Friday, May 22, 2015

Dear Colleague,

In light of the Vergara ruling, legislators in Sacramento have been busy trying to get some replacement laws on the books, but the going hasn’t been easy. Three Republican bills and one by a Democrat have been killed in the Assembly Education Committee where the California Teachers Association reigns. The bills dealt with tenure, seniority and teacher evaluations. None were particularly draconian, but with Vergara in the appeal stage, it seems that the unions are not yet willing to do any compromising. They have not yet taken a position, however, on SB 499 which would subject teacher evaluations to collective bargaining. To learn more about the legislative doings …or lack thereof, go to , and

At the same time it is fighting reforms to traditional public schools, CTA is sponsoring four bills that would make life more difficult for charter schools. LA School Report explains,

Four Democratic California lawmakers joined forces yesterday to promote new bills aimed at creating more stringent regulation of the state’s charter schools.

If passed, the package of bills would bring big changes to the charter schools, including a requirement that they be run as non-profits, that charters be considered government entities and that all of their workers be public employees. One of them would also make it easier for charter school teachers to unionize.

To read more, go to  To read what the California Charter School Association thinks of the bills, go here -
A recent report informs us that both graduation rates and dropout rates have inched up in the Golden State. How is that possible? According to the San Jose Mercury News,

California's high school graduation rate continued its steady climb last year -- but paradoxically, its dropout rate nudged up as well, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.

About four out of five students who entered high school in fall 2010 graduated last June -- 80.8 percent, up from 80.4 percent for the previous class. But 11.6 percent of those destined for the class of 2014 dropped out, up from 11.4 percent for the previous year's class.

Both figures can rise because neither includes students who continue their education without graduating.

Much has been written over the past few years about how teachers in the U.S. spend upwards of 50 percent more time in front of their students than educators in other countries. But according to a recent study by Samuel Abrams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University Teachers College, it’s not true.

In reality, U.S. primary teachers spend about 12 percent more time leading classes than their OECD counterparts, not 50 percent; U.S. lower -- secondary teachers spend about 14 percent more time, not 65 percent; and U.S. upper -- secondary teachers spend about 11 percent more time, not 73 percent.

Also, there are several interesting charts in the report, including one which shows a state-by-state comparison of daily teaching time, and California comes in at 5 hours and 59 minutes – one minute under the national average of exactly six hours. To read the report, go here -

“Shockingly Few Students Are Proficient In U.S. History” read the headline in a Huffington Post piece a few weeks ago. And if the latest NAEP history scores are any indication, the headline is accurate.

Which of these do the governments of Canada, France and Australia have in common: a) They are controlled by the military; b) They have constitutions that limit their power; c) They have leaders with absolute power; d) They discourage participation by citizens in public affairs?

If you chose b, you're smarter than more than 40 percent of America’s eighth graders. But that's a stubbornly low bar, according to a report released Wednesday by the federal government’s educational research arm.

Common Core still is getting a large share of the edu-headlines these days and the testing opt-out movement seems to be gaining strength on both the political right and left. Researcher and Professor Jay Greene gave a particularly articulate statement to the Arkansas Common Core Council a couple of weeks ago. In part, he said,

Standards are about what we value. They communicate what we think is important for our children to learn, when they should learn it, and ultimately what kinds of adults we hope they will grow up to be.

Because standards are about values, their content is not merely a technical issue that can be determined by scientific methods. There is no technically correct set of standards, just as there is no technically correct political party or religion. Reasonable people have legitimate differences of opinion about what they want their children taught. A fundamental problem with national standards efforts, like Common Core, is that they are attempting to impose a single vision of a proper education on a large and diverse country with differing views.

The “free community college” idea is still being bandied about. But is it really “free?” “No” says Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke. She points out that “Over the past several decades, college costs have risen at more than twice the rate of inflation, thanks in large part to federal subsidies.” To read more, go here -

Barry Garelick, co-founder of the U.S. Coalition for World Class Math, which has provided extensive comments on the deficiencies of the Common Core standards for mathematics, has written Teaching Math in the 21st Century, an honest, critical and entertaining look at math education from the inside.

I am not an outright proponent of the philosophy that ‘If you want something done right, you have to live in the past’, but when it comes to how to teach math there are worse philosophies to embrace.

