Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Dear Colleague,

With much hoopla, the 2017 NAEP scores were released last week. The basic response thus far from edu-pundits has been, “Meh.” National averages were essentially unchanged since the test was last given in 2015.

In some ways, the flat trajectory nationwide provides relief for educators after the especially bitter NAEP news in 2015, when scores dropped for three out of four age/subject groupings. The development came as states were still rolling out testing regimes aligned with the Common Core, and the new standards were widely (and controversially) blamed for bringing down student performance.

Although scores for American students have gone through periods of sizable and consistent growth — most recently at the dawn of the modern era of academic standards and school accountability in the late 1990s and early 2000s — results over the past 10 years have left education reformers at a loss.

California did register a 4-point gain in 8th grade reading scores and 4th graders gained 3 points. The state’s 1-point gain in math scores was not a significant change, according to a spokesman for the National Center for Education Statistics.

For more, go to

One California school did stand out recently. El Camino Real Charter High School in Woodland Hills won the California Academic Decathlon in Sacramento. The Los Angeles Unified high school will advance to the national competition this weekend in Texas.

In Academic Decathlon, nine-member teams of ninth- through 12th-grade students compete in academic contests in 10 categories — art, music, language and literature, social science, science, mathematics, economics, speech, interview and essay — plus the Super Quiz, a "Jeopardy!"-style question-and-answer session that draws from all subjects.

The theme of this year's competition is Africa.

Schools from LAUSD have won the national competition 18 times since 1987, and California has held the national title for the last 15 consecutive years.

To learn more, go here -

Speaking of charters, there is a new study out that compares the cost-effectiveness of charters and traditional public schools. The findings include:

Education dollars go farther in charter schools than they do traditional public schools.

For every $1,000 in per-pupil funding, students in charter schools earn 17.76 points on the reading portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) compared to 13.42 points for students in traditional public schools. In math, students in the charter sector earn 19.21 NAEP points compared to 14.48 in traditional district schools.

Every dollar spent on students in traditional public schools results in $4.67 in lifetime earnings for those in traditional schools, $6.44 for those in charters, and $5.40 for those who split their K-12 years between both.

To read more about this study, conducted by Patrick J. Wolf of the University of Arkansas, Corey DeAngelis of the Cato Institute, et al, go to

Those of us who believe that not every single student in the country needs to go to college are buoyed by a recent story about Fresno County, where nearly every school offers Career Technical Education courses.

From robotics, to culinary arts, to construction- these are just some of the career tech courses Fresno County students are learning in classrooms in school districts throughout the Central Valley.

"One of the things we try to do in career tech education and ROP particularly is have some consistency across districts in like subjects because our employers don't care what side of the district boundaries you come from they are looking for a core group of competencies," said Administrator Valerie Vuicich.

The skills students are mastering in class were put to the test at the annual career skills challenge….15 hundred students going up against each other in teams; competing against one another in their area of interest.

To read more about this important program, go here -

On the school choice front, there was an interesting piece written by American Enterprise’s Rick Hess and Sofia Gallo, in which they claim that “School-Choice Supporters Should Drop the Overheated Rhetoric.”

The school-choice movement features more than its share of alarmist rhetoric and extravagant boasts. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has opined that school choice is necessary because millions of students “are trapped in schools that fail to meet their needs.” Proponents boast that “like Uber disrupts the transportation industry, charter schools and private schools can and are disrupting the education industry.”

Hess/Gallo claim that choicer verbiage is alienating too many parents. But researcher Greg Forster strenuously disagrees, positing that choice is:

…winning in statehouses, winning in governors’ mansions, and winning in public opinion polls. No doubt that success will ebb and flow in the future, as it has in the past. But choice has better public perception today than at any time in its history.

To read the Hess/Gallo piece, go here -  To read Forster’s rejoinder, go to

In January, it was discovered that Californians David and Louise Turpin, who were homeschooling parents, had imprisoned their thirteen children for years in the most disgusting and degrading ways. Shortly thereafter, State Senator Susan Eggman, (D-Stockton) hatched AB 2926, a bill that would establish an advisory committee whose purpose is to make recommendations to the state board of education “on the appropriateness and feasibility” of imposing additional requirements on a home school. They would include, but are not limited to, health and safety inspections, specific curriculum standards, and certification or credentialing of teachers.

The teachers unions and other education establishmentarians are cheering this bill on, “Teachers of home instruction programs should meet California certification requirements. Additionally, there are certain guidelines educators believe should be followed. … Permission granted by the local governing board shall be required annually,” CTA spokeswoman Claudia Briggs said.

But others are alarmed, insisting that the law is unnecessary and way too meddlesome. To learn more, go to

The unions have been very much in the news lately, initiating statewide strikes in West Virginia and Oklahoma. The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss has a very sympathetic view, stating, “Teachers don’t want to strike and they don’t like to strike. But they will strike if you make it clear to them that you intend to do them harm, and that you won’t listen to them any other way. If there are no not-unseemly options, unseemly is what you get.”

However, the Center for Education Reform has a very different take, blaming much of low teacher pay on escalating pension costs.

STRIKING FOR THE WRONG THING? The teacher unions won’t tell them, but the teachers who are striking across the country aren’t going to solve anything even if the legislatures give them an annual raise. Why such a strident statement? Consider the following number: $1,000 PER PUPIL. That’s the annual cost of employee pensions. Imagine a school of 600 students — that’s $600,000! Let’s just say half those funds could go to teachers instead of the state pension coffers upfront. There are approximately 26 classroom teachers in a school that size, if we are talking a traditionally organized school. If you took just half of those funds and put them in teachers’ salaries in that school, they’d be earning another $11,000 a year each! Please note that these funds are above and beyond employee contributions, Social Security and taxes.

