Curmudgucation blog takes on edTPA today.

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Curmudgucation blog takes on edTPA today.

“Blogger and retired teacher Fred Klonsky has had many conversations and taken much flak for his comments about edTPA as it has sunk its fangs into Illinois, but he’s been right all along.”

The Curmudgucation post starts by having a little fun wirth EdWeek’s Steven Sawchuk. And Sawchuk takes offense on Twitter.

Poor Steven Sawchuk. I had heard that EdWeek and some of Sawchuk’s columns were financially underwritten by Gates Foundation money, even when he writes about the Gates Foundation. I was going to ask Sawchuk about the report at the NEA RA which he was supposed to be covering. When I went to the press section to talk about it with him, I was told he had already gone home, although he didn’t mention that he wasn’t there in his “first-hand” reports.

Is that snark, Steven? Sorry.


Thanks to Curmudgucation for the mention and the edTPA post. And here is his blog piece with a jump to his blog.


Over at EdWeek, Steven Sawchuk is asking the musical question, “Are New Teacher Tests Vulnerable to Cheating?” I look forward to other tough-to-answer EdWeek articles like “Will the sun rise in the east tomorrow?” and “Does the Pope avoid bears in the woods?”

The answer is, “Of course.” edTPA (the “new teacher test” in question) is one more demonstration of the Law of Bad Assessment– the more inauthentic the assessment and the more removed from what is actually being assessed, the easier it is to cheat.

edTPA does not assess an aspiring teacher’s teaching skills. It assesses their skills in filling out the paperwork involved in edTPA. It assesses their ability to cough up a bunch of money to pay for the edTPA process. It assesses their ability to jump through the edTPA hoops in the exact manner preferred by the edTPA assessors.

All of these tasks are far removed from actually teaching a class. They are inauthentic measures of teaching skill, aptitude and knowledge, and they are all enormously gameable, and it was utterly and completely predictable, given the high stakes involved (will you get to be a teacher, or have you just wasted four years of your life and a buttload of money), that some business would emerge to help with that gaming.

Meet edTPA Tutoring. 

We can help you in any way you need to complete and pass your edTPA. We are a small company with dedicated tutors ready to work with you individually and confidentially to help you pass the edTPA. We have been in business for three years and we have a 100% success rate. 

The confidentiality part is particularly tasty. There’s also a part about how “the Client will handle all video cutting as requested by the Consultant.” In other words, these guys will help you edit your video for best effect.

The cost? $49.00 an hour, which is pretty manageable given how much is riding on your edTPA hoop-jumping festival.

Read the entire post here.

edTPA. The Gates and NCTQ plan, a long time in the works.


Graphic: Rethinking Schools

edTPA is not new.

I have been posting about it now because the implementation of edTPA in Illinois, mandated by the Democratic Party controlled state legislature as the path to teacher certification, is moving at full steam.

If you go back to the summer of 2013 Rethinking Schools has an article by Wayne Au which places edTPA right in the center of the debate over corporate school reform, the Gates Foundation and the corporate National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

Incidentally, I wrote about the cozy relationship between the Illinois Education Association’s Executive Director Audrey Soglin and NCTQ back in April of 2013.

But this is part of what Wayne Au wrote for Rethinking Schools two years ago:

Conservatives have been developing an infrastructure to attack teacher education at least since 2000, when the Thomas B. Fordham Institute created the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). As former Fordham Institute board member Diane Ravitch recalls: “Conservatives, and I was one, did not like teacher training institutions. . . . [The Fordham Institute] established NCTQ as a new entity to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the hated ed schools.”

With $5 million from then-Secretary of Education Rod Paige and the Bush administration, the NCTQ founded the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), which would grant anyone a “passport to teaching” as a valid teaching credential in any state that agreed, as long as the individual had a bachelor’s degree and passed a background check and a computer test. Voucher proponents and advocates for privatizing public education filled the ABCTE’s advisory board, and Kate Walsh, now president of NCTQ, served on its board of directors.

Although the ABCTE still exists as an online teacher certification program (get your teaching credential for just under $2,000!), it lives on the fringes of the national education policy conversation. On the other hand, corporate education reformers have placed NCTQ in a position of national prominence. Diane Ravitch explains: “Today, NCTQ is the partner of U.S. News & World Report and will rank the nation’s schools of education. It received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to review teacher quality in Los Angeles. It is now often cited as the nation’s leading authority on teacher quality issues. Its report has a star-studded technical advisory committee of corporate reform leaders like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee.”