And finally, this is your last chance to take advantage of the following:

This coming June and July, the Independent Institute is hostingChallenge of Liberty,” a free market seminar for students who are at least 18 years old.

The five-day series of lectures, readings, films, multimedia presentations, and debates teach participants what economics is, how it affects their lives, and how understanding it can help them achieve better lives for themselves, their communities, and the world at large. Challenge of Liberty illuminates the intimate connection between principles of free market economics and public policy decisions. Informative, inspiring, and fun, Challenge of Liberty is an ideal way stay intellectually engaged over the summer while bolstering your personal network and building your skill set. 

CTEN has two Facebook pages. If you have a Facebook account, we urge you to join us and let us know your thoughts. Having a dialogue among teachers is an effective way to spread information, and to share experiences and ideas. Our original Facebook page can be found here!/group.php?gid=125866159932&ref=ts  A second page, which deals with teacher evaluation and transparency, can be accessed here -!/group.php?gid=126900987357825&ref=ts

Also, please visit “Teachers for School Choice” here -
As always, thanks for your continued interest and support of CTEN.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dear Colleague,

We are sending you this email twice this month – via the traditional route and also through MailChimp. Any feedback on which you prefer will be greatly appreciated.

Many studies have shown that teachers don’t improve after the first three to five years on the job, but now a new study refutes the prior ones.

… the researchers found teachers' ability to improve student achievement persisted well beyond the three- to five-year mark. While the teachers did make the most progress during their first few years in the classroom, teachers improved their ability to boost student test scores on average by 40 percent between their 10th and their 30th year on the job, the study shows.

The improvements were seen in both reading and math teachers, but were stronger in mathematics.

If the above is true, then Los Angeles should have the best teachers around.  The Los Angeles Daily News reports that the seniority system has brought us to a point where “Los Angeles Unified’s teachers are old and costly.”

For every teacher under the age of 25, there are more than 19 teachers older than 56, according to district data recently compiled for a retirement plan. 

Additionally, nearly half of the district’s teachers, 49.4 percent, are older than 46, while 15.5 percent are younger than 36. 

This school year, 37.1 percent of the district’s classroom teachers had more than 19 years of experience. Each one of those veteran teachers cost the district at least 37.8 percent more in salary than a freshman teacher who earned $45,637 compared with $75,024 for the veteran teacher, according to LAUSD documents. Additionally, an older workforce increases the cost LAUSD pays for health care benefits.

And speaking of Los Angeles, the talks between the district and teachers union are not going well. There are several issues including salary. While the union is offering a 5 percent raise, UTLA is demanding 8.5 percent. They are in the mediation phase, which is the penultimate step. If mediation bears no fruit, fact-finding follows and then a strike could take place if there is still no meeting of the minds. For the latest on the negotiations and all things educational in Los Angeles, LA School Report is a great one-stop shop. Their daily reports can be accessed here -

A popular trend in education circles these days is “restorative justice,” which tries to deal with student misbehavior issues by utilizing a kinder and gentler approach, and avoiding the traditional “punish and suspend.” But New York charter operator Eva Moskowitz isn’t buying any of the new methods. In fact, she wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which she points out that restorative justice is nonsense. To read “Turning Schools Into Fight Clubs” go to

Do you think you are ready to teach Common Core? If not, you have company. In fact, the president of the state Board of Education estimates that less than half of California's teachers are fully prepared to teach the new instructional standards. Michael Kirst, Stanford University professor emeritus of education and head of the state panel that sets policies followed by school districts, gave that assessment during an interview in late March. “It requires a very different kind of classroom teaching. In education reform, the hardest thing to change is instruction within the classroom,” he said. He went on to say that he thinks it will take “at least four years to fully roll out the new standards in state schools,” and called for patience. For more on Kirst’s thoughts, go to

Speaking of Common Core, reformer Andrew Rotherham asks if “the logical next step for the anti-Common Core 'opt-out' movement is opting out of entire schools.” In other words, if parents are allowed to remove their kids from certain tests, why not allow them full-blown school choice? To read this provocative piece, go here -

You may or may not be an expert on Common Core, but are you ready to teach labor history? If the teachers unions get their way, that’s what some of you will be doing every May. Labor expert Kevin Dayton writes, “Do you want your local high school to offer a Labor Studies class to prepare the next generation of union organizers? In California, students soon might have that opportunity, if the state’s Instructional Quality Commission adopts a recommendation from the California Federation of Teachers and the California Assembly Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education.” To read more of Dayton’s report, go to  If you want to let the state know your thoughts about the addition of Labor Studies to the high school curriculum (or any other curricular changes), please contact Kenneth McDonald ( at the State Board of Education.  