To read the Strauss piece, go here -  To get the opposing point of view, go to -

Last month, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed HB 7055, which includes a provision that would decertify any teacher’s union that fails to get the approval of 50 percent of its workforce. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran said simply: “The reality is nobody should be forced to be led when the majority of the people you’re leading don’t want to be there.… It’s un-American.”

Needless to say, the teachers unions and their friends don’t agree with Mr. Corcoran, and instead have launched into sky-is-falling rhetoric. “It is a not-so disguised attempt to destroy public education in the state of Florida,” said Wendy Doromal, president of the Orange County teachers union. “It’s a direct torpedo to the unions who come to the rescue of educators,” warned Florida State Rep. Kionne McGhee.

To learn more, go to

Washington State teacher Barb Amidon tells an interesting tale in a two-minute video that she made for Rebecca Friedrichs’ new venture “For Kids and Country.” Amidon talks about how her forced union dues had gone to causes she disagreed with, which included a huge loan to a PAC which concerned itself with political causes having nothing to do with education. Worse, the Washington Education Association subsequently forgave the loan. Amidon put out a newsletter to other teachers explaining what happened, but WEA took exception to that and wound up suing Amidon! Must See TV, the video can be found here –  To check out Friedrichs’ new “For Kids and Country” website, go to

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.

Also, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money order or PayPal -  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Dear Colleague,

“What should we do with teachers that no one wants but who are guaranteed a job by state law and union contracts?” Not at all an unusual question in the Golden State. Recently the Los Angeles Unified school board debated how best to deal with these “must-place” teachers Tuesday, while discussing strategies to improve chronically underperforming schools. Several ideas emerged:

“My response would be, get rid of them all,” said Board Vice President Nick Melvoin.

“Execution is not part of the deal,” Schmerelson shot back.

Smaller districts tend to buy these teachers out, Vladovic offered.

Board Member George McKenna bemoaned the union’s defense of ineffective teachers. “I have openly said to my friends in the union, as long as we have underperforming non-charter schools in this district, and you keep protecting the employees at the expense of the children, you are not helpful to this process,” he said.

To read more about this very sad state of affairs, go to

At the same time the LA school district is trying to deal with its unwanted teachers, the children in the nation’s second largest school district are not faring well. Seth Litt, executive director of Parent Revolution, recently wrote about some very disturbing numbers revealed by the California School Dashboard:

• 40 percent of all students are graduating college or career ready.
• 39 percent of Latino students are graduating college or career ready.
• 30 percent of African-American students are graduating college or career ready.
• 17 percent of English learners are graduating college or career ready.
• 12 percent of students with disabilities are graduating college or career ready.

To learn more, go to

After struggling for years with a big backlog of educator misconduct cases, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing reported in December that they have pretty much caught up. The CTC routinely processes about 5,400 misconduct cases annually, with about one-third third being for first-time alcohol infractions.

Although the commission has the authority to suspend or revoke teacher credentials as a result of criminal behavior, first-time alcohol offenses typically do not generate agency discipline. But, until the board made changes to the system, precious staff time had to be spent researching and analyzing each case.

Under existing rules, an applicant or holder who is convicted of one misdemeanor alcohol related offense shall not be submitted to the Committee of Credentials for review. Instead, staff will close the matter and note the offense in the agency's discipline database.

A big part of the backlog problem came as a result of hundreds of cases being sent from Los Angeles Unified. Officials at LAUSD became concerned about oversight of educator conduct after a former elementary school teacher was arrested on 23 charges of sexual abuse.

To learn more, go to

Moving from misbehaving teachers to misbehaving students, we are now faced with SB 607, authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. It represents the latest effort “by a broad coalition of civil rights organizations to cement gains they’ve made in recent years to significantly reduce suspensions and expulsions in schools statewide.” The current law on willful defiance, which went into effect in 2015, had the support of Gov. Jerry Brown, the California Teachers Association as well as associations representing administrators and school board members. That law limited the ban to just kindergarten through 3rd grade. But SB 607 wants to extend the law to include grades K-12.

Advocates have long sought to outlaw suspensions for behaviors that teachers and administrators deem “defiant” or “disruptive” because they are considered too subjective and disproportionately meted out to students of color.

“When we remove students from the classroom for low-level misbehavior that is part of youth development, we eliminate the opportunity for them to learn and to receive support that would address the root cause of their misbehavior,” said Angelica Salazar, director of education equity for the Los Angeles-based Children’s Defense Fund. “Study after study has shown that a reliance on suspensions to change student behavior doesn’t work.”

However, there are some who believe that we have become too lenient in meting out punishment and make a case that Parkland murderer Nikolas Cruz could have been stopped from committing his dastardly deed had there been consequences for some of his transgressions early on.

The Obama-era Departments of Education and Justice – under education secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder –issued school guidelines in 2014 that claimed students of color are “disproportionately impacted” by suspensions and expulsions, a situation they said leads to a “school-to-prison pipeline” that discriminates against minority and low-income students.

“Broward County was the first to have the goal of lowering suspensions, lowering expulsions, lowering arrests,” explains (Manhattan Institute senior fellow Max) Eden. “And, so, they decided to reduce police involvement by not bringing in cops to arrest kids for a whole range of serious offenses, and then, as you would expect, the arrests go down when you stop arresting. That was taken to be a sign of success, based on that metric alone.”