NCTQ supports the use of high-stakes test scores in teacher evaluation (known as value-added measurement, or VAM), including using test scores of students to rate the teacher education programs from which their teachers graduated. Taking a page directly out of the rabidly pro-corporate American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) playbook on education reform, NCTQ has already issued report cards for teacher education by state and is on the verge of “grading” most individual teacher education programs in the country.

Kate Walsh and the NCTQ are part of the cabal of corporate reformers dismantling public education today, and they have teacher education squarely in their sights.

So the edTPA has to be seen strategically as a push back against the forces of corporate education reform. It aims to reframe teaching as a profession along the lines of being a medical doctor or a lawyer (think national bar exam for teachers).

This would explain why edTPA has roots in the ideas of Linda Darling-Hammond and other proponents of focusing on teacher quality.

Like other education reform ideas that seemed good at the time, they often get turned into their opposites with the infusion of foundation and corporate dollars.

I got into a Twitter debate about edTPA with John Seelke, an employee of the University of Maryland and someone who does student teacher placement and supervision

He has been one of the rare defenders of edTPA to comment since I started writing about it.

Seelke’s objectivity is suspect as someone who is employed to implement edTPA.

But he raises a good question:

“Connection to Gates? Is edTPA perfect? No…do it think it’s better than other current assessments like praxis?”

By praxis, John means the current system of local cooperating teacher evaluation along with a university or college supervisor.

Au raises a similar question:

If we sink the edTPA, what will we be left with? In the midst of corporate education reform, will we in teacher education get stuck with whatever Kate Walsh, the NCTQ, and the privatizers have in store for us? That is a dilemma, and I don’t have the solution. I do know, however, that the edTPA has had a significant impact on my teacher education program.

As I have written before, whatever problems there are with current teacher preparation practices, nothing can be fixed by handing it over to private corporations like Pearson which rake in million of dollars in profits or by implementing the plans of the Gates Foundation.

NEA RA: It is frequently an out-of-body experience.


Teacher activist Jose Lara and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.

Sitting in the giant meeting hall that holds the NEA Representative Assembly, it often has an out-of-body experience feel about it.

One day we can pass a major initiative against institutional racism unanimously and with no debate.

The next day we can debate for two hours whether the Confederate flag and statues of Jefferson Davis are symbols of racism that should be removed from the public square.

Although, it should be remembered that my amended NBI calling for taking down the confederate flag was passed overwhelmingly.

Then today the NEA RA awarded my friend Jose Lara for his social justice activism.

NEA awarded the Social Justice Activist Award to Jose Lara, a social studies teacher at Santee Education Complex High School in Los Angeles, for his work in educational justice. The award was presented on Sunday, July 5 at NEA’s Representative Assembly in Orlando.

The award is given to an NEA member who demonstrates the ability to lead, organize and engage educators, parents, and the community to advocate on social justice issues that impact the lives of students, fellow educators, and the communities they serve.

In his remarks to the delegate assembly, Lara said, “Social Justice is a verb. It is a sense of community and responsibility that goes beyond the classroom. It is fighting for the most vulnerable in our society. And today, it is precisely those students, the most vulnerable and historically oppressed, who are left out of our curriculum.”

I’m not sure Jose even remembers this: We first met at the San Diego RA a couple of years back just talking at a table in the convention center lobby. I think we were talking about the still cordial relationship the NEA had with Arne Duncan. I think I defended the relationship and he was critical.

I went up to the stage after Jose’s wonderful speech on social justice and the right of students to know their history. He was surrounded by friends and supporters, but I managed to reach in to shake his hand and congratulate him.

“I’ve been following the flag debate,” he said. “Nice job, my brother.”

Truthfully, I just offered up a New Business Item with no expectation that it would turn out the way it did. And the fact is that the parliamentary maneuver of “requests for information,” while limiting many from telling their stories, meant that I stood at the mic and fielded questions and challenges for most of the two hours. It made me the center of the debate in a way it normally never would.

That was good AND bad.

And then there was the question of the NEA taking money from Gates.

Many remembered that both AFT President Randi Weingarten and our Lily Eskelsen Garcia sat on the stage at the Network for Public Education conference in Chicago telling Diane Ravitch that they would no longer take Gates money.

And then both back tracked on it later.

“It was a technical response,” Lily told the RA.

The NEA never took money from Gates because Gates never gave the NEA money, she said. “Gates doesn’t give money to unions.”

He gave it to the NEA Foundation.

And continues to.

A technical response?

Randi and Lily at the NPE.


I didn’t make it down to north Michigan Avenue for the second day of the Network for Public Education’s 2015 conference.

I missed Diane Ravitch’s conversation with NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and AFT President Randi Weingarten.

I’m waiting for them to post the entire session.

NPE has already posted a few of the big-room presentations. They say that 18 panel presentations were live-streamed.