A couple of weeks ago, Mike Antonucci “declassified” a document which shows that NEA is trying to prepare its state affiliates for the inevitable day when “right-to-work” will be a national reality. When that happens, the union will have to recruit its members, and not rely on the old forced-dues way of doing things. Its 23 pages are packed solid with endless lists, bullet points and a lot of useless information – not exactly scintillating reading. But if you want to plow through it, here is the link -

And speaking of the unions, there is another teacher initiated lawsuit in California. Whereas Friedrichs et al v CTA is about making union dues-paying voluntary, Bain v. CTA would enable agency fee payers to remain union members. To learn more about the lawsuit, which was filed by Students First on April 3rd, go to

And finally, we still have a limited number of T-shirts available. They are navy blue with the CTEN logo on front and “A resource for all who care about education” printed on the back. They come preshrunk, in small, medium, large and XL. If you would like one, all you have to do is make a $15 donation to CTEN via PayPal - - and let us know what size and where to send it and we will get it out to you promptly.

As always, thanks for your continued interest and support of CTEN.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dear Colleague,

The latest bad news about pensions comes to us via the National Council on Teacher Quality. “Doing the Math on Teacher Pensions: How to Protect Teachers and Taxpayers” is a state-by-state analysis that challenges the claims of pension boards and other groups about “the cost-effectiveness, fairness and flexibility of the traditional defined benefit pension plans still in place in 38 states.” It includes a report card on each of the 50 states and D.C. with a detailed analysis of state teacher pension policies. To access the report, go to  Details on California, rated “C,” are here -

EdVoice, a Sacramento based advocacy group, came out with a report in January: “Student Progress Ignored: An examination of California school districts’ compliance with the Stull Act.” After 40 years of ignoring the law and a lawsuit which was supposed to have changed things, school districts are still not evaluating teachers and principals properly. “Overall, 86.5% of evaluations did not include a connection to pupil progress in their comments. Even in the best district, only 36% of district’s teachers had an evaluation that included any mention of pupil progress.” To learn more about the original EdVoice lawsuit, go here -  To see the report, go to

The debate about testing has become one of the most talked about subjects in education circles. Moderate voices are not always heard, but Teach Plus’s Celine Coggins suggests a sensible approach.

I know annual testing is being hotly debated by teachers right now, with folks on either side of the issue. I stand with Dwight in support of annual assessments. Without them, I fear that we’ll go back in time to 1995, where you couldn’t ask the question:  What did I do this year to help my students succeed? Without annual testing we cannot be pinpoint-focused on closing the achievement gap.

The National Education Association has hired a couple of communications firms to help bolster its image with the public. Over at the Daily Beast, Conor Williams has unearthed and posted the formerly internal communiqué. He writes,

The document, titled ‘Persuading the People on Public Schools,' lists a series of educational and political buzzwords and offers euphemisms of varying degrees of synonymy. Instead of ‘inequality,’ the NEA suggests ‘living in the right ZIP Code.’

This is odd: Those ‘right’ ZIP Codes are usually full of families on the wealthy side of America’s growing inequality gap. How can we talk about ZIP Codes without discussing inequality? It’s also ironic, given the union’s usual resistance to school-choice policies (often involving charter schools) that would weaken links between high real-estate prices and access to quality schools.
Williams’ piece and the document itself can be accessed here –

Friedrichs v. CTA, the Center for Individual Rights challenge to compulsory union dues, is one step closer to the Supreme Court. CIR informs us that on January 26th, “Michael Carvin, lead counsel in the case, filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. The petition asks the Court to take the case and rule that the compulsory union dues laws now in effect in twenty-six states unconstitutionally force individuals to subsidize union positions with which they may fundamentally disagree.  If the Court takes Friedrichs, it will likely schedule the case for the term beginning October, 2015, with a decision likely by June 2016.” To learn more and read the petition, go to

In Illinois, Governor Bruce Rauner apparently decided not to wait for the SCOTUS to rule on the Friedrichs case, and issued an executive order barring unions from forcing public employees to pay dues.

