Welcome to the blog of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. CTEN is a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the public at large with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
How does California rank in per-pupil spending? Ask three
people and you’ll get four different answers. That’s because it depends on the
methodology used to calculate the costs. Hence there is really no one right
answer as explained in a detailed report by EdSource’s
Week uses data collected by the federal
government, the National Center for Education Statistics. The center
publishes 2-year-old data because it waits for states to update their actual
spending, and the center takes months scrubbing the information to make sure
the state data are comparable. EdWeek
then applies a cost-of-living factor, the Comparable Wage Index, which has
the effect of lowering the rankings of states with high costs of living.
The National Education Association’s data,
based on surveys it sends out to states, are more current but depend on states’
best estimates of spending. Those can change significantly if, for example, a
legislature makes mid-year budget cuts. NEA annually revises data for the two
previous years, and it doesn’t apply a cost-of-living adjustment, such as a
comparable wage index.
The California Budget and Policy Center uses
the most recent NEA numbers, but then applies the comparable wage index for its
rankings… on a “State Report Card” issued by Education Week, California scored below the national average.
Massachusetts ranked at the top, followed by New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire,
Maryland and Connecticut, all earning a B. As a whole, the nation received a C, but the Golden State came in with
a solid C-minus, 10th from the bottom among the 50 states and Washington, D.C.
The state ranked 41st
in conditions that help children succeed, 39th in school finance,
and 30th in achievement. The report card gave the state a D+
in K-12 achievement and school finance,
and a C in chance for success.
Ask a group of
teachers about “test-based accountability” and an argument – perhaps with
name-calling – will probably ensue. But perhaps a piece in Education Week by the eminently sensible Robert Pondiscio will
bring any extreme positions on the subject to a rational middle. He writes:
I’m morally inclined
toward (Cato Institute’s Jason) Bedrick’s “choice purist” argument for its
simplicity and clarity. I chose my daughter’s (private) school without
much official oversight, approval, or fear of sanction. I see no reason to
think I’ve cornered the market on sound parental judgment. That said, (Fordham
Institute’s Mike) Petrilliand others who favor stronger oversight are
on solid ground when they note that when taxpayers are paying for it, the
public has a right, even an obligation, to make sure the money’s not
squandered. But where I part company with them is that I’m
increasingly open to exploring other forms of accountability, including letting
parents vote with their feet.
Another subject that brings a lot of heat, but not always
light is ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is the latest incarnation
of the convoluted No Child Left Behind law. To bring the subject to a level
that we mortals can understand, education policy experts Rick Hess and Max Eden
have issued The Every Student Succeeds
Act: A 101 Guide.
heralded as “the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a
quarter century,” reflects and responds to these political trends. In the new
volume The Every Student Succeeds Act: What It Means for Schools, Systems, and
States, AEI Education assembled a group of expert scholars and observers to
provide a coherent, readable, and in-depth account of where ESSA came from,
what it says, what will or will not change, and what it all means for schools.
This guide distills selected chapters of that volume into a series of short
briefs to help policymakers navigate the new law and its implications for
On the school choice front, things are advancing. Many
choice-friendly governors and state legislators were swept into office this
past November. An article by Education
Week’s Arianna Prothero examines some of the potential legislation.
looks primed to pass legislation allowing charter schools to open—it's one of
only seven states that remains a charter holdout…Arizona lawmaker Wants to extend
Education Savings Accounts to all students…Texas
lawmakers try again for a voucher program.
Choice is not only making news on a state level but in D.C.,
where President Trump has been speaking about a national school choice measure.
To that end, Thomas Carroll, president of the Invest in Education
Coalition based in New York, has a plan which he details in “A
Federal Scholarship Tax Credit: The Only Fifty-State School-Choice Option.”
If you pay federal
taxes and donate to any eligible, existing scholarship fund—for example, the
Children’s Scholarship Fund—you get to reduce your tax bill by the amount of
your donation. Any such bill would set an income threshold for who can use the
scholarships funded by the tax-credited donations (in the Rubio-Rokita case, up
to 2.5 times the poverty level, or about $60,000 for a family of four), place a
cap on what size donation would be eligible for a tax credit, and potentially
limit the total combined amount of tax credits allowed for all taxpayers in a
calendar year ($20 billion, for example, the amount of federal funds President
Trump has proposed for expanding school choice).
