Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dear Colleague,

At 3pm on Sunday, September 27th, CTEN, along with the Association of American Educators, will be hosting an informational event in Long Beach. We will examine the Friedrichs and Bain lawsuits and their possible ramifications for teachers and the general public. I will moderate a panel discussion featuring lawyers and plaintiffs from both cases, and an audience Q&A will follow. The event and refreshments are free but seating is limited so we are asking people to sign up for the event. To do so, go here to

Last week California’s latest standardized test scores were released and, as expected, the results were not good. As the Los Angeles Times reported,

Echoing a downward trend in test scores nationwide, most California students have fallen below grade level and are not ready for college, according to results from new, more rigorous standardized tests. The picture is worse in L.A. Unified, the nation’s second-largest school system.

Across the state, 44% of students scored at grade level or better in English, while 34% did so in math. In L.A. Unified, the figures were 33% in English and 25% in math.

State and local officials said they were prepared for the low scores. The questions are more difficult than on the state’s previous test and, for the first time, students took the exam on computers. The test is linked to a new set of learning standards, called Common Core, that have been adopted by 42 states.

The news was better from charter schools, however:
  • Charter schools have successfully outperformed the state average in English Language Arts by 4.9 scale score points. 
  • In Math, charter schools on average have exceeded the state average by 2.4 scale score points. 
  • Overall, California's charter schools have scored on average 3.6 scale score points higher than the statewide average on a combined measure of Math and English Language Arts.

In the “questionable idea” category, a school in San Francisco has decided to go to “gender-neutral” bathrooms. And just to be clear, this is not about single-stall bathrooms but rather restrooms with multiple stalls.

So far, the single-stall bathrooms for kindergartners and first graders—which are located within the classroom—are gender neutral. The school plans to phase in bathrooms used by older students over the next few years, including restrooms with multiple stalls.

If this becomes the norm, possibly the next thing will be teachers’ bathrooms with multiple stalls. Are you okay with that? If not, I suggest you start to make some noise now. If you are a union member, maybe voice an objection there. For more on co-ed cans, go to

Every few years, we are exposed to a new health fad. In the 1980s, it seems that every other person you met was diagnosed with hypoglycemia. Today – and for several years now – the rage is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Now the CDC has entered the discussion and claims that one in five diagnoses of ADHD are wrong.

In 18 percent of cases, the diagnosis was done solely on the basis of family members' reports, which is inconsistent with AAP recommendations that information be collected from individuals across multiple settings -- such as a teacher, piano instructor, or sports coach. Additionally, one out of every 10 children was diagnosed without the use of a behavior rating scale that is supposed to be administered.

So while no one is denying its existence, parents and schools would be advised to be more prudent before labeling a child with the disorder. For more, go here -
Much has been written about the benefits of a later school day start for kids. A recent report from researchers at Harvard and Oxford found that 10-year-olds should start school at 8 am, 16-year-olds should start between 10 and 10:30 am, and 18-year-olds should start between 11 and 11:30 a.m. Here's a sample of what they found across the U.S.:
  • In North Carolina, eighth-grade students who started class an hour later than their peers in the same district had higher test scores. The later start time seemed especially helpful for low-scoring students, and the effects persisted into high school.
  • When the Minneapolis Public Schools moved their start time from 7:15 am to 8:40 am, students liked the change and reported that "attendance, achievement, behavior, and mood improved." Parents were positive, too: 92 percent said they liked the shift, and parents reported that their kids were easier to live with when they weren't getting up so early.
  • At the US Air Force Academy, where students were randomly assigned to classes with earlier and later start times, students who started earlier performed worse all day long on those days.
To read more go to -
Recently, school choice advocates have been taking it on the chin. First, in late August, the ACLU filed a lawsuit which aims to kill Nevada’s new ESA program. Then on Sept. 4th, the Washington State Supreme Court declared the state’s 2012 charter-school law unconstitutional. While the adults argue about details of state law, thousands of kids and their families’ lives are on hold. For more on the two battles. go to and

In light of the Friedrichs case, the teachers unions are doing what they can to maintain membership, and in the following case, they are trying to stick it to the taxpayer.