(T)he newly elected Republican who has often criticized public sector unions, took his first step toward curbing their power on Monday by announcing an executive order that would bar unions from requiring all state workers to pay the equivalent of dues.

Mr. Rauner, who faces a Democratic-controlled legislature with strong ties to labor, took the unilateral step saying that he believed those fees violate the United States Constitution.

‘Forced union dues are a critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers,’ Mr. Rauner said. ‘An employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree. That is a clear violation of First Amendment rights — and something that, as governor, I am duty bound to correct.’

This will be interesting to watch. If Rauner’s decision stands, will other governors try to follow suit? To read more, go here -

On the national stage, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) is pushing for a school choice bill that would help children with disabilities, provide more choices to military families and expanded educational options for low-income families in Washington, DC. To learn more about the CHOICE Act, go to To get a varied view on why choice, in general, is beneficial, go here -

This coming June and July, the Independent Institute is hostingChallenge of Liberty,” a free market seminar for students who are at least 18 years old.

The five-day series of lectures, readings, films, multimedia presentations, and debates teach participants what economics is, how it affects their lives, and how understanding it can help them achieve better lives for themselves, their communities, and the world at large. Challenge of Liberty illuminates the intimate connection between principles of free market economics and public policy decisions. Informative, inspiring, and fun, Challenge of Liberty is an ideal way stay intellectually engaged over the summer while bolstering your personal network and building your skill set. 

Know anyone who is interested in becoming a member of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing?

There is a Public Member vacancy on the Committee of Credentials. By statute, the committee is responsible for initiating all investigations into allegations of misconduct by credential holders and applicants. To serve in the Public Member position on the COC, applicants may not have been employed in either a certificated public school position and/or have been a member of any governing board of a school district or county board of education within the five years prior to the date of appointment. Applications must be postmarked no later than May 29, 2015. Visit the CTC website ( for additional information and a copy of the application. 

On March 3rd an election in Los Angeles will, among other things, determine 4 seats on the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees. Four people are running for Seat 1, including CTEN supporter Mark Isler. At the end of this email, I will paste in info that we have received from Isler and the other candidates who are running. (Just to set the record straight, as a 501(c)(3) CTEN cannot, and is not, endorsing anyone for the post.)

If you are interested in giving CTEN brochures to colleagues, you can print them right from the home page - - Brochure.pdf  Or, if you prefer, we will be happy to send you as many preprinted ones as you need.

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

Candidates for Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees:

Mark Isler -

I am running to reverse a long decline in the quality and performance of our educational system. Too many students graduate from high school who can't read, write, spell, or even fill out a job application so the community colleges have had to make up for the failure of the lower grades.

Our community colleges spend too much time and money providing programs and classes that don't translate into marketable skills and true opportunities. My mission will be to challenge schools to provide programs and degrees that translate into jobs and opportunities.

We need to go back to high standards, high expectations, and strong discipline. One of the best ways to achieve these results is by providing school choice.  With competition, the public schools will get much better, but we need to redefine public schools as schools the public chooses, be they public, charter, private or home schools. 

I have 17 years of experience as a community college educator.  I currently work at a local community college as a Professor in the Political Science and Business Divisions; I also run the Job Placement Center where I place students in jobs and internships both on and off campus, and I am the Government Relations liaison to the college. Every year I bring students, faculty and staff to Sacramento to lobby the legislature and teach them how to advocate for issues that matter. I have seen first hand what our community colleges can do to improve the lives of those who walk through our doors.  I’ve also seen underprepared and underserved populations struggle to be successful in college. I am running because I want to remove barriers and make sure that all students regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status have an opportunity to benefit from an affordable, high quality public higher education.

Francesca Vega -  (Statement solicited; none received.)

Maria “Sokie” Quintero -  (Statement solicited; none received.)