In a contrary piece,
The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke warns against any kind of federal
Creating a new federal program further
entangles Washington in local school policy and private education. Scholarship
tax credits (STCs) are great policy at the state level. They enable businesses
and individuals to receive a credit against their tax obligations for
contributing to non-profit scholarship granting organizations, which in turn
provide scholarships to eligible children to attend a private school of choice.
It’s a win-win.
Nevertheless, the federal tax code is not the
appropriate lever for establishing STCs. First, the U.S. Constitution does not
authorize the federal government to enact national education programs, and
instead rightly leaves education policy to the states. Moreover, school choice
programs produce savings to the taxpayer at the state level because state
education spending is tied to enrollment, but this is not true of federal
education spending. Reductions in revenue from scholarship tax credits are more
than offset by corresponding decreases in state spending. By contrast, a
federal STC would provide no corresponding reduction in spending.
Also, on the policy
front, President Trump undid his predecessor’s “bathroom” guidelines which had
called on schools nationwide to let transgender students choose “Boys” or
“Girls,” depending on how they perceived themselves, and not the old-fashioned
way: by body parts. So now, the decision is up to each state and teacher union
leaders were not happy about the change. National Education Association
president Lily Eskelsen García insisted, “Every student matters, and every
student has the right to feel safe, welcomed, and valued in our public schools.
This is our legal, ethical and moral obligation. The Trump administration’s
plans to reverse protections for transgender students… is dangerous,
ill-advised, and unnecessary.” Not to be outdone, American Federation of
Teachers president Randi Weingarten claimed that reversing the guidelines “tells
trans kids that it’s OK with the Trump administration and the Department of
Education for them to be abused and harassed at school for being trans.”
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Not that her detractors will go softly into the night, but at
least Betsy DeVos is now in place as the Secretary of Education. While the
teachers unions and other education establishmentarians are angry and fearful
as to what she might try to do, the fact is that her powers are limited. As
spelled out in rational way (a rarity on this issue), Fordham Institute
president Mike Petrilli details her job description.
selected her to be the U.S. Secretary of Education. That person’s job is to do
education politics and policy—to work with members of Congress and governors,
to understand how a bill becomes a law, to provide moral support to reformers
as they fight it out in the states and at the local level. With her decades of
involvement in politics, with policymakers, and in the trenches of the parental
choice movement, DeVos is an inspired choice for the job that the Senate
confirmed her for yesterday.
confirmation process, DeVos promised time and again to shrink Uncle Sam’s
impact on the nation’s schools—to devolve decisions back to states,
communities, educators and parents. That’s in keeping with the mandate from
Congress, which just over a year ago updated the major K–12 law to expressly
limit the federal role in education.
this one by director of education policy at the Show-Me Institute, Michael
McShane asks us to “Rethink School Accountability” and “Stop the outcry over
DeVos' approach and consider real reform, instead.” His piece in US News & World Report starts,
In many Eastern religions, practitioners use
mantras to calm and center themselves while meditating. If the school choice
movement needs a mantra right now, it just might be: Regulating a market is not
the same as regulating a monopoly.
I say this because of the huge outcry around
the putative beliefs of Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump's nominee for
education secretary, on how to bring accountability to charter schools and
schools that participate in voucher programs. Differing conceptions of
accountability have become equated with being "for" or
"against" the idea, in toto. But which is more strict? Requiring that
schools be evaluated on an A-to-F scale and automatically kicked out of a
charter program if they fail? Or establishing a mayorally-appointed commission
to decide what schools should and shouldn't stay open? I actually don't know.
The looming teacher (and other
public employee) pension disaster for taxpayers is not news. But what has gone
under-reported is that young teachers entering the field are carrying a
disproportionate amount of the load. And if those teachers don’t make teaching
a career for life, they lose out. Big time.