Efforts are underway to pass a “public employee orientation” mandate in which all newly hired public employees — including public-school employees and transit workers — must attend a program sponsored by the recognized local union. The “orientation” would take place during the workday. Employees would be required to show up in person. State taxpayers would pick up the costs.

Under proposed language, “The content of the recognized employee organization’s presentation shall be determined solely by the employee organization and shall not be subject to negotiation.” The unions are carving out a right to lobby new employees to join and pay dues.

(Update: the mandate push was not successful. But it will, in all likelihood, be revived in the next legislative session. For more, go here - )

And on the subject of unions, now is the time for agency fee payers to claim their rebate. Or if you are a full-dues payer and want to withhold the political share of your union dues, now is the time to get busy. For details, go here -
Errata: Writing about Barry Garelick’s op-ed ( last month, I reported that 8th graders will no longer be taking algebra in California due to the Common Core State Standards. But Garelick actually wrote, “The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) decided recently to eliminate first-year algebra for 8th graders.” He adds that in other areas “access is restricted by increasing the barriers via additional tests, etc. So algebra in 8th grade is still there, but for fewer students.”

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 informative, please pass them along to your colleagues and encourage them to join us.

And finally, if you would like to see us address certain issues, topics, etc. in these newsletters or on our website – please let us know. And please be sure to share our monthly letters with your coworkers. Thanks.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dear Colleague,

As most of you are back to work now, we sincerely hope that you had an enjoyable summer and that the always busy start of a new school year has been smooth sailing.

CTEN is again participating in National Employee Freedom Week which began August 16th and runs through August 22nd. NEFW is a national campaign whose purpose is to let employees know that they have the freedom to opt out of their union and become agency-fee payers or religious/conscientious objectors. This year 99 organizations in 42 states are participating. An important objective is to reach the 39.2 percent of those in union households nationwide who are unaware they can opt-out of union membership without losing their job or any other penalty. For more information, please visit the NEFW website –  For info specific to teachers in California, go to
And talking about employee freedom, CTEN board member Rebecca Friedrichs had an interview on the subject with the Washington Post’s Emma Brown. While the title of piece – “Two teachers explain why they want to take down their union” – is untruthful, the Q&A is worthwhile. (Friedrichs et al v CTA is not about destroying CTA, but rather an attempt to make dues-paying optional) In any event, near the end of the interview, Friedrichs was asked, “What’s the teachers’ lounge like for you these days? How are you treated?” Her response:

When I took this on I thought I would be shunned, but I knew I was doing the right thing and I have been pleasantly surprised that many, many teachers, they won’t say it in public but they take me into a quiet room or they’ll send me a quiet e-mail to my home, and they thank me and they hug me. I’ve had very little pushback.
To read the interview with Rebecca and Harlan Elrich, another plaintiff in the case, go here -
Lest there be any confusion about the Friedrichs case and Bain v CTA, a related lawsuit, CTEN and the Association of American Educators are cosponsoring an informational event on September 27th in Long Beach. There will be a panel discussion featuring a lawyer and plaintiff from each case. Details will be forthcoming.

From our friends at EdSource:

EdSource Today is looking for teachers who have signed up to receive ETS training to become Smarter Balanced test scorers for a story about the tests and how districts are using them. If you have received (or will receive) this training, please contact reporter Theresa Harrington in Northern California at 510-433-0421 ext. 142 or tharrington@edsource or reporter Sarah Tully in Southern California at

Have you ever felt that a professional development class you were taking was a waste of time? If you are like me, you have had many such experiences. And now TNTP has come out with a study that looked closely at teacher development in three large school districts and one charter school network. The results are not pretty; TNTP found that despite school systems making a massive and laudable investment in teacher improvement—far larger than most people realize,

  • … most teachers do not appear to improve substantially from year to year….
  • … no evidence that any particular kind or amount of professional development consistently helps teachers improve.
  • School systems are failing to help teachers understand how to improve—or even that they have room to improve at all. 

