Spelling test.

The White House posted a picture of Betsy DeVos at that Easter Egg thing on Snapchat and misspelled her job title.


A couple of months ago, the Department of Education (sp?) posted a tweet about the great African American historian and American hero, W.E.B. du Bois and misspelled his name.

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Spelling correctly seems to be a problem. And not a new one. When I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago, they spelled my degree incorrectly.


I received the diploma in the mail a few months after I finished the program and noticed the error. I made a copy of it, circled Bachelor of Arts in Art Educaton with a red marker, and sent the copy back to the Chancellor.

One of the things you learn to do in any quality educaton program is how to use a red marker to humiliate someone.

The Chancellor wrote me back.

He demanded I return the diploma so they could send me a corrected one.

No friggin’ way!

That kind of mistake on a stamp makes it more valuable.

Who knows what this diploma is worth today in auction?

Download Hitting Left podcast #11.


I know you are upset about privatizing public schools, but please keep your voice down.


Betsy DeVos.

It is odd the way corporate school reformers obsess about the tone of conversations.

I know that I have been known to raise my voice now and then. But that has more to do with the fact that I frequently forget to put in my hearing aids and I talk louder when that happens.

There are things I am passionate about, however. I am for preserving public education, which many of us consider a basic component of a democratic society.

Defending and expanding democracy seems more important than ever these days.

There is this debate between the corporate reform Fordham Foundation’s Robert Pondisco and former Arne Duncan advisor Peter Cunningham. It’s appears in Education Next, a website that promotes privatization and is run by the usual corporate reform suspects like Frederick Hess, Michael Petrilli, and Chester Finn.

Peter Cunningham runs a site of his own, funded with more corporate money (there seems to be an endless supply), that supports charters and “choice.” Cunningham’s shtick is to decry loud voices when neighborhood schools get shuttered. Can’t we all just get along?

And so in the Education Next debate, he criticizes Pondisco for pitting charters against vouchers.

Given President-elect Trump’s stated desire to radically expand school choice, a robust debate about charters and vouchers is needed and welcome, but let’s begin by remembering that movements grow through addition, not division. Manufacturing a battle between charter and voucher supporters doesn’t help the school choice movement or kids.

With Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, neighborhood public schools aren’t even in the equation. Why get into a fight over charters versus vouchers? We can have it all! Don’t manufacture a debate between vouchers and charters, whispers Cunningham, when the real target is the neighborhood public school.

Neighborhood schools are what the right-wingers like to  call government schools. Y’know. Like government cops and government roads and government health care (which the rest of the industrialized world seems to enjoy, but not us).

Another corporate reform heavyweight, Frederick Hess of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, is also outraged at those loud voices that oppose the Betsy DeVos pick to be Education Secretary.

To appreciate fully the tenor of the response to DeVos, one should know that the national education debate usually proceeds with a modicum of civility. A year ago, when President Obama nominated former New York commissioner of education John King to be secretary of education, King was greeted courteously and approved rapidly by the Republican Senate — despite King’s troubled tenure in New York, one that featured a disastrous rollout of the Common Core. In fact, King’s warm reception followed seven years of troubling activity at the Obama Department of Education itself

.It’s worth recalling, also, the greeting how Arne Duncan, Obama’s first secretary of education, was greeted when nominated in 2008. Duncan, who had never taught, had served for seven years as superintendent of schools in Chicago — where he presided over some of the nation’s highest-paid teachers, mediocre student outcomes, and a massively underfunded pension fund. As a basketball-playing buddy of Obama’s, Duncan could have been attacked as nothing more than a Chicago crony. Instead, the response to Duncan was glowing. In the New York Times, reporter Sam Dillon wrote: “Arne Duncan, the Chicago schools superintendent known for taking tough steps to improve schools while maintaining respectful relations with teachers and their unions, is President-elect Barack Obama’s choice as secretary of education.” The Wall Street Journal’s Collin Levy termed Duncan “the CEO of the Chicago public schools and the ultimate diplomat.” Levy wrote: “Fans also note that he helped raise the cap on charter schools to 30 from 15. . . . He’s known for a flexibility that allows him to float between the traditional Democratic strongholds and the new wave of reformers in the party.”