All this is spelled
out in recent a Fordham Institute report. As the introduction to the detailed 378 page analysis
states, “A new teacher’s pension is supposed to be a perk. The truth is that
for the majority of the nation’s new teachers, what
they can anticipate in retirement benefits will be worth less than what they
contributed to the system while they were in the classroom, even if they
stay for decades.” The even sadder news is that no one in a position of power
seems to be willing to do anything about it.
author EdChoice’s Martin Lueken found that the median “crossover point” of the
fifty-one districts across the country he examined is 25 years, which means
that teachers in more than half of these districts have to teach a quarter of a
century before they reach the point where their retirement benefits are worth
more than their contributions.
The latest entry by
the National Council on Teacher Quality on teacher evaluations is out.Running in Place: How New Teacher Evaluations
Fail to Live Up to Promisesis
part of the tenth annual publication in theState
Teacher Policy Yearbookreport
series. The report “finds that within the 30 states that require student
learning measures to be at least a significant factor in teacher
evaluations, state guidance and rules in most states allow teachers to be
rated effective even if they receive low scores on the student learning
component of the evaluation.”The report also includes recommendations
for how states can address this problem.
On the school choice front, New Hampshire State Senator John
Regan has penned an article which extols the virtues of choice.
Choice (formerly Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice) has presented 33
empirical studies all showing positive results from school choice. Twenty-eight
of these same studies (a whopping 85 percent) showed positive, or neutral
fiscal effects. Other studies show a higher level of awareness of both civic
values and responsibilities.
tour of a New Hampshire charter school, I asked what were some of the reasons
why students choose to transfer to a charter school. The number one response:
Another win for school choice is that of additional learning and higher test
scores. Former Rep. Jason Bedrick, now a member of the Cato Institute, writes ‘
… highly significant educationally meaningful achievement gains of several
months of additional learning from school choice.’
Also on the subject of choice “A Federal Scholarship Tax Credit: The
Only Fifty-State School-Choice Option” is a thoughtful piece written by Thomas
W. Carroll, president of the Invest in Education Coalition. He writes about a
bill by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Representative Todd Rokita
(R-Indiana) that “proposes a federal tax credit for K–12 scholarships that is
independent of state programs—much like federal tax credits for buying electric
vehicles.” He also writes,
Not only is such a federal
school-choice tax credit doable—it’s the only way President Trump can
effectively bring school choice to families in the blue states that voted for
him in 2016 and others that might in the future. No other solution can
immediately benefit every American student. A competitive grant program, for
example, would at most affect a half-dozen states. And categorical block grants
that can be turned into school vouchers require state-by-state approval,
meaning ‘choice’ states would likely allow, but ‘non-choice’ states would not.
In January, Kentucky became the 27th right-to-work state
in the nation, and this month Missouri became #28. In a few short years, the
RTW movement has picked up considerably. Between 1947 and 2011, just three
states opted for worker freedom. But since 2012, six states have been added to
the RTW column, and others are moving in that direction. And that’s not the
only bad news for the unions. In
November 2016, the National Right to Work Foundation,
along with the Liberty Justice Center,
filed a brief on behalf of two Illinois government employees. Mark Janus, a child
support services worker at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family
Services, and Brian Trygg, a transportation engineer, resent their unions’
forced dues regimen and are suing them. Janus
v. AFSCME could make it to the Supreme Court as soon as next year.
three new federal court cases challenging the constitutionality of forcing
public employees to pay union dues were filed in January. Government
workers – including Pennsylvania teachers, California medical center employees,
and New York school employees – are plaintiffs. These cases, being filed with
legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation,
argue that “state requirements that the plaintiffs pay mandatory union fees as
a condition of government employment violate the First Amendment.”
Then on February 6th, The Center
for Individual Rights (the same group that brought the Friedrichs case) filed a lawsuit
against the state of California and the California Teachers Association “on
behalf of eight California public school teachers and the Association of
American Educators. The teachers are challenging California’s “agency shop”
law, which CIR says violates the First Amendment by forcing them to pay annual
fees to the union – even if they are not a member.
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 http://www.ctenhome.org/cheatsheet.htmlIf
you have information that counters what’s there or would like to see something
added, please let us know.
