Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Dear Colleague,

The California legislature is still dealing with Contra Costa Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla’s revamped tenure and seniority bill, AB 934, which we told you about in April’s letter. The California Teachers Association has weighed in on it, claiming that the changes “would make education an incredibly insecure profession.” On the other hand, Students Matter’s Ben Austin doesn’t think the bill goes far enough. Among other things, he asserts that “the bill could be strengthened by extending the length of the probationary period to at least four years to allow for tenure decisions to take into account three evaluations.” He also writes, “AB 934 respects hardworking and talented teachers by creating a new layoff system that still protects effective senior teachers, while generally prioritizing quality of instruction over years in the classroom. However, the bill still prioritizes seniority instead of effectiveness for rehiring and reassigning teachers after necessary layoff cuts.” To read more of Austin’s proposed fixes, go here -  To see the latest version of Bonilla’s bill, go to

Also, there is another push in Sacramento to put together some sort of meaningful and coherent teacher evaluation bill. A new bill from San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, passed the Assembly in late May and will now be considered by the State Senate. As reported by Voice of San Diego, AB 2826 would require that “teachers be evaluated on a periodic basis – the timelines are different depending on a teacher’s level of experience – and that a broad set of measures be used. Rather than focusing intensely on test results, the bill encourages the use of portfolios of student work, English proficiency, surveys from parents and students, reports from classroom observations and more to be taken into account when evaluating a teacher.” To learn more, go to To see the bill itself, go to

Weber also has a school accountability bill making the rounds in Sacramento. AB 2548 “would require districts to measure student progress in such ‘key variables’ as achievement in English, math and science; progress toward proficiency among English-language learners; high school graduation rates; and absenteeism. This information would be easily available on a state website and would be used to guide decisions on when schools or districts need assistance or intervention.” To read more about the bill, go to  To read the actual bill, go here -

The transgender bathroom issue is certainly a hot topic these days, with the American Civil Liberty Union, POTUS, state legislatures and think tanks all weighing in on the subject. But I have seen very little from boots-on-the-ground teachers and parents. One story caught my eye, however. In Georgia, an ACLU state leader stepped down from her post “citing her own daughters' ‘frightened’ reaction to biological males using the women's restroom.” Maya Dillard Smith, a self-described “progressive” and “unapologetically black,” said that she cannot go along with the ACLU's transgender legal agenda. To read more about this “mugged by reality” story, go to  (If any of you have had any experiences with this issue – good, bad or indifferent, please shoot me an email or post it on the CTEN blog -

Perhaps a close second to the bathroom kerfuffle in amount of media coverage is the testing issue. Test scores and their validity have been undergoing examination for some time now, and we have two world-class reformers taking different sides. University of Arkansas professor Jay Greene claims that test scores have “weak predictive power.” Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli disagrees, maintaining that we should use “reading and math gains as imperfect indicators of effectiveness while working to build better measures.” All six parts of this wonky, in-depth look at testing can be accessed here -

Education writer RiShawn Biddle is the latest to try to get past the government stranglehold on the path to becoming a teacher. Along with Jeremy Lott, senior fellow at Defense Priorities, Biddle penned an op-ed for the NY Post, “Invite all comers to teach in our public schools: It's time for a new bargain to get bright new educators from all backgrounds into our classrooms” They write,

There are plenty of highly-talented men and women, including middle-aged engineers and others with math and science skills, who want to become teachers. Forty-two percent of college-educated adults aged 24-to-60 would consider teaching as a career, according to a 2008 study by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Not everyone with specialized skills and knowledge is cut out to stand in front of a classroom. But the teacher credential systems in this country unnecessarily narrow the field of people who can teach in schools, which directly harms students by making good instruction scarce.

This is harmful because studies have shown that the only two things that really matter when it comes to teaching children are subject-matter competency, and how adults relate to students they teach.

The writers claim that our ed schools don’t help with either of these things. To read this provocative piece, go here -
As usual, much has appeared in the edu-press about charter schools over the last month, but one story leaps out. The United Teachers of Los Angeles released a report which claims that independent charter schools drain half a billion dollars from the LA Unified School District. However, the school district did a quick “Huh?!” As written in LA School Report, “In January when the Charter Schools Division presented its budget, it showed that the district receives half a million dollars more than they need to pay for the division. That report, presented to the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee by Charters Division Director Jose Cole-Gutierrez, showed that the 1 percent oversight fee collected from charter schools brings in $8.89 million while the annual expenses of the division’s 47 employees including their benefits total $8.37 million.” Thus, the school district actually makes money from its charters. To read more, go to

Also, regarding charters, does the press do a fair job? No, claims the Washington Examiner, writing that according to an American Enterprise report, “about half of articles published by major outlets on charter schools in 2015 was neutral or balanced. But there were twice as many negative pieces than positive.” To read the AEI report, go to

So much has been written about school choice, it is sometimes difficult to separate the baby from the bathwater. Perhaps the best guide to use is a report, updated periodically, from Greg Forster of the Friedman Foundation. In his latest “A Win-Win Solution, the Empirical Evidence on School Choice,” a meta-analysis (study of studies), he found that choice improves academic outcomes not only for participants but also for public school students. Summing up the study, Jay Greene writes that choice “saves taxpayer money, moves students into more integrated classrooms, and strengthens the shared civic values and practices essential to American democracy. A few outlier cases that do not fit this pattern may get a disproportionate amount of attention, but the research consensus in favor of school choice as a general policy is clear and consistent.” To read the study, go here -

If you are still using a school email to receive these newsletters, please consider sending us your personal email address. More and more school districts are blocking CTEN. In any event, if you enjoy these letters and find them to be informative, please pass them along to your colleagues and encourage them to join us.