The panel I was on with our new alderman-elect Carlos Rosa, Bronzeville community organizer Jay Travis and Milwaukee board of education member Larry Miller and moderated by my brother Michael Klonsky was not one of the chosen to be live-streamed.

Too bad. It was really good.

The tweets coming from Lily and Randi’s talk focused on two pieces of news.

Both of the union leaders said that our teacher unions would no longer take Gates money.


But I thought Randi said that before.

Their answers to questions about testing and opting out were muddled at best.

Randi said, “Every parent should have the right to opt out or not to opt out.”

Someone needs to explain to me what the “right not to opt out” means.

Lily’s response was also confusing.

“The opt out movement will not end toxic testing. The solution is changing the world.”

Well, sure.

But this week there is a bill in the Illinois legislature that spells out exactly what parental rights are. Parents who support neighborhood public schools, who support public school teachers, support this opt out bill.


Is Lily telling these parents that the movement they are building is a waste of time?

Change the world instead?

The NEA’s Illinois affiliate will not support this bill.

But I’m pretty sure their reason is not that we need to change the world instead.

Lily is wrong, by the way.

Grassroots movements like the opt out movement do change things.

Sometimes they even help change the world.

Meet the new no-bid chair of the Teacher Retirement System board of trustees: Tony Smith.


Tony Smith. The new Illinois Superintendent of Schools and chair of the Teacher Retirement System.

The announcement came this morning in an email from the Teacher Retirement System (TRS).

From: Frankenfeld, Richard 
Sent: Monday, April 20, 2015 9:45 AM
To: Frankenfeld, Richard
Subject: New Chair of TRS Board of Trustees

Last week, the State Board of Education appointed a new State Superintendent of Education – Dr. Tony Smith.

As a result, he also becomes the new president of the TRS Board of Trustees.  State law (section 16-163 of the Pension Code) provides:  “The board shall be composed of the Superintendent of Education, ex officio, who shall be the president of the board, ..”

For more information, link to the ISBE web site —

Rich Frankenfeld

TRS Director of Outreach

With Governor Private Equity’s no-bid appointment of Tony Smith to be State Superintendent of schools, Smith automatically becomes chair of TRS.

With this appointment the Governor will soon have filled five of thirteen seats on the TRS board of trustees.

Four seats are currently awaiting his appointments.

Two are filled by members appointed by Governor Quinn. Six are elected representing current teachers and retirees.

The two current Quinn appointees’ terms end in two years. At that point the Governor will have appointed the majority of TRS board trustees, including Tony Smith.

Smith’s appointment as State Superintendent and TRS chair was not without objection.

On Friday The Chicago Tribune reported that ISBE member James Baumann resigned, protesting that there was no search and that only one candidate was presented to the board members. That was Smith.

James Baumann, a key member of the Illinois State Board of Education, formally resigned this week, citing concerns about the unusual way the new state school superintendent was chosen.

There was no national search and only one candidate, he said.

“I had wished there was a more robust process, both on the front end and the back end,” Baumann told the Tribune.

“It’s just healthy to have a robust process. It is in everybody’s best interest, including the person who ends up with the job.”

A former president and CEO of the Follett Higher Education Group, Baumann had been chair of the finance and audit committee on the state board, and his term wasn’t up until January 2017.

In previous years, the state board has used search firms and conducted a national search for the state’s top school leader, records show.

Current state Supt. Christopher Koch, for example, was hired after a national search, as was one of his predecessors, Robert Schiller.

Even local boards often hire search firms and vet a number of candidates before picking a superintendent, Baumann noted.

But this time around, there was only one candidate — former Oakland, Calif., superintendent Tony Smith, who has ties to Gov. Bruce Rauner. The governor doesn’t hire the state school superintendent but he appoints members to ISBE, an independent board. Rauner recently appointed five new board members — a majority of the nine-member board.

Smith is a product of corporate foundation-backed school reform efforts. He was superintendent in Oakland, California before resigning several years ago and moving to Chicago. His tenure there was marked by battles with the teacher union and with the Black community over school closings.

Sound familiar?

There was some speculation that he was being groomed to be the Chicago CPS CEO.

Smith’s history in California is one of being a front man for Gates, Broad and other foundation corporate reform efforts.

Undoubtedly Smith was recommended to the Governor by those in the network of those same foundations.

No need for a search.

Why go through the motions?

Are the wealthy Democrats or Republicans? They’re just wealthy. Like Byron Trott.

Chicago’s Byron Trott back in 2009.

I like the Chris Rock routine where he explains the difference between rich and wealthy.