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The big national education story continues to be Donald
Trump’s selection for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Her Senate hearing
was moved from January 11th to the 17th and it will be a
few more days before a confirmation vote is taken. The extra six days gave
teacher union leaders additional time to vent about DeVos, who scares them to
death. Speaking to the Washington Press Club, AFT president Randi Weingarten
said, “Betsy DeVos lacks the qualifications and experience to serve as
secretary of education. Her drive to privatize education is demonstrably
destructive to public schools and to the educational success of all of our
children.” Weingarten adds, “She’s devoted millions to elect her friends and
punish her enemies, and, at every critical moment, she has tried to take the
public out of public education.”
Despite the union
animus toward private school education, many teachers don’t agree. In fact, teachers send their own kids to private schools in greater
numbers than the general populace. According to a survey released in
January, 2016, Education Next found “No less than 20 percent
of teachers with school age children, but only 13 percent of non-teachers, have
sent one or more of their children to private school.” And not surprisingly, 42
percent of teachers who don’t send their kids to a traditional public school
back vouchers, as compared to only 23 percent of the teachers who send their
children to traditional public schools.
On the subject of choice, it is
important to note that many naysayers insist that voucher programs cost the
taxpayer money, but studies refute this. Most recently, a study from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty,
decided to look at the cost/benefits of choice schools. They found that:
…students participating in Milwaukee’s voucher program will
provide the city, state and students nearly $500 million in economic benefits
through 2035 thanks to higher graduation and lower crime rates.
Using data from a crime and graduation study by Corey
DeAngelis and Patrick Wolf at the University of Arkansas, the
Milwaukee study finds that through 2035 Wisconsin will receive a $473 million benefit
from higher graduation rates by choice students. More education translates into
higher incomes, more tax revenue and a lower likelihood of reliance on
government welfare or other payments. Meanwhile, greater economic opportunity
also prevents young adults from turning to crime, which the study estimates
will save Wisconsin $1.7 million from fewer misdemeanors and $24 million from
fewer felonies over the same 20 years.
Speaking of choice, January 22-28 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 21,392 events planned this year,
rallies, science fairs, school tours, policy forums, and rallies in more than
25 state capitals. These celebrations will be attended by tens of millions of
Americans in all 50 states over just seven days.
Of the 21,392
events, 16,758 are planned by schools, 2,168 by homeschooling groups, 1,358 by
chambers of commerce, and many more by individuals, along with coalitions of
policy, advocacy, and education organizations. Each event reflects the community
and mission of the individual event planners, focusing on themes like parent
information nights, registration fairs, and workforce readiness.
voted to bring back bilingual education in November, few acknowledged that
there are not nearly enough teachers equipped to teach it. And now that it is
the law, there is a search to fill many needed teaching slots.
Greg Forster has written a detailed five-part series on accountability: the
best way to measure it, who should be in charge of it, etc. In Part 5 he
firing and paying of teachers must attract and retain wise professionals with
a commitment to nurturing children’s ability to achieve and appreciate the
true, good and beautiful. It should not place a high priority on more
utilitarian metrics like small fluctuations in test scores.
Holding teachers accountable requires us to
hold schools accountable. Schools need to have strong institutional culture.
School leadership must instill shared moral commitments pointing to the higher
purpose of education, and defining the rules of acceptable behavior for
educators and students implied by that higher purpose.
The big challenge for school accountability
is that these moral commitments cannot be simply imposed by force. The school
must be a free community in which students genuinely internalize the
transcendent goals of education rather than merely conforming reluctantly
to the grown-ups’ demands. This means accountability systems must have strong moral and social connections to
schools. That way educators and students will accept their decisions not
as a hostile outside force but as part of, and supporting, the free moral
community of the school itself.
Also on the subject
of accountability, the Washington Post’s
Esther Cepeda writes “Teacher evaluation system is failing.” She concludes
that, “Until teacher evaluations can be reliable, apolitical and rigorous — and
provide accountability while being objective and fair — fixing systems where
ineffective teachers are almost impossible to fire will continue to be a pipe
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.