To learn more about AB 607 go to  To read about how lenient measures may have led to the Parkland massacre, go here -

In light of the recent school shooting, the subject of teachers carrying guns has been in the news lately. AFT President Randi Weingarten said, "I am sickened by those doing the bidding of the gun lobby, and those like President Trump and (Education Secretary) Betsy DeVos who want an arms race and to turn schools into militarized fortresses by arming teachers. Anyone who wants guns in schools has no understanding of what goes on inside them -- or worse, doesn't care."

I have very different thoughts on the subject, however, which I wrote about in the Orange County Register and several other So Cal dailies.

To learn more about Weingarten’s views, go here - To read my op-ed, go to

The Janus oral arguments before the Supreme Court took place as scheduled on Feb. 26th. A decision probably won’t be handed down until June, and Janus supporters are optimistic. Known as the Court’s swing vote, Anthony Kennedy destroyed union arguments at every turn, using phrases like, “…your argument doesn’t have much weight.” Also, after the union attorney admitted that ending forced union dues would diminish the political power of unions, Kennedy responded, “Isn’t that the end of this case?”

To read the transcript of the hearings, go to

Also, even if Janus is successful, that is not the end of it. Ryan Yohn a 13-year veteran middle school history teacher in Westminster, CA and seven other teachers are litigants in a case that raises a second issue. These teachers argue that the current opt-out process for those who don’t want to pay dues is “overly burdensome and also violates the Constitution. Instead, they maintain, educators who want to join should have to affirmatively opt into the union.” Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, which is bringing Yohn’s case says, “Teachers who don’t know about, or can’t follow, the opt-out process are also being forced to subsidize speech they don’t support.”

For more on the Yohn case, go here -  For an excellent brief video by Choice Media on the lawsuit, go to

Barry Garelick's talk on "Math Education in the US" chronicles the reform/progressivist-minded ideals that have shaped how math is taught in K-12. Garelick recently retired from the federal government and is on a second career as a math teacher, currently working at a middle school in California. In the talk he describes his initial discovery – via his daughter's second grade teacher – that math wasn't being taught as it should. He also links the reform/progressivist philosophy to how Common Core standards are being interpreted.

To watch the video, go to

CTEN has three Facebook pages. If you have a Facebook account, we urge you to visit ours and let us know your thoughts. Having a dialogue among teachers is an effective way to spread information and share our experiences and ideas. Our original Facebook page can be found here   Our second page, which deals with teacher evaluation and transparency, can be accessed here -   Our newest page is Teachers for School Choice and can be reached at

In any event, if you enjoy these letters and find them informative, please pass them along to your colleagues. We know that there are many independent-minded teachers in California who are looking for alternative sources of information. Many thanks, as always, for your interest and support.

Larry Sand
CTEN President


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dear Colleague,

While the oral arguments in the Janus v. AFSCME case are just a few days away, the Supreme Court decision probably won’t be known until June. Until then, pundits and non-pundits alike will weigh in on the outcome. A decision for the plaintiff means that teachers will have a choice whether or not they want to pay money to the teachers union. Not surprisingly the unions are gearing up for the worst, and some are doing very strange things. The United Teachers of Los Angeles has sent out a contract to teachers in LA that was emailed to me a CTEN member. Mike Antonucci then wrote about the contract which states:

This agreement to pay dues shall remain in effect and shall be irrevocable unless I revoke it by sending written notice via U.S. mail to UTLA during the period not less than thirty (30) days and not more than sixty (60) days before the annual anniversary date of this agreement or as otherwise required by law. This agreement shall be automatically renewed from year to year unless I revoke it in writing during the window period, irrespective of my membership in UTLA.

The question becomes, why would anyone sign this? Even if Mark Janus prevails, teachers will still be able to be full dues-paying members without signing a restrictive contract.

The UTLA contract can be seen here:

If your school district has tried to hook you with this kind of form, please send a copy to so that we can share it with all CTENers.

Also, with the Janus case in mind, the unions have been busy trying to get to all new teachers in an attempt to make sure they become union members. As per California’s AB 119, they are entitled to face time with all new teachers, with each district deciding with their union how best to accomplish this. What follows is wording from the tentative contract with the Chino Valley Unified School District.





Your school district probably has a similar type agreement. If your district is significantly different, please send the wording along to so that we can share that also.

As a concept, “bargaining for the common good” was cooked up in 2014 by leaders from public sector unions and community organizations at a national conference held at Georgetown University. The meeting’s priorities included “using the bargaining process as a way to challenge the relationships between government and the private-sector; working with community allies to create new, shared goals that help advance both worker and citizen power; and recognizing militancy and collective action will likely be necessary if workers and citizens are to reduce inequality and strengthen democracy.”

Which brings us to the Friedrichs case. The plaintiff’s lawyers in that SCOTUS lawsuit argued, “…bargaining with local governments is inherently political. Whether the union is negotiating for specific class sizes or pressing a local government to spend tax dollars on teacher pensions rather than on building parks, the union’s negotiating positions embody political choices that are often controversial.” As such, Abood should be overturned and teachers should not be forced to pay any money to a union at all. (The 1977 Abood decision, which the unions applauded, stipulated that the fair share system is a workable compromise. Accordingly, workers should have to pony up for collective bargaining but not union political spending.)

But with bargaining for the common good, Caputo-Pearl and many other public sector union leaders across the country are insisting that collective bargaining incorporate blatantly political issues. This would seem to doom the union’s case in Janus v AFSCME, the follow-up to Friedrichs.

For more on “bargaining for the common good,” go to

And talking about unions and politicking, CTA has published a list of candidates it is supporting in November’s election and there are no surprises. The roster includes Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for CA Governor and Bay Area Assembly Member Tony Thurmond for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The union also is in favor of re-electing Secretary of State Alex Padilla and State Controller Betty Yee, “both of whom are strong advocates of public education.” They also voted to back 38 state Assembly and 6 Senate candidates… everyone a Democrat.