Math teacher and Common Core expert Barry Garelick has in interesting piece posted on the Heartland Institute website. “Pernicious Egalitarianism Shrinks 8th Grade Algebra Programs” delves into the fact that 8th graders will no longer be taking algebra in California due to the Common Core State Standards. Garelick states,

Algebra will now be offered only in high school. Of course, it is a mistake to allow students to take algebra if they are not prepared for it. To succeed in algebra, students must have already achieved mastery of fractions, percentages, decimals, ratios, and negative numbers and be able to solve a variety of word problems. But if a student is qualified to take algebra in 8th grade and would do well in it, why not give the child that opportunity?

Yes, why not? As one who taught algebra to 8th graders for several years, I think this is a serious mistake. To read more of Garelick’s piece, go to

The New York Times’ Mokoto Rich recently penned “Teacher Shortages Spur a Nationwide Hiring Scramble (Credentials Optional)” the latest entry in the alleged teacher shortfall. While all the usual suspects repeat the shortage meme as gospel, there really is not much truth to it. As Mike Antonucci writes,

In the years leading up to the recession, reports of teacher shortages were constantly in the news. In response, America added 140,000 teachers to the workforce. The recession hit, and 63,000 of those teachers disappeared – either through direct layoffs, or attrition when veteran teachers retired.

How can there be a teacher shortage when 63,000 recently working teachers are still out there?

To read Antonucci’s response to Rich’s piece go here -  To read what Antonucci has written on the subject over the years, go to  University of Washington Researcher Dan Goldhaber weighs in here - To read Rich’s piece, go here -

The National Council on Teacher Quality blows up another long-standing myth, that of the “5 year and out” teacher myth.

The Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study follows the same group of teachers for five years, regardless of where they live—even if they leave a state. The headline finding was that only 17 percent of new teachers leave after the first four years (the gray areas in the graph below).  That's a far cry from the oft-repeated education myth that 50 percent of teachers leave within their first five years.

To read more of the NCTQ report, go to

Former teacher and union leader Doug Tuthill has written an article in which he refutes the anti-choice union talking points and claims that “School choice is good for teachers, too.”

Florida also now has more than 40,000 teachers who do not work for school districts. Nearly 14,000 of them work in charter schools, which surpasses the public school teaching workforce in nine other states. At the nonprofit I lead, we routinely hear stories of teachers who migrate from district schools to private schools. They’re choosing these options for the same reason parents are—because they offer a better fit for their individual needs.

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 experiences and to share ideas. Our original Facebook page can be found here!/group.php?gid=125866159932&ref=ts  Our second page, which deals with teacher evaluation and transparency, can be accessed here -!/group.php?gid=126900987357825&ref=ts  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, July 15, 2015

Dear Colleague,

The big news for teachers and other public employees is the Supreme Court’s agreement to hear the Friedrichs v CTA case. This lawsuit, which could make all public employee union dues-paying voluntary, will be decided by June 2016. Needless to say, the unions were not happy with the turn of events, and five of them issued a joint announcement:

We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America--that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life.

To read the rest their statement, go here -  Beyond that commentary, the unions’ most appealing sounding contention is their free rider argument. They claim that since they are forced to represent all workers, that those who don’t pay their “fair share” are “freeloaders” or “free riders.” The unions would have a point if they were being forced to represent all workers. But the forced representation claim is not true. As teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci explains,

The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves. Making people pay for services they neither asked for nor want is a ‘privilege’ we reserve for government, not for private organizations. Unions are freeloading on those additional dues.