Undoubtedly the biggest national education story of the
last few weeks is President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos to
be the Secretary of Education. The reform-minded crowd by-and-large lauded the
pick, while the teachers unions have been in a state of grief. The NEA has been
pillorying DeVos every chance it gets on its website, asserting that she is an “ardent
supporter of ‘school choice’ privatization schemes, despite a complete lack of
evidence that privatizing public schools produces better education.” The union
also claims that she has “invested millions lobbying for laws that drain
resources from public schools…fought against the regulation of charter schools…and
is not a good fit for a position overseeing the civil rights of all students.”
Responding to the charges, Arkansas writer Paul Greenberg
delivers an op-ed in which he states that “Betsy DeVos is a fighter and a
winner.” I threw in my two cents, responding to the union’s charges and think
that she – with a few caveats – is a good choice for the job.
The Programme for
International Student Assessment (PISA) tests reading, mathematics and science and is administered
every three years to 15 year-olds in 72 countries by the Paris-based
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The latest results were
announced a couple of weeks ago, and the news wasn’t good. U.S. students
performed in the middle of the pack in reading and science, but well below
average in mathematics. Many make excuses for our poor showing by claiming that
the U.S., unlike other countries, tests all its children, not just the elite, has
large proportions of immigrants and English-language learners, and has a huge
proportion of children in poverty. But Robert Rothman, writing in the Hechinger Report, disagrees.
The fact is that these criticisms are
inaccurate. Nearly every country enrolls nearly all 15-year-olds in school, and
the U.S. is on the low side, with 84 percent of 15-year-olds in school. Many
countries have higher immigrant populations than the United States, and in some,
such as Singapore, immigrant students outperform native-born students.
And poverty does not explain the U.S.
results. Yes, child poverty rates in the U.S. are high, but they are about at
the average for OECD countries. Some high-performing regions, like Hong Kong,
have much higher poverty rates. And some, like Hong Kong, have managed to break
the connection between socioeconomic status and achievement. In Estonia, for
example, 48 percent of low-income students are “resilient”; that is, they score
at top levels. In Canada, the resiliency rate is 39 percent. In the U.S., it is
32 percent—and the good news is the rate has gone up over the past decade.
On December 8th,
the National Council on Teacher Quality released new ratings for 875
undergraduate elementary teacher preparation programs. One of NCTQ’s findings
is that these programs “still have far to go, particularly in preparing
elementary teachers in mathematics…. The new findings do little to quell the
notion that teaching is an ‘easy major,’ open to anyone who applies in many
institutions. Only one quarter of the programs (26 percent) are sufficiently
selective, generally admitting only the top half of college goers.” To access
the NCTQ report, go to http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=c9b11da2ceffae94e1dc196f6&id=5e42db5a3d&e=9dc9a1baf8
The same day NCTQ
came out with its teacher prep analysis, the Fordham Institute released a
report on the difficulty of removing ineffective teachers from public school
classrooms. The results of the study showed that in some school districts it is
virtually impossible to get rid of an under-performer. The Fordham analysts
used a ten point metric based on three simple questions:
tenure protect veteran teachers from performance-based dismissal?
does it take to dismiss an ineffective veteran teacher?
vulnerable is an ineffective veteran teacher’s dismissal to challenge?
They then used
this framework to gauge the difficulty of dismissing ineffective veteran
teachers in 25 diverse school districts across the country and found three
major obstacles. In 17 of the 25 districts, state law allows teachers to
achieve tenure and never relinquish it, even if poor performance reviews
follow. Also, it takes forever to cut through the red tape involved in a
teacher dismissal. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, it can take five or more
years to complete the process. And finally, teachers have multiple appeals to
their dismissal in many districts.