To see the list, go here -

According to Corey DeAngelis, Policy Analyst at the Cato Center for Educational Freedom, “The Evidence on School Choice Is Far from 'Mixed'”

Seventeen experimental studies of the effects of private school choice programs on student achievement exist in the U.S. today. As shown in this graphic (  the majority of the 17 studies find statistically significant positive effects on student test scores, while only two detect negative effects. And it is important to note that the two studies finding negative impacts are first-year results.

As shown in this table, a peer-reviewed analysis of the evidence found that 11 rigorous studies link private school choice programs to students’ levels of tolerance and civic engagement. The majority of them found large positive effects. In one study, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Arkansas surveyed students from the experimental evaluation of the D.C. voucher program. In one question, the researchers asked the students to identify the group (such as Nazis or the K.K.K.) that they agreed with the least. Interestingly, the next three questions gauged tolerance levels by asking the students if they would allow members from the disliked group to: (1) have the right to free-speech, (2) run for president, and (3) live in their neighborhood.  Interestingly, the responses to all three of those questions indicated that the voucher program increased students’ tolerance of others by over 50 percent.

To read more, go to

Also, on the school choice front, the Koch Brothers have been busy. In addition to their Libre Initiative, they have been trying to advance the school choice ball, most recently in Arizona.

(Arizona Governor) Doug Ducey, the former chief executive of Cold Stone Creamery, became a member of the Koch network in 2011. Since 2015, he’s attended the seminars as governor of Arizona. Last year, he signed legislation to dramatically expand the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program so that students can use taxpayer dollars that would be spent on them in public schools to cover private-school tuition or other educational expenses.

Teacher unions, worried that this will undermine the public system, collected enough signatures to put the law on hold and create a ballot proposition to let voters decide in November whether to expand vouchers.

Addressing the seminar yesterday, Ducey touted the measure as further reaching than anything that’s been tried in other states. He warned that, under Arizona law, if advocates lose at the ballot box, they will not be able to legislate on the topic in the future. “This is a very real fight in my state,” Ducey said. “I didn’t run for governor to play small ball. I think this is an important idea.”

The Koch network is likely to spend heavily to support the voucher law, setting up a battle royal with the labor movement.

To read more, go to

To learn more about the Libre Initiative, go here -

From CTEN member Rabbi Nachum Shifren:

I am opening a charter school based on traditional American values and principles.  The school will be very familiar to those of prior generations. Please watch the video ( as I make my case for a new (yet old) approach to common sense education in our country.

Teachers, if you have had it with the corruption and dumbing down of standards, students, and America...WE NEED YOU! Be part of our team. We also need counselors, administrators, coaches...patriots who see the problem and know what we need to do to correct it.

If what I am saying here resonates, please contact us at

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,” which has been updated on our website – all 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. As always, thanks for your continuing interest and support.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Dear Colleague,

“Disappointing but not surprising” is how California’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan is being described. As written in The 74,

The federal feedback was extensive, exceeding what most other states received. “California got dinged for a lot more than other states,” said Adam Ezring, director of policy for the Collaborative for Student Success, which together with Bellwether Education Partners is providing an independent review of each state’s school accountability plan. “Parents want to know how their kids’ schools are performing, and how their students are performing.”

The government’s feedback to California included:

  • California’s plan doesn’t show how the state will identify its lowest-performing schools so they can receive extra support.
  • It’s not clear how the state will ensure progress is actually made at low-performing schools.
  • It doesn’t include high schools in its academic achievement goals.
  • It doesn’t show how the state will measure improvements among student subgroups, such as English learners, or provide long-term goals for all English learners.
  • It’s not clear how the state will support schools with student subgroups who are consistently underperforming.
And that is just the beginning. To read more, go to

Additionally, California does not do well in teacher training either, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality:

California earned the most needs-to-improve marks in the area of teacher and principal evaluation. Specifically, the council recommended that the state include evidence of student growth in teacher evaluations, require student surveys be part of teacher evaluations and ensure that teacher evaluators are trained and certified.

The council also recommended that California require teachers be evaluated annually and observed multiple times, offer appropriate training and improvement plans for teachers, equitably distribute teacher talent among schools, effectively evaluate principals, and place ineffective ones on improvement plans.

State officials took exception to the NCTQ report, however. To get a balanced view, go to

According to data published by the federal government in December, the national high school graduation rate has risen to 84 percent, an all-time high. While this would appear to be a reason to celebrate, there are many who are not ready to break out the champagne.

News media investigations have found that some schools improve their graduation numbers by not counting some low-performing students in their graduating classes. Others try to get rid of students who are at risk of dropping out by encouraging them to transfer to alternative schools or to be home-schooled. One recent investigation found that a school in Washington D.C. graduated half of its students last year even though they had missed three months of school, too much to have earned diplomas.

Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, says, "There is a plausible case to be made that the education system is doing a better job for more of these kids, especially for disadvantaged subgroups. But there is ‘reason to be nervous about the rapid progress’ in the graduation rate, since requirements for diplomas can be ‘squishy’ and some high schools decide to make themselves look good by lowering standards.

To learn more, go here -

As 2018 unfolds, contributors are flocking to sign up for the brand new Illinois tax credit scholarship program. The idea behind the endeavor is to help poor students get a chance at attending private school.

