?

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When Is Enough Enough?

Two items have crossed my desk over the past 24 hours that require coverage.


The first item involves a report just out from the University of Washington’s Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) (Creepier than CREEP), the Center that awarded Denver Public Schools a bronze medal for being third best in the nation at implementing reform strategies. The study released today paints a very different picture as it cites Denver as the district with the largest achievement gap in reading and math based on socioeconomics out of ALL OF THE 50 URBAN DISTRICTS STUDIED for the past three years. That’s right.  Denver Public Schools is dead last in closing the gap between children living in poverty and those not. Even the “reform” funded, “reform” supporting  online newspaper, Chalkbeat Colorado, had a difficult time putting a positive spin on these findings.


“Of all the cities, Denver had the largest achievement gaps in both math and reading between students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch and other students – 38 percent in reading and 30 percent in math over three years studied. The gap nationally was about 14 percent….The report… paints a largely discouraging picture of U.S. urban education, especially when it comes to hard-to-serve students.”


The CRPE report provides information that is extremely important for public education nationally. It is even more important to Denver voters at this time because there is a school board election rapidly approaching (All mail in ballot election.  You must vote by 7 p.m., November 3, 2015.  Ballots go out mid-October), and three candidates are strongly supporting continuing the direction this District is going.  The current Board president and at-large candidate Allegra “Happy” Haynes, touted her work for the past four years, and cited the DPS strategic plan, Denver Plan 2020, with its focus on reducing the gap, as a reason to re-elect her. In a debate October 5, 2015 she said, “I believe this is the progress we’ve made under my leadership and that of my colleagues.”  This gap has increased in all three academic areas for the past ten years of “reform” and this progress has landed this District at the very bottom of the heap regarding one of the five tenets of the Denver Plan 2020 – the newly named Opportunity Gap.  Call it what you will – opportunity or achievement – the reality is the gap has increased between economic (Free and Reduced Lunch and paying students) and ethnic groups (white students and students of color).  After ten years of focusing on reducing this, the exact opposite has occurred.  Isn’t it time for a change?  Robert Speth, parent not politician is challenging Ms. Haynes for this at-large position.

The other incumbent running for re-election, Anne Rowe from District 1 in Southeast Denver, also continuously cites her work on the Denver Plan 2020, again focusing on reducing the gap. I will be honest here: The Denver Plan 2020 taken in its entirety is long on platitudes and very, very short on how to achieve its goals. For the most part, the solutions seem to involve doing more of the same. What is the definition of insanity?  I say – and if you really care about public education in this country you should, too – enough is enough. I am going to use a “reform” phrase: NO MORE EXCUSES! “Reform” is harming our children. “Reform” is failing to provide our students with a real 21st century education.  Kristi Butkovich is challenging her with a campaign based on collaboration, community and commitment to kids.   The third seat being contested is an open one because current member and neighborhood school advocate Arturo Jimenez is term limited.  Michael Kiley, parent, is the candidate with a voice for strong neighborhood schools.


The second piece of information to be shared is this: The Academic and Innovation Office (see Another Reorganization at DPS) just released the individual salaries for all 54 Directors, Managers, Executive Directors and Chiefs for this department. The grand total: $5,347,738.96. ($4,754,846.27 and $592,892.69 from grants) That is correct. $5.35 million in salaries for 54 people for an average of just under $100,000 per position. The highest salary is that of the Chief Academic and Innovation Officer at $178,955.32. The average starting teacher salary in Denver Public Schools is $39,000. I will do the math for you. At $39,000 per teacher this district could be hiring 137 more teachers. Now, we pretty much know the past ten years have been a failure in almost all aspects of educating our children and respecting out communities’ wishes.  At the same time we pretty much know individualized attention, smaller classes, an enriched curriculum, more professional educators, attention to the non-educational needs of our children, particularly those who live in poverty and those who speak English as a second language, can produce well educated students. Just ask the guys in charge why their parents sent them to private school.  This is just one department, but it is one that has grown exponentially as the Denver Public Schools continues to struggle with its main responsibility: educating Denver’s children. It is also the department that houses most of the managers charged with improving the education of Denver’s students.

So, I ask you, when is enough enough?  We have more national proof that what Denver Public Schools is doing is not working.  We have overwhelming local proof of the same. Enough is Enough!





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