A revisionist history if there ever was one.

The reaction to the Duncan and King choices by Obama for Education Secretary may have been smiles from the New York Times, but not from those of us who fight for democratic control of public schools.

Education progressives battled Duncan and King for eight years.

In fact, it was Frederick Hess and the AEI that were in love with Arne Duncan.

Back in 2010, Hess and Petrilli penned a love letter to Arne Duncan.

Duncan’s was a speech unlike any we have heard from a U.S. Secretary of Education-Republican or Democrat. He said resources are limited, embraced the need to make tough choices, urged states and districts to contemplate boosting some class sizes and consolidating schools, and didn’t spend much time trying to throw bones to the status quo.

Duncan called for wide-ranging reforms in the name of cost-effectiveness. He said, “The legacy of the factory model of schooling is that tens of billions of dollars are tied up in unproductive use of time and technology, in underused school buildings, in antiquated compensation systems, and in inefficient school finance systems.” He rightly argued that schooling had to abandon the notion that reform is always bought and paid for with new dollars and argued that it’s essential to think of technology as a “force multiplier” rather than a pleasing add-on. His to-do list was comprehensive and spot on. He said, “Rethinking policies around seat-time requirements, class size, compensating teachers based on their educational credentials, the use of technology in the classroom, inequitable school financing, the over placement of students in special education—almost all of these potentially transformative productivity gains are primarily state and local issues that have to be grappled with.”

In one speech, this (Democratic) Secretary of Education came out swinging against last hired, first fired, seniority-based pay raises, smaller class sizes, seat time, pay bonuses for master’s degrees, and over-bloated special education budgets. Which means he declared war on the teachers unions, parents groups, education schools, and special education lobby. Not a bad day’s work!

To be sure, Duncan has control over almost none of this. Still, this is classic bully-pulpit stuff, and we expect it will resonate big-time in state capitols all over the country. When the unions start busing in kids, parents, and teachers to rally against increases in class size or pay freezes, expect a lot of Republican governors to start quoting their good friend Arne Duncan.

So I am saying that Peter Cunningham and the rest of them notwithstanding this is no time to lower our voices.

Yell louder.

On education the Democratic Party abandons Peter Cunningham. I’ll take that as a win.


Quick! Tell me who won last year’s Oscar for Best Picture.

That is nearly the value I place on Party platforms. After the convention, nobody remembers them. But if you’re going to get into the fight for the Democratic Party nomination, and the platform fight is part of that process, then be in for a dime – in for a dollar.

Former Arne Duncan Department of Education mouthpiece Peter Cunningham says the platform adopted (Get this: “behind closed doors”) “abandons Democratic Party core values” on education.

Well, it is about damn time.

Democrats are now against “high-stakes standardized tests that falsely and unfairly label students of color, students with disabilities, and English Language learners as failing.”

Peter hates that.

Democrats are also against “the use of standardized test scores as a basis for refusing to fund schools or to close schools.”


Democrats are also against “the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations.”


And, Democrats are now officially supporting parents who “opt their children out of standardized tests without penalty for either the student or the school.”

Oh, no!

Next, we support only “democratically governed great neighborhood public schools.” That excludes all schools in cities without elected school boards and will be unwelcome news to leading Democratic Mayors like Bill de Blasio of New York and Rahm Emanuel of Chicago.

Yes, Peter. We in Chicago have definitely noticed we don’t democratically govern our schools.

Cunningham even has reservations about the rather tame criticism of charter schools: He calls it “extreme” that the Democratic Party supports “high-quality public charter schools,” as long as they don’t, “replace or destabilize traditional public schools.”

The Democratic Party’s platform on education has some pretty good stuff.

If anybody remembers it after the convention.

Why do the Democrats suck on education?

Romney on education. For the right of teachers to strike. Against Common Core.

Brother Mike represents the feelings many of us have when it comes to the Obama administration’s education policies.