Donors who want to take advantage of the tax credits must register with the Illinois Department of Revenue and reserve their credit, up to $1 million per individual. Once approved, they can write the check. Donations cannot be earmarked for particular students, but they can be sent to a specific schools or network of schools if made by an individual. Corporate donations go into a general fund. Donors can take a $.75 credit on every dollar they give until the $75 million in credits is exhausted….

Priority is given to the lowest-income families first, and to those who live in lower-performing “focus districts” where the students and the local public school are at or below state averages for the lowest-10 percent of students or those with graduation rates of less than 60 percent.

A student whose family is within 185 percent of the poverty level or less can get a full tuition, up to $13,000; a family within 185 percent to 250 percent of the poverty level is eligible for a 75-percent scholarship; and a family that earns 250 or above the federal poverty level can a scholarship for half of tuition. For more details about the program, go to and

Speaking of choice, January 21-27 is National School Choice Week, the aim of which is to “raise public awareness of all types of education options for children. These options include traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools, and homeschooling.” There are 232,240 events and activities planned for NSCW in 2018. Celebrations include “school fairs, parent nights, school tours, educational field trips, homeschool information sessions, student performances, celebratory rallies and more. It will be the largest series of education-related events and activities in US history.”

To learn more about National School Choice Week and events near you, go to

On February 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Janus v AFSCME case, with a decision scheduled to be announced in June. If successful, it would free public employees in 22 states from having to pay any money to a union as a condition of employment. Many union leaders are beside themselves with the thought that their days of getting to collect forced dues payments may well be numbered. In an attempt to rally the troops, the lies and half-truths have been flowing. Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association says, “They want to use the Supreme Court to take away the freedom of working people to join in strong unions.” Wrong. The case is about giving working people the choice to be a part of a union or not. He also claims, “A decision in Janus to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights in the workplace moves us further in the wrong direction.” Wrong again. The case has nothing to do with collective bargaining; it’s about the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of association for workers.

To learn more about the case, go to To read more about union distortions, go here -

If Janus is successful, how many California teachers will choose to cut ties with the union? All we can do at this point is guess. But in Michigan, membership is down 25 percent since right-to-work became law in 2012. To learn more about the hit that the Michigan Education Association is taking, go here -

Also, on the union front, Mike Antonucci had an interesting post a few weeks ago, which begins with a quote from NEA President Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a. “For decades, corporate CEOs and the wealthy have fought to enrich themselves at the expense of the rights and pocketbooks of working people, and that harms families in communities across the country.”

Antonucci then proceeds to point out:

The NEA currently holds $108.5 million in investments. Its public disclosure reports require it to itemize only those investments that exceed 5 percent of the total in two categories: marketable securities and “other investments.” NEA has almost $73 million in “other investments,” no single one of which exceeds $3.65 million, so NEA is not required to itemize those transactions. Where that money goes is anyone’s guess.

However, we do know where almost all of NEA’s $35.7 million in marketable securities are invested. The marketable securities consist of various types of mutual funds — some that invest in bonds, some in stocks, and some that are indexed to exchanges. Here they are (rounded off):

Eaton Vance Atlanta Capital Small- to Mid-Cap Fund — $1.8 million
Federated Strategic Value Dividend Fund — $2.8 million
iShares Russell 1000 Growth Exchange-Traded Fund — $3.3 million
Loomis Sayles Bond Fund — $5 million
SPDR Standard & Poor’s Dividend Exchange-Traded Fund — $2.8 million….

To see the rest of the list, go to

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.

Also, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money order or PayPal -  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Dear Colleague,

The past month has not been kind to the California education establishment. A Public Policy of California report finds that just 30 percent of all California 9th graders are expected to earn a bachelor’s degree. Also, only 45 percent of the graduating class of 2016 completed college preparatory courses, which are required to be considered for admission to any state school. The report analyzes when students leave the path to college, which students leave, and the major impediments to success. It is based on a large longitudinal sample of high school students, as well as statewide data.

In San Francisco, the statistics for black students are especially grim. In fact, SF NAACP President Amos Brown told the local school board that it should declare a state of emergency, because just 19 percent of black students are proficient in English, compared to 31 percent of black students statewide. San Francisco has the worst black student achievement of any county in California.

Then, in an attempt to force California to address its education failings, a group of lawyers representing teachers and students from poor performing schools is suing the state, arguing that it “has done nothing about a high number of schoolchildren who do not know how to read.”

The advocacy law firm, Public Counsel, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court to demand the California Department of Education address its "literacy crisis." The state has not followed suggestions from its own report on the problem five years ago, the lawsuit said.

"When it comes to literacy and the delivery of basic education, California is dragging down the nation," said Public Counsel lawyer Mark Rosenbaum, who sued along with the law firm Morrison & Foerster.
Of the 26 lowest-performing districts in the nation, 11 are in California, according to the lawsuit. Texas, the largest state after California, has only one district among the 26.

To access the PPIC report, go to To learn more about San Francisco’s problems, go to For more on the lawsuit, go here -

And the bad news is not limited to California. The results of an international reading test reveal that U.S. 4th-Graders lag behind other countries in reading.

When it comes to the standing of U.S. students, fourth grade reading comprehension has slipped since 2011 – though not statistically significantly – lowering its position in the international ranking to 16th place. In 2011, four education systems scored higher than the average reading score of U.S. students, while in 2016, 12 education systems scored higher.

"We seem to be declining as other education systems make larger gains on assessments," Peggy Carr, acting commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, said in a press call last week. "Countries that were our peers have surpassed us while some that used to do worse than us are now our peers."

