Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dear Colleague,

There seems to be no let-up in the Common Core debate. As a way to help you decide on whether you think the new standards are a good idea, we have tried to present you with informative articles on both sides of the issue. In that vein, we are linking the December Education Matters, the newsletter of the American Association of Educators, which devotes the entire edition to this thorny issue. To read it, go to

Another topic loaded with controversy is the recently released PISA scores. For the unaware, Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a collaborative effort among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries, and

… assesses youth outcomes in three domains—reading literacy, mathematical literacy, and scientific literacy—through common international tests. The PISA assessment is intended to go beyond the testing of school-based curriculum in order to assess to what degree students approaching the end of their compulsory education have mastered the knowledge and skills in each of the literacy domains that are essential for full participation in society. More specifically PISA aims to answer the following questions:

·         How well are young adults prepared to meet the challenges of the future?
·         Are they able to analyze, reason and communicate their ideas effectively?
·         Do they have the capacity to continue learning throughout life?
·         Are some kinds of teaching and school organization more effective than others?

There has been much written about the results, which reveal that the U.S. is not faring well. In a Time Magazine article, StudentsFirst’s Michelle Rhee paints a gloomy picture - - while over at Education Week, AEI’s Rick Hess writes “7 Reasons I Don't Care About the PISA Results.” (

Politico’s Stephanie Simon has written a piece that has many people buzzing. “Teachers unions face moment of truth” ( ) claims that

… teachers unions are facing tumultuous times. Long among the wealthiest and most powerful interest groups in American politics, the unions are grappling with financial, legal and public-relations challenges as they fight to retain their clout and build alliances with a public increasingly skeptical of big labor.

Perhaps the unions really are feeling the heat. In an attempt to join the education reform party, NEA has just come out with a policy guide called “Excellent Teachers for Each and Every Child.” (  Not to be left in the dust, CTA has released a 34-page “Strategic Plan.” This attempt to affect policy is very broad in scope and will stretch on for years. If you are a CTA member and would like to have input, you can access the plan here -  If you would like to see the plan, but are not a CTA member, shoot me an email and I will send you an attachment.

The controversial “value added” technique of rating teachers is back in the news. Harvard professor Tom Kane has released a study in which he claims, “New Evidence Requires New Thinking.” His summation:

Reasonable people can disagree on how to include achievement growth measures in teacher evaluations, such as whether the weight attached should be 20 percent or 50 percent, but it is no longer reasonable to question whether to include them.  For a number of reasons— limited reliability, the potential for abuse, the recent evidence that teachers have effects on student earnings and college going which are largely not captured by test-based measures—it would not make sense to attach 100 percent of the weight to test-based measures (or any of the available measures, including classroom observations, for that matter).  But, at the same time, given what we have learned about the causal impacts on students and the long-term impacts on earnings, it is increasingly hard to sustain the argument that test-based measures have no role to play, that the weight ought to be zero.  Although that may have been a reasonable position five years ago, when so many questions about value-added remained unanswered, the evidence which has been released since then simply does not support that view.   

Also writing about teacher quality, Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk claims “Top Teachers Retained Effectiveness After Transfer, Study Shows”

Top elementary teachers who transferred to low-performing schools under a bonus program boosted their students' learning significantly, according to a federally financed experiment whose results were unveiled yesterday.

Activist and former teacher Robert Pondiscio has written a thought-provoking op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. “’The Hunger Games' Is a Civics Lesson - The best parable of totalitarianism since Orwell's 'Animal Farm.’” He ends the piece with the following

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants," according to Katniss—no, wait, that was Thomas Jefferson. But "The Hunger Games" has its own tree that comes to symbolize freedom: At a pivotal moment in "Catching Fire," when lightning strikes the tree, the supercharge travels down a wire to an arrow that Katniss sends skyward—a move that sparks the fictional revolution that every kid in America is talking about.

Additionally, Pondiscio runs an entity called CitizenshipFirst whose aim is to

become the country’s most creative driver of civic-education innovation. Housed at Harlem-based Democracy Prep Public Schools, the organization began in 2011 with the publication of Teaching America: The Case for Civic Education, edited by David Feith.  Through creative advocacy, in-school programs, research and reports, CitizenshipFirst aims to remind educators, policymakers and all Americans that the founding purpose of education was to prepare our nation’s young people for self-government—and that restoring the civic mission of education must be an urgent national priority.