The 2015 National Education Association convention wrapped up earlier this month but the yearly shindig didn’t provide many scintillating moments. NEA Executive Director John Stocks did give a rather interesting 25 minute address in which partisan politics was up front and center. He railed against “white skin privilege,” “institutional racism” and “income inequality.” The class warfare jab was particularly perplexing since Mr. Stocks is clearly a one-percenter himself, making over $500,000 grand in total compensation according to the latest NEA tax filing. To see Stock’s speech or to read the text version, go here -  Additionally, Jose Lara’s brief speech after receiving NEA’s “Social Justice” award is eye-opening. To watch it, go to

The subject of teacher pensions has been a staple for some time now. Our friends at the National Council for Teacher Quality have provided us with “Teacher Pensions Mythbusters” in which some of the most common myths around teacher pensions are dispelled. For example, Myth #7 reads, “All teachers prefer a traditional, defined benefit retirement plan.” But as NCTQ points out,

·         A recent nationally representative survey found the vast majority of teachers want a retirement plan that is fair, flexible, and offers stability regardless of its structure.

·         Over 40% of new teachers are career changers who need flexibility in their pensions, so it makes sense that nearly a third would opt out of traditional, defined benefit retirement plans for more flexible options.

·         In fact, a recent case study in Florida found that 30% of teachers entering the system between 2003-04 and 2008-09 selected a defined contribution option over the traditional defined benefit retirement plan.

To read the rest of the document, go here -

At the end of June, the Friedman Foundation released the results of a poll concerning the progress of K–12 education in the United States. Some of their key findings:
  • One out of six people rank education as the No. 1 issue facing America.
  • Americans give low ratings to the federal government’s performance in K–12 education
  • Very few Americans know how much we spend per pupil on K–12 education. 
  • A significant number of public school parents give low grades to their public schools.
  • Actual enrollment numbers do not reflect American’s school type preferences.
  • About twice as many Americans support school vouchers than oppose them.
To view a brief slide show and learn more about the poll, go to

The school choice bus has hit a bump in the road in Colorado’s Douglas County, where its voucher program was knocked out by the Colorado Supreme Court citing the state’s Blaine Amendment. The court wrote: "... this stark constitutional provision makes one thing clear: A school district may not aid religious schools."

That, the court held, is precisely what the voucher program does. Chief Justice Nancy Rice wrote in the court's opinion that it ‘essentially functions as a recruitment program, teaming with various religious schools’ to seek scholarship candidates.

This would seem to fly in the face of Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, a case decided by SCOTUS in 2002, which maintains that because voucher money goes to the parents, not the religious institution, it in no way breaches the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. To read more about the Colorado decision, go here -  To learn more about Zelman, go to

Release time, a practice that allows public employees to conduct union business during working hours without loss of pay, has been getting a lot of press attention of late. These activities include negotiating contracts, lobbying, processing grievances, and attending union meetings and conferences. According to Trey Kovacs, a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, this racket has cost the federal government about $1 billion since 1998. Between 2008 and 2011, the fraud has increased from 2.9 million hours at a cost of $121 million to 3.4 million hours at a cost of $155 million. To learn more, go to  If any of you have release time abuses at your school and are disturbed by it, ask your local school board president how the district deals with this policy. Go to school board meetings and ask questions about the contract wording and ask for verification that that district actually lives up to the contract. Write letters and talk to the media about it, if necessary.

And finally, as you well know, information is frequently used to score political points and make cases for various causes. To that end, CTEN has a “cheat sheet” on our website – with original sources. To see it, go to  If you have information that counters what’s there or would like to see something added, please let us know.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to CTEN can do so very simply through a personal check or PayPal -  As a non-profit, we exist and operate only through the generosity and support of others. Many thanks to CTENers who have already donated and a special shout-out to those of you who do so on a regular basis.

In any event, I hope your summer has been going well!

Larry Sand
CTEN President