To read more about the results, go to

The yearly EdChoice “Schooling in America” report has been released and, as usual, the pro-choice outfit has done a thorough job of digging into various education crevices. From the executive summary:
The national nomenclature surrounding education has shifted dramatically in the past year. Terms like “vouchers,” “charter schools,” and “tax-credit scholarships”—all educational options—have entered the mainstream dialogue as a result of a political embrace by the executive administration. This emergence has fueled the ongoing debate on what is and should be considered public education in the United States.

Often in this political climate, the loudest voices garner the most attention. That has certainly been true in education, where distinct stakeholders of parents, teachers, administrators, boards, and governments often struggle to align their goals. Yet the voices of everyday citizens as a whole also should be examined for this most important public good.

To access the report, go to

Also, on the school choice front, the Associated Press has just issued a report that claims that “US charter schools put growing numbers in racial isolation.”

Just one of the many of the report’s odd assertions is that charters are “segregated.” which is patently untrue. Segregation is forced separation. No charter in the country has adopted an apartheid policy. Parents of all races send their kids to these schools voluntarily. The more popular ones hold a colorblind lottery to determine admission.

Education reformers’ responses to the AP analysis were quick and pointed. Democrats for Education Reform President Shavar Jeffries wrote that AP “ignores the blatantly obvious fact that charter schools are concentrated in neighborhoods with high proportions of students of color to provide them an alternative to the low-performing traditional public schools they previously had no choice but to attend.”

Howard Fuller, civil rights activist and veteran education reform advocate, tweeted, “The issue for low income Black children is how to get an effective education. I don’t oppose integration. I support excellent education for poor Black children wherever they can find it. Blaming charter schools for the lack of integration is bogus.”

To read more about the AP report and reactions to it, go here -

Mike Antonucci has written “Five Common Teachers Union Arguments – That Rely on Half-Truths.” This valuable post provides excellent rejoinders to several union arguments. So for example, when your strident Uncle Don, a union organizer, is chomping away at his Christmas goose and spitting out things like, “Union dues are not used for politics,” you can quote Antonucci:

The problem is that most people broadly define politics to include lobbying, independent expenditures, issue advertising, ballot initiative campaigns, rallies, protests, and endorsements. All of those things are paid for with dues money, which every union member, regardless of his or her political views, contributes. Virtually every other type of political spending other than direct contributions to candidates and parties is made with dues money.

If you are a Republican union member, you have paid, do pay, and will pay to help elect Democrats to office.

To read all of Antonucci’s valuable rejoinders, go here -

If you have any questions about where your dues dollars are going, the latest NEA U.S. Department of Labor report will answer many of them. As reported by RiShawn Biddle, “…it is clear that the nation’s largest teachers’ union is spending even more to maintain its influence in education policy. Whether or not it benefits the teachers who are often forced to pay into its coffers is a different story.”

He adds that the union “spent $151 million on lobbying and contributions to supposedly likeminded organizations during its last fiscal year. That’s a 9.4 increase over influence-buying levels in 2015-2016. This, by the way, doesn’t include another $43.7 million in spending on so-called representational activities in 2016-2017, which almost always tend to be political in nature; that’s six percent less than in the previous period.”

To access the spending report, go to

And just how do teachers, collectively, lean politically? A new poll by Education Week provides some answers. Not surprisingly, teachers are quite mixed. When asked to describe their political orientation, teachers responded:

5% - very liberal
4% - very conservative
24% - liberal
23% conservative
43% moderate

Just about as even a breakdown as you can get, but obviously the unions don’t spend their members’ dues money accordingly. Also importantly, Ed Week stresses that, en masse, teachers do their best to keep their political views to themselves when dealing with their students.

To read more about teachers’ political leanings, go here -

Anyone wishing to make a year-end 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 people like you. (And to those of you who already regularly donate – our heartfelt thanks!)

It has been another exciting year for CTEN - and we look forward to an even more vigorous 2018. We are grateful for your interest and involvement, and wish you and your families the happiest of holidays. See you next year!

Larry Sand
CTEN President


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dear Colleague,

“Steve Bannon Tried to Recruit Teachers Union to Trump’s Agenda While in the White House” reads the eye-catching headline in a post on The Intercept earlier this month. From the piece:

“Look, I will meet with virtually anyone to make our case, and particularly in that moment, I was very, very concerned about the budget that would decimate public education,” Weingarten said. “I wanted it to be a real meeting, I didn’t want it to be a photo-op, so I insisted that the meeting didn’t happen at the White House.”

Weingarten didn’t take notes at the meeting, which was held at a Washington restaurant, but told The Intercept she and Bannon talked about “education, infrastructure, immigrants, bigotry and hate, budget cuts … [and] about a lot of different things.”

She came away a bit shook. “I came out of that conversation saying that this was a formidable adversary,” she said.
He was looking, Weingarten said, for some common ground that could assist him in realigning the two parties, his long-term goal in politics.

Core knowledge advocate E.D. Hirsch, who argues that “only a well-rounded, knowledge-specific curriculum can impart needed knowledge to all children and overcome inequality of opportunity,” has written a compelling piece on the subject.

Our schools now exhibit a diminished sense, once widely held, that a central goal of American schooling is to foster national cohesion—“out of many, one.” The loss of that sense of mission in the early grades has occurred because of two intellectual changes that have gained ascendancy during the past 80 or so years. The first and most important change was a shift, starting in the 1920s and ’30s, from an emphasis on initiating children into the mores of the national tribe to an emphasis on developing the nature of the individual child.

According to the Learning Policy Institute, the U. S. annual teacher attrition is about 8 percent and LPI finds this number alarming. Should this be a cause for concern? The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that in 2016, the “quit rate” for teachers was indeed 8.8 percent. But other fields didn’t fare nearly as well. In manufacturing the rate was 14.6 percent, in real estate 18.5 and in retail trade it was over 35 percent. In fact, BLS reports that 25 percent of all workers left their jobs in 2016. So teachers quit their jobs only about one-third as much as all workers. 