If you would like to see us address certain issues, topics, etc. in these newsletters or on our website – please let us know.

And have a great summer!

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dear Colleague,

According to American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, the national teacher shortage could turn into a crisis. She claims that we have a “teacher brain-drain unseen in any other profession.” To explain why this is happening, she adds, “The last 15 years have been marked by top-down education policies that promoted testing over teaching, competition over collaboration, austerity over investment, and scapegoating teachers rather than valuing them.”

But is any of this true? Not according to many reliable sources, the latest of which is economist Dan Goldhaber. As reported in the latest National Council on Teacher Quality newsletter,

This first graph does indeed show that the number of new teachers produced since 2008 has declined. But keep in mind that that drop was preceded by a three-decade period of enrollment growth, far outpacing the demand year-in and year-out (as the second graph shows). America's 1,450+ institutions which train teachers have been OVER-enrolling for years.

The current decline is what we normally see when unemployment dips and the pool of folks looking for work isn't as large as in other years. 

And as programs have not traditionally seen it as their responsibility to direct candidates to shortage teaching areas (e.g. special ed), there continue to be massive misalignment between the types of teachers trained and the types of teachers public schools need to hire. 

Most notably, programs have been routinely graduating twice as many new elementary teachers as public schools hire each year.
The peripatetic Weingarten turned up in England in April to protest Pearson. The AFT has a long and complex relationship with the global education company. Twenty-seven of its affiliates have holdings in Pearson, including retirement systems in California, New York, Arkansas, Colorado, etc. According to the union’s press release, “The American Federation of Teachers, along with teachers unions and nongovernmental organizations throughout the world, will speak out during Pearson’s annual general meeting Friday, April 29, in London to call for a review of its business model that pushes high-stakes testing in the United States and privatized schools in the developing world.”

Pearson’s board considered the unions’ resolution but recommended that its shareholders vote against it. And indeed they did. Only 2.4 percent bought what Weingarten was selling, and the resolution was defeated by 578,510,587 votes to 14,016,634. To read Weingarten’s statement, go here -  To see the results of the Pearson vote, go to
Coincidentally at the same time as AFT’s confrontation with Pearson, the latest NAEP scores were released and they did not paint a pretty picture. As reported by US News & World Report, “Only about a third of U.S. high school seniors are prepared for college-level coursework in math and reading. And while the performance of the country’s highest achievers is increasing in reading, the lowest-achieving students are performing worse than ever.” To read more, go to

On the school reform front, Students First, the creation of Michelle Rhee, has merged with 50Can. Both organizations have similar goals. Current Students First president Jim Blew said, “The move makes sense because with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the replacement of the No Child Left Behind Act, state legislatures are crucial in determining the future of education in America.” Blew added that Students First is “stronger on the lobbying side, and 50Can is stronger in advocacy.” To learn more, go here -

CTA and SEIU announced last week that they have collected nearly a million signatures in hopes of placing a measure on the November ballot that would extend part the Prop. 30 taxes for an additional 12 years. (The sales tax hike will expire at the end of this year.) The so-called “temporary tax to fund education,” passed in 2012, was due to expire in 2018. For more, go here -

On the school choice front, University of Arkansas professor Patrick Wolf and his team released a meta-analysis of 19 “gold standard” experimental evaluations of the test-score effects of private school choice programs around the world. “The sum of the reliable evidence indicates that, on average, private school choice increases the reading scores of choice users by about 0.27 standard deviations and their math scores by 0.15 standard deviations.  These are highly statistically significant, educationally meaningful achievement gains of several months of additional learning from school choice.” To examine the study, go here -

Paul E. Peterson, editor-in-chief of Education Next and director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard, claims, “The Bush-Obama era of reform via federal regulation has come to an end.” He maintains that reforming the system from within is unlikely to succeed in the years ahead. “If school reform is to move forward, it will occur via new forms of competition—whether they be vouchers, charters, home schooling, digital learning, or the transformation of district schools into decentralized, autonomous units.” To read more of this provocative article, go to

Not surprisingly, anything that smells of privatization is anathema to the teachers unions. Courtesy of Mike Antonucci, we can see just how the National Education Association plans to go about fighting off the threat to its pocket book. “This ‘step-by-step crisis action plan’ is designed to help local union activists defeat efforts by school districts to privatize support services. They are advised not to argue about cost savings and insist ‘You can’t get the same service for less!’” To see NEA’s anti-privatization combat manual go to
And finally, as you well know, information is frequently used to score political points and make cases for various causes. To that end, CTEN has a “cheat sheet” on our website – with original sources. To see it, go to  If you have information that counters what’s there or would like to see something added, please let us know.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to CTEN can do so very simply through a personal check or PayPal -  As a non-profit, we exist and operate only through the generosity and support of others. Many thanks to CTENers who have already donated and a special shout-out to those of you who do so on a regular basis.

Larry Sand
CTEN President