Vice President for External Affairs at the Thomas
B. Fordham Institute, has
written a forceful piece for U.S News
& World Report in which he suggests that we “Let Poor Parents Choose
Too.” Making the case for parent power in the current political climate, he
If it's education reform technocrats and
accountability hawks versus parents this time, the mood, the moment and the
moral argument would seem to favor parents. If this year has taught us nothing
else, it's that Americans have had just about enough of their betters deciding
what's best for them and expecting them to play gratefully along. Reformers
might have to start accepting that our greatest point of leverage is to help
parents choose wisely, rather than trying to police their choices by means of
aggressive accountability schemes.
choice is on the move in other states, California is lagging. EdSource’s Louis Freedberg suggests, “Trump
school voucher plan would face huge obstacles in California.” There are many
questions: Would a voucher program be legal in California? Where would the
federal funds come from? How much would the plan as proposed by Trump cost in
California? Where would students
be able to use the vouchers? To see how Freedberg answers these and other
questions, go to https://edsource.org/2016/trump-school-voucher-plan-would-face-huge-obstacles-in-california/573691
Scalia died in February, the Friedrichs case
went with him. But there is another case on the horizon that is trying to
accomplish the same end: giving workers a choice whether or not to pay dues to
a public employee union as a condition of employment. According to Choice Media,
Enter Illinois plaintiffs Mark Janus and
Brian Trygg and a case called Janus
v. AFSCME. With the legal counsel of Jacob Huebert of the Liberty
Justice Center, they are suing Illinois public sector unions for the same
reason as the Friedrichs plaintiffs
— forced union fees. The plaintiffs are employees of the state of Illinois;
Mark Janus is a child support services worker at the Illinois Department of
Healthcare and Family Services, and Brian Trygg is a transportation engineer.
Attorney Huebert told Choice Media that if they win their case, the precedent
would apply to public school teachers as well.
“If the court were to rule in their favor
[Janus and Trygg’s], it would extend to all government workers who’ve been
forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment,” Huebert said. “That’s
really the issue at the heart of the case: Can the government force its
employees to pay union fees as a condition of employment? If it can’t force
Illinois state workers to do that, it’s not clear how it can force any other
kind of government worker to do that.”
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It has been another exciting year for
CTEN -www.ctenhome.org/ and we look forward to an even more
vigorous 2017. We remain grateful for your interest and involvement, and wish
you and your families the happiest of holidays. See you next year!
Eight days ago, Donald Trump became our president-elect. And
just what will this mean for educators? Hard to say because very little of the
campaign was spent on K-12 education issues. Our soon-to-be 45th
President did say that school choice is a priority, however.
nominee Donald Trump is pledging that, if elected, he'd be the "nation's
biggest cheerleader for school choice" and would offer states the chance
to use $20 billion in federal money to create vouchers allowing children in
poverty to attend the public, charter, or private school of their choice.
"There is no
policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education
Trump said. "The Democratic Party has trapped millions of
African-American and Hispanic youth" in struggling schools.
"We want every
inner-city child in America to have the freedom to attend any school," he
Trump said that the
$20 billion in federal funds could be combined with more than $100 billion in
state and local money to create vouchers of up to $12,000 annually for the
nation's poorest kids.
Of note to
Californians, the three education-related measures on the ballot all passed.
Prop. 58 will largely undo Prop 227, and restore bilingual education. Prop 55
will continue Prop 30, the “temporary tax” on people earning over $263,000 a
year through 2030. And Prop 51, a school bond measure, will “help to repair, upgrade and improve
California’s K-12 public schools and community colleges” according to
On the subject of
school choice, many in the education establishment contend that any
privatization of education hurts teachers. Not so, says University of Arkansas’
Corey DeAngelis, who makes the case that “School Choice Benefits Teachers Too.”
resources to private schools must harm teachers in public schools, right? This
is debatable, especially since public school teachers do
not face a serious threat of dismissal or
decreasing salaries. Moreover, even if this caused a realistic dismissal
threat, the high-quality teachers would certainly remain shielded. What is
unquestionable, however, is that this diversion of resources benefits teachers
in private schools voluntarily chosen by families.
Which group of teachers
should benefit more? The ones that forcefully receive resources from the
taxpayers, or the ones that produce educational outcomes that are desired by
children and parents?
To state the
obvious, as charter schools and other forms of educational choice proliferate,
traditional public schools lose market share. While some school districts complain
to legislators and the media about the loss of students and revenue, the more creative
ones have turned to marketing.