To learn more about this worthy organization, go to

National School Choice Week will be upon us soon. January 26 – February 1 is being set aside to shine a positive spotlight on the need for effective education options for all children.

Independently planned by a diverse and growing coalition of individuals, schools, and organizations, National School Choice Week features thousands of unique events and activities across the country. The Week allows participants to advance their own messages of educational opportunity, while uniting with like-minded groups and individuals across the country.

Participants in National School Choice believe that parents should be empowered to choose the best educational environments for their children. Supporters plan events that highlight a variety of school choice options — from traditional public schools to public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning, and homeschooling.

National School Choice Week is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical public awareness effort. We welcome all Americans to get involved and have their voices heard!

If you are interested in learning more and possibly planning an event, please let me know or get directly in touch with National School Choice Week at

If you are a charter school teacher or know of one, please read the following:

New Charter School Teacher Advocacy Fellowship Launches – Apply today!

The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) has launched an exciting new Teacher Advocacy Fellowship, open to charter school teachers in Los Angeles and Sacramento. This ten-month, cohort-based program is designed to empower charter school teachers to step forward as leaders in their community and advocates for their students. This program will not only help you connect your classroom experience to the policies being made in Sacramento and in your local district, but it will empower you with the knowledge and skills to become a true teacher leader, representing your school and charter teachers across the state.

Applications for the fellowship are due by February 2, 2014. Apply for the fellowship or refer a teacher at

The following is a job offer from Pearson. (CTEN has no information or any input to share here. We are simply letting you know about an employment opportunity.)

Teacher Educators and Accomplished Teachers. 

Pearson is in need of Teacher Educators and Accomplished Teachers to score edTPA! 
edTPA is designed for the profession by the profession, edTPA was developed by teachers and teacher educators from across the nation, in collaboration with faculty and staff from Stanford University, to support candidate learning and preparation program growth and renewal. Aligned with the Common Core State Standards and InTASC Standards, edTPA assesses teaching that promotes student learning in diverse contexts.

edTPA is a subject-specific assessment of pedagogy, available in 27 teaching fields, that requires pre-service candidates to document and demonstrate that they can plan, teach, and assess major learning outcomes within their field of expertise.

Pearson is hiring teacher educators and accomplished teachers to score edTPA from a secure, private location such as home or office.  Qualified candidates will complete training, pass a qualification and then score edTPA assessments. 

Scoring training includes about 20 hours of self-paced online modules and interactive web-based sessions, once qualified, scoring will begin.  The system is available for online-training and scoring 6am - 11:59pm CST seven days a week.

The position requires a part-time commitment, in addition to the following:

-          -Expertise in the subject matter or developmental level of the teaching field (degree and/or professional experience)
-          -Teaching experience in that field (or teaching methods or supervising student teachers in that field)
-          -Experience mentoring or supervising beginning teachers

Scoring is currently underway and we would greatly appreciate your time to submit an application to participate.

Please click here to apply. Or copy/paste the following URL

As we mentioned in our email last week, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through a personal check or PayPal -  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity and support of others.

It has been another exciting year for CTEN - and we look forward to an even more vigorous 2014. We remain grateful for your interest and involvement, and wish you and your families the happiest of holidays. See you in 2014!

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dear Colleague,

Regarding California’s new “bathroom law,” which we reported on in June and August, there is an update. The organization that is trying to stall the bill’s implementation would appear to have enough signatures to qualify the issue for an initiative. “Privacy For All Students” needed 505,000 endorsers and managed to get over 600,000, so now the vetting process begins. If enough valid signatures have been secured, the law will not become effective on Jan. 1, 2014 as planned, but would go before the voters a year from now.

The law can be accessed here -  The “Privacy For All Students” website is here -

Common Core will affect just about every public school teacher in California. While there is no shortage of articles on the national standards – pro and con – we found this one to be especially poignant. Koret Task Force scholar Eric Hanushek views it as a distraction. In US News & World Report, he writes,

Policymakers and reform advocates alike have rallied around introducing a set of national content standards, suggesting that this will jump-start the stagnating achievement of U.S. students. As history clearly indicates, simply calling for students to know more is not the same as ensuring they will learn more. Discussions of the Common Core standards are actually sucking all of the air out of the room, distracting attention from any serious efforts to reform our schools.