Nothing really new here, as Mike Antonucci wrote about the issue in 2007. Using numbers from a 2004-2005 National Center for Educational Statistics report, he acknowledges that while some teachers do leave the profession because of education-related issues, most leave for non-education related reasons – to pursue a position other than that of K-12 teacher, retirement, pregnancy or child rearing, personal reasons, health and changed residence, etc.

Early literacy specialist Patrick Herrera is back again this month, this time with some advice for ESL teachers. He writes that decoding exists in TWO areas of language.

Decoding is converting text to speech fluently.  The listening skill also needs fluent decoding to achieve comprehension. Consider the following:

A.         “Did you give the umbrella to mom that I gave you?  It’s going to rain.”
            “I gave it to her, but she didn’t need it.  She already has one.”
            “Give it back to me.  I’ll need it if it rains.”

The same information in the syntax of Spanish:
B.         “To her did you give the umbrella to mom that to you I gave?  It is going to rain.”
            “To her it I gave, but she not it needed.  Already she has one.”
            “Return to me it. It I will need if it rains.”

The second language learner receives information in an unfamiliar sequence. Internalizing the structures of another language must be presented in an organized manner.  

To learn more, go to 

Is the Youth Entrepreneur program right for you? It “equips young people with the values and vision to pursue their dreams. We strive to change the mindsets of young people, so they believe in themselves and what they can accomplish. Our experiential education model instills entrepreneurial and economic principles built for prosperity. We inspire students to overcome barriers and seize opportunities for good.”

Additionally, YE is not just a business class. It is “an engaging elective course and alumni program that prepares students from fragile communities for success in the workplace and in life.”

To learn more go here -

The Independent Institute’s Vicki Alger has released a report on the value of educational savings accounts. She writes that “California is among the bottom five states in the nation in reading and math. Currently, nearly one out of five high school students does not graduate, and just 43 percent of those who do graduate meet California’s four-year college course requirements.” She continues,

The proven policy-path for dramatic improvements in student achievement is parental choice: giving parents the ability to choose the methods and means of their children’s education, including the freedom to use education savings accounts, or ESAs.

On the union front, if the Janus v AFSCME case, due for a hearing early next year, is successful, no teacher or any public employee in the U.S. would have to pay money to a union as a condition of employment. The American Federation of Teachers is getting ready for the worst case scenario and sent its director of field programs Rob Weil to speak to the Baltimore Teachers Union. In a presentation titled “Janus, Unions, and the Rest,” Weil details the potential ramifications of the lawsuit. In one of his more interesting comments, he posits that “Unions may be forced to spend larger amounts of time and money on membership maintenance instead of other more progressive union activities.” He adds that the progressive moment (sic) as a whole, and many specific groups, “will lose resources (both $$ and people) which will lessen their impact. Some social partners may, unfortunately, no longer exist.”

In other words, without forced dues, the unions may actually have to pay attention to their members and their political preferences. Mike Antonucci has a different take, however. He writes, “Although their overall numbers will be reduced, it is conceivable that unions will become more progressive organizations. Those who pay dues out of personal choice, rather than mandated obligation, are more likely to support their unions’ political goals as well. There will be less union, but it could be union concentrate.”

So will the unions become even more politically strident? Or will they soften their political positions to attract more members? Only time will tell. 

For an in-depth look at the history of labor reform going back to 1935, Sean Higgins has written an excellent piece on the subject for the Washington Examiner. It includes an interesting quote from former SEIU President Andy Stern: “If states are going to adopt right-to-work laws, they should release unions from the responsibility of representing non-members in collective bargaining. If you are not a member of something, you shouldn't get the benefits.”

For CTA agency fee payers, the November 15th deadline has passed, so we hope you have already submitted your 2017 rebate form. However, if you are a first time filer, you may resign from the union after the 15th. You will not get the full amount, but rather a prorated one depending on how long after the 15th you file. For more information, please visit
CTEN has three Facebook pages. If you have a Facebook account, we urge you to visit ours and let us know your thoughts. Having a dialogue among teachers is an effective way to spread information and share our experiences and ideas. Our original Facebook page can be found here   Our second page, which deals with teacher evaluation and transparency, can be accessed here -   Our newest page is Teachers for School Choice and can be accessed here -
In any event, if you enjoy these letters and find them informative, please pass them along to your colleagues. We know that there are many independent-minded teachers in California who are looking for alternative sources of information. Many thanks, as always, for your interest and support.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dear Colleague,

As many of you know, teachers throughout most of the country are paid by the step-and-column method, whereby salaries are based on the number of years on the job. Teachers can also increase their salaries by taking “professional development” classes, despite conclusive research that these classes have little if any effect on student learning.

When teacher salary schedules first came to be about 100 years ago, they were designed to eliminate discrimination due to race, ethnicity and gender. With such discrimination illegal today, is there really any need for them?
Not according to the Brookings Institution, which has come out with a report that shows the detrimental effects of the step-and-column pay regimen. 

The evidence presented here demonstrates a strong association between inequalities across teacher compensation, school funding, and pension benefits that we believe warrants greater attention. In light of an aging workforce creating a growing number of teacher vacancies, and a new generation of increasingly mobile millennial teachers, these findings have important implications about how public resources are allocated across teachers and students.