Joel Dahl, an administrator in the
Westonka district, said his small school system outside of Minneapolis was
losing children to charters, private schools and neighboring districts for
about six years before the flow subsided around 2014, in part because of the
outreach to young children.
In addition to sending out about 100 baby
bags every three months, the district also sends birthday cards to newborns
through their fifth birthday and offers programs to children from birth. One
class involves a teacher leading parents and newborns in playtime and singing
to help the babies with communication and socialization skills.
“We try and start young and recruit them, and
hope they try to stay all the way through,” Mr. Dahl said. “Our goal is to get
One of the edu-myths
making the rounds these days is that teachers are burning out because of tougher tests and evaluations. Mike
Antonucci looks at the evidence and finds the claim to be essentially not true,
with perhaps one exception.
…as one review of the published
evidence put it: “Research to date suggests that accountability has not
dramatically changed the career choices of teachers overall, but that it has
likely increased attrition in schools classified as failing relative to other
schools.” There is less research on teacher evaluation policies, but what
exists suggests that turnover and dissatisfaction may be particularly acute for
teachers who receive poor ratings.
On the subject of
testing, the always provocative Jay Greene has written a most interesting blog
post, “Evidence for the Disconnect Between Changing Test Scores and Changing
Later Life Outcomes.”
Over the last few years I have developed a
deeper skepticism about the reliability of relying on test scores for
accountability purposes. I think tests
have very limited potential in guiding distant policymakers, regulators,
portfolio managers, foundation officials, and other policy elites in
identifying with confidence which schools are good or bad, ought to be opened,
expanded, or closed, and which programs are working or failing. The problem, as I’ve pointed out in several
pieces now, is that in using tests for these purposes we are assuming that if
we can change test scores, we will change later outcomes in life. We don’t really care about test scores per
se, we care about them because we think they are near-term proxies for later
life outcomes that we really do care about — like graduating from high school,
going to college, getting a job, earning a good living, staying out of jail,
Earlier this month, the California Charter Schools
Association released a ranking of every
school – charter and traditional – in the state. As reported in LA School Report,
Each school is ranked
from 1 to 10 as a statewide rank and a “similar student” rank, which compares
schools with similar demographics, including race and socioeconomic status.
CCSA’s senior vice president of achievement and performance management, said
the “similar student” rank tells more about how a school is educating its
students. Students who have educated parents and are from higher socioeconomic
backgrounds are more likely to do better on standardized tests. Schools that
are “beating the odds” rank high on the similar students rank, meaning students
are scoring higher on tests than students from other schools with similar
For CTA agency fee payers, the November 15th
deadline has passed, so we hope you have already submitted your 2016 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 http://www.ctenhome.org/know.htm
anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money
order or PayPal - http://www.ctenhome.org/donate.htmlAs a non-profit, we
exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always.
There are a load of
education bills that became law in California at the end of last month, as well
as quite a few that failed. AB 2329, one of the more interesting bills that
passed, involveslaying the groundwork to
expand computer education in all grades. Another, AB 2246, mandates that “school
districts serving 7th through 12th grade students to
adopt a suicide prevention policy that specifically addresses prevention
procedures for youth who are at high risk of mental health issues and suicidal
thinking, including those who are bereaved, homeless, experiencing
discrimination based on sexual orientation or struggling with substance abuse.”
bill of note that died in the legislature, AB 2835, would have required school
districts and other employers of public employee unions “to hold annual
in-person orientations for all new workers, at which unions would be allowed to
make a 30-minute pitch for union membership.” Another high-profile bill that
didn’t make it (Governor Brown vetoed it), was AB 2548 which would have given the legislature “a
role in overseeing the new statewide school accountability system, based on
multiple measures of school success, by locking in statute the work that the
State Board of Education is doing on its own through rules and regulations. It
would have placed more emphasis on test scores for identifying
low-performing schools needing assistance than the state board favors, and it
would require a summary ranking of a school’s performance, enabling parents to
readily compare schools – a position the state board opposes.”