“Shaq is rich,” explains Rock. “The mother-f….. who writes his check is wealthy. Oprah is rich. Bill Gates is wealthy. If Bill Gates woke up tomorrow with Oprah’s money, he would jump out of the window and slit his throat on the way down.”

Eden Martin is the lawyer for the wealthy. Oh. He handles some of the rich ones too.

In an op-ed piece in the Sun-Times he pretends to be running for Illinois governor and argues that if the courts do as expected and find pension theft unconstitutional, than Illinois would just have to stop spending money on everything else.


Because Illinois is broke.

Hell, Illinois ain’t broke!

Did you hear about Byron Trott of Chicago?

He is a boutique hedge-fund manager.

His job is to help the wealthy get wealthier.

He learned his trade at Goldman Sachs.

Pals with Warren Buffet and Henry Paulson.

And the Koch brothers.

Because Trott is a Democrat.

And a Republican.

He gave $25,000 to Rauner’s exploratory committee.

And a member of Rahm’s boy’s club.

And does business with the Koch brothers.

Trott has prominent companions in his Colfax investment. Koch Industries Inc., a Wichita, Kansas–based company involved in oil refining, ethanol and paper, purchased 1.6 million shares in 2012. The company, with billionaire owners Charles and David Koch, also invests in Trott’s private-equity funds, regulatory filings show.

What’s my point?

One is that Illinois isn’t broke.

We have tons of money being made here.

Both Democrats and Republicans have made Illinois a safe haven for the rich AND the wealthy.

I’m not sure why Bruce Rauner had to hide his money in the Cayman Islands. It was doing fine right here in Illinois.

Eden Martin threatens Trott will leave town if we charge him for working here.

Where’s he going to go?


No offense, Muncie.

Sunday reads.


Rudy Lozano (July 17, 1951-June 8, 1983) and Harold Washington.

How Bill Gates pulled off the Common Core Revolution.

James Deanes. Early pioneer in real Chicago school reform.

Governor Pat Squeezy Quinn and his policy of protecting the one percent.

Maxine Greene and the Frozen Sea Inside of Us.

REVEALED: Gates Foundation financed PBS education programming which promoted Microsoft’s interests.

New Orleans nearing a ‘privatized’ public school system.

School Choice Is UnAmerican. When I was busy listing reasons that conservatives should be opposed to school choice, I missed a biggy.

School choice is taxation without representation.

When some cranky old fart (crankier and older than I am, anyway) wants to complain about having to pay taxes for schools when his kids aren’t even IN school any more, I have a standard answer. Schools are not a service for parents. The people who produced the student are not the only “customers” for the school.

The educated human who emerges from school will become a neighbor, an employee, a parent, a spouse, a voter, a (one hopes) involved citizen, a person whose job will contribute in some way to the life of the community. Everybody who will ever deal with her in any of those capacities shares the benefits of that education. They are all “customers” of public education. Whether they are relatives of the educatee or not is hardly the point.

We all have a stake in public education. We all pay taxes to support public education. And we all get to vote on who will manage the operation of our schools (well, unless we are in occupied territories like Philadelphia or Newark).

School choice throws all of that out the window. Do you think it’s a bad idea for a student to attend Flat Earth High School or Racial Purity Elementary School or God Is Dead Day School? Well, under school choice, if you don’t have a kid, you don’t have a voice. Too bad for you. Peter Greene 


The man without shame says shame is not the solution.

It is the very definition of irony.

This morning billionaire Bill Gates, the man whose deepest of deep pockets financed the current decade-long assault on teachers and teacher professionalism, decries the shaming of teachers in an opinion piece written for the NY Times.

As they say, it’s hard to make this stuff up.

The irony continues, since it is the NY Times that went to court so that it could print the personal professional performance reviews of each teacher.

This morning the teacher evaluation scores will be released.

Timing is everything.

Can we read the performance reviews of NY Times editors, please? Published in the Times, of course.

Writes Gates:

I am a strong proponent of measuring teachers’ effectiveness, and my foundation works with many schools to help make sure that such evaluations improve the overall quality of teaching. But publicly ranking teachers by name will not help them get better at their jobs or improve student learning.

In the wake of 9/11 some declared that irony was dead.

Gates has brought it back.

Or should we say bought it back?

Superman lands in Illinois with bags of Gates cash.

I ran an earlier post on Stand for Children, an Oregon based Reformy organization run by Jonah Edelman.

They bounded into Illinois just prior to the election and handed out $600,000 in campaign funds to nine legislative contests.

They have a clear anti-teacher union cred.

But, where do their bags of money come from?

The funding for Stand is not clear, but billionaire Bill Gates and other wealthy technology leaders are thought to be among the backers of the group, which spent $3 million to operate last year.