Using data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, a study released in September by the Fordham Institute delves into the depths of the teacher absentee problem. On average, teachers miss about eight school days a year due to sick and personal leave, while the average U.S. worker takes only about three-and-a-half sick days per annum. The study shows that 28.3 percent of teachers in traditional public schools are chronically absent, which is defined as missing 11 or more days of school per year due to illness or personal reasons. Interestingly, in charter schools – most of which are not unionized – the corresponding number is just 10.3 percent.

Even within charter schools, the study reveals a glaring disparity. Teachers in unionized charters are almost twice as likely to be chronically absent as their colleagues in non-unionized charters – 17.9 percent to 9.1 percent.

The study’s author, David Griffith, stresses that there’s a direct link between teacher attendance and student achievement. He writes,

There are roughly 100,000 public schools in the United States, with over 3 million public school teachers and at least 50 million students. So every year, at least 800,000 teachers in the U.S. are chronically absent, meaning they miss about 9 million days of school between them, resulting in roughly 1 billion instances in which a kid comes to class to find that his or her time is, more often than not, being wasted….

To read more of this eye-opening report, go here -
While this year’s Smarter Balanced test scores are nothing to rave about in California, there is one bright spot as EdSource’s Carolyn Jones points out: 3rd graders’ math scores. She writes,

Nearly 47 percent of 3rd-graders met or exceeded the math standards, the highest number of any grade level. By comparison, only 32.14 percent of 11th-graders — who spent most of their school years studying the old standards — met or exceeded standards.

To read more about the math scores go here To see all the results go to
Over half of California students are not meeting English standards on the test, and perhaps we need to try a different approach. To that end, early literacy specialist Patrick Herrera has some ideas. He writes that all teachers are language teachers, and when teaching vocabulary, definitions are not enough. He writes,

Learning objectives include a purpose, an instructional plan and assessment.  A common vocabulary assignment is a list of words and definitions to memorize for a quiz.  This includes science, history, etc. 

Memorized information will be quickly forgotten.  Also, you want to insure that the lesson becomes part of their speaking and writing communications.

Let’s review the complete process:

         Assign vocabulary with definitions and sentences that reflect the definitions.
         Review in class, and ask for volunteers to create another sentence using the word. Students add the sentence to their assignment. 
         Quiz: Provide sentences from the original assignment (not the definitions) with the vocabulary word missing. They supply the missing word. 
Vocabulary is more than words and definitions; vocabulary needs context. Context helps you think. You can’t think without vocabulary.

To learn more, visit Herrera’s  

On the school choice front, there is good news coming from Florida, where a recent study conducted by the Urban Institute shows favorable long-term outcomes for students who enroll in the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program – the largest private school choice program in the country. As the American Federation for Children reports:
  • If a student stays in a private school via the FTC for two years, college enrollment increases by 9-14 percent compared to public school students.
  • If a student stays in a private school via the FTC for three years, college enrollment increases by 19-25 percent compared to public school students.
  • If a student stays in a private school via the FTC for four years or more, college enrollment increases by 37-43 percent compared to public school students.
The big union news over the past month is the announcement of the Supreme Court’s willingness to hear the Janus v AFSCME case. Mark Janus, a child support specialist who works for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, is compelled to send part of his paycheck to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Janus, who is being represented by the Liberty Justice Center and National Right to Work Foundation, says, “When I was hired by the state of Illinois, no one asked if I wanted a union to represent me. I only found out the union was involved when money for the union started coming out of my paychecks.”

The lawsuit is a sequel to Friedrichs v CTA, which was headed to a SCOTUS victory last year until Antonin Scalia’s death short-circuited the case. But right-to-work proponents are optimistic that Scalia’s replacement, Neil Gorsuch, will come down as the fifth vote on the side of employee freedom. As things stand now, public employees in 22 states are forced to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.

Many teachers unions are preparing for the worst, and some state affiliates are going to rather drastic lengths to protect their turf. Anticipating an unfavorable Janus decision, Education Minnesota, the National Education Association affiliate in the Gopher State, has come up with a new form that includes the following wording:

I agree to submit dues to Education Minnesota and hereby request and voluntarily authorize my employer to deduct from my wages an amount equal to the regular monthly dues uniformly applicable to members of Education Minnesota or monthly service fee, and further that such amount so deducted be sent to such local union for and on my behalf. This authorization shall remain in effect and shall be automatically renewed from year to year, irrespective of my membership in the union, unless I revoke it by submitting written notice to both my employer and the local union during the seven-day period that begins on September 24 and ends on September 30. (Emphasis added.)

The new American Federation of Teachers U.S. Department of Labor report has been disclosed. As RiShawn Biddle writes,
The nation’s second-largest teachers’ union spent $44.1 million in 2016-2017 on political lobbying activities and contributions to what should be like-minded groups. This is a 29.6 percent increase over the same period a year ago. This, by the way, doesn’t include politically-driven spending that can often find its way under so-called “representational activities.”

Interestingly, the union gave a whopping $1.2 million to the Atlantic Monthly, double the amount it gave to the magazine the prior year. Biddle comments:

You have to wonder if Weingarten and her mandarins are kicking themselves for not offering to buy a stake in the Atlantic, which will soon be controlled by Laurene Powell Jobs’ reform-minded Emerson Collective, which has become a landing spot for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his former honcho on civil rights enforcement, Russlyn Ali.

To read more about AFT largess, go to  To get Mike Antonucci’s take on the DOL report and the Atlantic spend, go here -
And on the subject of unions, a reminder: now is the time for agency fee payers to claim their rebate. Or, if you are a full-dues payer but want to withhold the political share of your union dues, now is the time to get busy. Existing CTA fee payers have until November 15th to request a refund. For details, go here -

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,” which has been updated on our website – all 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. As always, thanks for your continuing interest and support.

Larry Sand
CTEN President