Today he comments on his Small Talk blog about the awful Obama interview with Savannah Guthrie on Education Nation.

After some double-talk and a few rhetorical bones thrown to AFT and NEA leaders about not relying “completely” on standardized tests (only mainly on them), Obama tells us with a straight face that “teachers have embraced the idea of merit pay.” Is he serious? Did he even read the papers about Chicago and how 30,000 city teachers united like fingers in a fist to beat back Rahm’s failed merit-pay mandate?

This reminds me of IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin’s absurd claim that Illinois’ Senate Bill 7 was “teacher-led reform.”

They just make this shit up.

The question I keep getting asked is why are the Democrats so bad on education issues? Why is there no attempt to distinguish themselves from the Republicans on this issue. They at least pay lip service to differences for electoral purposes on other issues?

My answer is not fully developed, to be sure. But in an odd way I think they do distinguish themselves from the Republicans on education.

When Mitt appeared on Education Nation (by the way, that NBC series is just the most depressing to watch) he basically argued for no federal role in education at all. For example, he says there should be no federal support for Common Core.

“You know, I think it’s fine for people to lay out what they think core subjects might be and to suggest a pedagogy and being able to provide that learning to our kids,” Romney said. “I don’t subscribe to the idea of the federal government trying to push a common core on various states. It’s one thing to put it out as a model and let people adopt it as they will, but to financially reward states based upon accepting the federal government’s idea of a curriculum, I think, is a mistake. And the reason I say that is that there may be a time when the government has an agenda that it wants to promote.”

And in the same interview he chided Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for pushing a “national curriculum,” although he added that he likes that the Obama administration has championed new teacher-evaluation systems and prodded states to expand charter schools through Race to the Top.

It appears that the GOP that the Tea Party conservatives have gained control over is a party that says it wants no federal role in education at all. It wants no Department of Education.

In the sixties, federal education policy stood in opposition to racist states’ rights school segregation laws. Now the Democrat’s federal policies seem to have morphed into policies that are driven by the corporate agenda.

Even George Bush’s No Child Left Behind was more Ted Kennedy than George Bush.

If you’re a rich hedge fund manager and want to steer federal policy toward’s the corporate agenda, would you set up a Republicans for Education Reform?  I don’t think so. If for no other reasons than the practical ones.  You would give your millions to the Democrats. They are the ones who actually want to impact national education policy.


K-12 is missing in action at the Democratic National Convention.

If you were watching the convention, even the gavel to gavel coverage on CSPAN, you would be hard pressed to hear anything that referred to the last four years of education policy coming out of the Department of Education. Or plans for the next four years.

The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss compares the 2008 Democratic Party platform with the 2012 version. The tiny section that speaks to K-12 public schools drops any reference to teacher participation in creating new models of teacher evaluation in the 2012 platform. They actually said there needs to be teacher participation when they wrote the 2008 version. Although apparently Arne didn’t bother to read the 2008 version.

Remember that the National Education Association was the first union to endorse Obama and our 200 delegates make us the largest organization of any kind represented at the DNC.

If you thought there was a debate over vouchers or charters schools, you wouldn’t know it by reading the Democratic Party platform. The words don’t appear.

There are lots of references to high standards and compensation for good teaching. In case you miss what they’re talking about, I guess that means the Democrats are against compensation for bad teaching. Or this is code for merit pay. Who knows?

I asked several friends if they heard Arne Duncan last night. Most said they missed it.

So here it is.


They didn’t miss much.

Oh. He did remind us to watch out for China because education is about jobs.

In case you thought education was about making sense of the world you live in. About living a life of meaning and inquiry. About seeing things through the different lenses that the disciplines of knowledge provide.

Ah. I know. That would make for a weird party platform.

Logan Square Neighborhood Association among two dozen community organizations opposing Duncan’s turnaround strategy.

The Logan Square Neighborhood Association is a long-time community organization based in the northwest side of Chicago. Logan Square is also where I have lived for the past 35 years.