And speaking of accountability, an educator
in Los Angeles penned a thoughtful piece on the matter for LA School Report. Tunji Adebayo, a high school charter teacher who
made his case before the state school board in Sacramento, writes,
told the board that we need an accountability system that will provide families
with clarity and equity. I spoke about Marco’s mom, who works multiple jobs and
has half the eighth-grade education Marco has achieved. Marco’s little sister
once translated his mother’s question to me, “What high school should Marco go
to?” An equitable accountability system is one where Marco’s mom could easily
understand the performance of schools in her district to make the right
educational choice for her son.
also told them about my mentee Jayson’s mother, who deserves to know that the
school he attends potentially performs in the bottom 20 to 30 percent of
schools statewide. An equitable system would give her the tools and information
to help her steer her son to greater educational opportunity.
The teacher shortage issue seems to be a
rumor that just won’t die. Responding to the latest lamentation from the Learning
Policy Institute, Mike Antonucci deftly refuted it. While he agrees that are
shortages in certain areas, he writes that the national teacher shortage story
is nonsense. In fact, Antonucci asserts that there is a teacher surplus in
elementary education. “If you aren’t specific in identifying shortage areas and
providing incentives to fill those areas, the result may be an unneeded
increase in elementary school teacher candidates who cannot find jobs.”
school choice front, the Nevada Supreme Court delivered a split decision on the
state’s universal Education Savings Account program. The ACLU had argued the law was unconstitutional, on
the grounds of separation of church and state, alleging that the program would
unconstitutionally divert money to religious schools that proselytize or can
discriminate against students or staff. The Court denied that claim, but did
rule that the legislature can’t use money earmarked for public education to
fund it. So the ESA program remains on hold pending the state’s lawmakers’ effort
to find a different funding mechanism. To learn more about Nevada’s ESA law, go
here - https://lasvegassun.com/news/2016/oct/05/in-wake-of-esa-ruling-funding-issue-looms-large/
At the end of September, the American
Federation of Teachers filed its 2015-2016 financial report with the U.S.
Department of Labor, and once again, it spent a lot of teachers’ dues money on the
Clintons. As reported by RiShawn Biddle,
The union gave $250,000 to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea
Clinton Foundation, the controversial philanthropy run by the Clinton family
that has garnered widespread scrutiny during this year’s presidential campaign
for receiving donations from corporations and foreign governments that also had
business before the former Secretary of State during her tenure in the Obama
Administration. AFT gave another $250,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative….
Altogether, AFT has doled out $2.2 million into
Clinton-controlled nonprofits over the past four years.
The question then becomes: Is the AFT categorizing
this as “political spending?” In other words does an agency fee payer have to
pony up for what would seem to be a blatant political contribution? The best
way to find out the funding source of the Clinton donations would be to check
out a Hudson notice. If you are an
AFT/CFT member and have a recent Hudson notice, please contact me at email@example.com
Also on the union
front, an interesting point was raised in another bill that didn’t get passed
into law during the 2015-1016 legislative session. AB 2754 would have required
“public unions to hold an election every
two years to determine if the current labor union should continue to represent
its members. The election would also allow workers to select another public
employee union to take its place.” This seems only fair since probably not one
person reading this email voted to be in the union that represents them. An
excellent paper on the subject was written in 2012 by the Heritage Foundation’s
James Sherk. He looked at several states to see how many teachers still
employed voted in their union.
passed legislation giving government unions collective bargaining powers in
1974, and by 1975 the state’s 10 largest school districts had unionized. Just 1
percent of current teachers were on the job in 1975. Fully 99 percent of the
teachers in Florida’s largest school districts had no choice about being
represented by their union.
gave government unions collective bargaining powers in 1965. Seven of the 10
largest school districts in the state had already unionized (even without full
collective bargaining powers) before then or organized that year. One of the
state's largest school districts unionized in 1971, and two others did so in
the 1980s. Across Michigan’s 10 largest school districts, just 1 percent of
teachers had the opportunity to decide who would represent them.
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 your refund. For details, go here - http://www.ctenhome.org/how-to-opt-out-teachers-union-nea-cta-aft-cft.html
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