… We currently have very different standards across states, and experience from the states provides little support for the argument that simply declaring more clearly what we want children to learn will have much impact. Proponents of national standards point to Massachusetts: strong standards and top results. But California, a second state noted for its high learning standards, balances Massachusetts: strong standards and bottom results. In other words, what really matters is what is actually taught in the classroom. Just setting a different goal – even if backed by intensive professional development, new textbooks, etc. – has not historically had much influence as we look across state outcomes.

Because our state legislature can’t seem to come up with a bill that would get rid of pedophiles and other undesirables from the classroom, a law firm has decided to bypass Sacramento and take it directly to the voters. Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk submitted a proposed ballot measure they are calling the “Stop Child Molesters, Sexual Abusers and Drug Dealers from Working in California Schools Act.” ( )

Should the initiative become law, the California Education Code would be amended. The essence of the proposal:

Current law includes loopholes for school employees perpetrating egregious misconduct to remain on the public payroll and earn continuing retirement credit for excessive time after having been charged in writing with committing egregious misconduct and being notified of a decision to terminate employment thereby increasing the dismissal costs to school districts and draining resources from schools and the children they serve.

School employees perpetrating egregious misconduct in California have exploited loopholes to delay and conceal dismissal proceedings manipulating school districts to pay-off, reassign, enter into agreements to expunge evidence of egregious misconduct from district personnel files, and approve secret settlement agreements enabling the school employee to continue to perpetrate offenses in other schools and school districts, thereby infringing on the inalienable right of students and staff to attend public primary, elementary, junior high, and senior high school campuses which are safe, secure and peaceful as guaranteed by the Constitution of the State of California.

Accordingly, the People of the State of California declare that to secure the constitutional guarantee of students and staff to be safe and secure in their persons at public primary, elementary, junior high and senior high school campuses, school districts must have the appropriate statutory authority to expeditiously remove and permanently dismiss perpetrators of egregious misconduct without facing lengthy and costly litigation or creating incentives to transfer the school employee to another assignment, school or school district.

According to LA School Report’s Vanessa Romo, the Attorney General’s office has until December 23rd to title and summarize the initiative. After that, proponents have 150 days to circulate a petition throughout the state and collect 504,760 signatures. (

Learning by rote memory has gotten a bad rap of late, but is there a place for it? New York teacher and writer David Bonagura certainly thinks there is. In “What's 12 x 11? Um, Let Me Google That,” he makes a strong case.

Of course, all good teachers want their students to acquire not just basic knowledge, but a deeper, conceptual understanding that is manifested through critical thinking and analysis—skills that educational fads and initiatives rightly extol. But such thinking is impossible without first acquiring rock-solid knowledge of the foundational elements upon which the pyramid of cognition rests. 

Memorization is the most effective means to build that foundation. Yet drilling multiplication tables, learning to spell, and reciting formulas and rules are almost nowhere to be found in today's classrooms, tarred as antithetical to true learning and even harmful for students.

George Leef, Director of Research of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, has written a provocative piece which claims that American schools of education are “A Key Reason Why American Students Do Poorly.” Much has been written about our education schools of late, but if the product of these schools is so poor, why isn’t there pressure for serious change? 

The answer is that they are protected by state licensing laws that make it very hard for public school officials to hire anyone who doesn’t have the obligatory credentials. In short, the ed schools have a guaranteed market and are shielded from competition. The professors and administrators are happy with the way things are, and often express resentment at anyone who suggests that their courses and philosophy do not lead to competent teachers.

To continue reading go here -

A companion piece in the Wall Street Journal makes pretty much the same case. “Why Teacher Colleges Get a Flunking Grade” can be found here -

Regarding agency fee payers - we sincerely hope that if you are an existing agency fee payer, you have sent in a request for your rebate. The November 15th deadline has passed. If you haven't filed by now, you will not get your rebate this year. However, if you are a first time filer, you may resign from the union after the 15th. However, 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

And finally, has the Affordable Care Act affected any of you in any way? If so, please let me know. If there are any horror stories, we can share them and hopefully do some helpful networking.

If you are interested in giving CTEN brochures to colleagues, you can print them right from the home page -  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 PayPal -  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others.

Larry Sand
CTEN President