Yesterday LSNA joined with two dozen other statewide and national community organizations calling themselves Communities for Excellent Public Schools. They issued a report which blasted the Administration’s school turnaround strategy.

In a section of the report called “Top down turnaround – Defying the research,” the organizations say:

Many education experts and advocates have expressed concern over the narrow range of options for school turnaround. Others have decried the lack of mandated public involvement in determining and implementing the interventions. Communities for Excellent Public Schools concurs. Although we wholeheartedly agree with the need for dramatic and meaningful improvements, we believe there are several reasons why the Administration’s limited top-down mandates are both bad policy and bad educational strategy.

Civil Rights groups break with Obama on education.

When last month the delegates to the National Education Association voted no confidence on Race to the Top it signaled the beginning of an open break with the Obama administration on education by a key section the progressive wing of the coalition that elected him.

It was unfortunate that the AFT buried a similar resolution using bureaucratic convention rules.

But no matter.

Today, the entire core of the US Civil Rights Movement joined the NEA in opposition to the Obama education agenda.

Placing themselves in opposition to the administration are the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Schott Foundation for Public Education, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Coalition for Educating Black Children, National Urban League, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

From Race to the Top, to charter schools, to most of the prescriptive federal demands on local states and school districts, these main stream civil right groups stand firmly in opposition.

More to come, I’m sure.

“Leave the kids, take the cannoli.”

Great column by NY teacher, Arthur Goldstein in Gotham Schools.

Nowhere is that shortage more profoundly felt than at 250-percent-capacity Francis Lewis High School, where I teach. New kids walk in every day, and with nowhere else to go, and no one new to help, it’s 35 in this class, 40 in that one, and battle your next-door neighbor over that much-coveted extra chair on a fairly regular basis.

To preclude such occurrences, I went to the American Arbitration Association this spring and grieved 34 classes that were in violation of the teachers union contract. We won the grievance, and Boss Tweed was ordered to correct its violations.

Two weeks later I counted over 60 oversized classes. Needless to say, I was not pleased. But when you deal with the bosses, that’s the way things go. Sure, they were ordered to comply. But why should they? What’s the upside in complying with agreements that don’t directly benefit their inner circle? Weeks ago, Lewis requested centrally funded ATR teachers to help cut class sizes, and thus far Tweed has sent precisely one.

10 million say no to ESEA competitive grants.

17 national education organizations, representing 10 million people, issued a statement expressing their disapproval of R2T style competitive grants as part of ESEA reauthorization.

WASHINGTON, April 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of 17 national education associations representing over ten million parents, educators and policymakers, released the following statement:

“The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been a critical instrument in the federal government’s efforts to promote equity in education. The Learning First Alliance (LFA) believes equity must remain a non-negotiable goal of ESEA reauthorization. We applaud the Obama Administration’s proposal to increase federal resources for public schools in 2011. But we urge Congress to avoid provisions that could undermine, rather than support, equity.

For this reason, ESEA should not divert substantial federal resources into competitive grant programs. This strategy threatens to penalize low-income children in school districts that lack the capacity to prepare effective grant proposals. It risks deepening the disparities between rich and poor districts, effectively denying resources to the students who need them most.”

The Learning First Alliance is a permanent partnership of 17 leading education associations with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America’s public schools.  Alliance members include:  the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Association of School Administrators, American Association of School Personnel Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American School Counselor Association, Association of School Business Officials International, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Education Association, National Middle School Association, National School Public Relations Association, National Staff Development Council, National PTA, National School Boards Association and Phi Delta Kappa International.  The Alliance maintains www.publicschoolinsights.org, a website that features what’s working in public schools and districts across the country.

If those were the odds in Vegas…

roulettewheelBrother Mike at Small Talk is wondering how Whitney Young, the premier Chicago selective admission high school, Deerfield and New Trier, in the wealthy Chicago northern suburbs, are beating the odds. Beating the odds was the criteria Arne Duncan used in awarding Blue Ribbon schools their ribbons.

He also wonders why no privately managed charters made the list?

Is anyone at the USDE wondering?

What do they wonder about in the USDE?