Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dear Colleague,

The National Council on Teacher Quality has released the 2014 version of its “State Teacher Policy Yearbook.” The report summarizes how the states are doing in developing policies that improve the teaching profession.

The 2014 State Teacher Policy Yearbook includes the National Council on Teacher Quality’s (NCTQ) focus on state efforts to align their requirements for teacher preparation and licensure with the skills needed to prepare students for college and careers. Five years after the vast majority of states adopted Common Core State Standards or other state-specific standards, NCTQ finds that most states have not done nearly enough to make sure new teachers will be ready for the higher standards their students are expected to achieve.

Not surprisingly, California gets an overall “D+” in teacher prep because teacher preparation admissions requirements are not selective and the state neither collects meaningful data about the quality of teacher prep programs nor holds programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce. 

NCTQ has also come out with an interesting report on teacher salaries in which it shows where teachers earn the most after adjusting for cost of living. It ranks districts first by the lifetime earnings a teacher accrues in each district over a 30-year career and second by the time it takes teachers to reach the maximum salary benchmark. “To accommodate the unique factors in performance-pay districts, we calculate their rank in three ways, depending on whether a teacher is considered average, above average or exemplary.”

No matter how you slice it, CA does not fare well. Fresno, the highest ranking district in the state, comes in at #36 nationally. To see the rankings and learn more, go to

Interestingly, at the same time we learn the latest about teacher salaries, we get news that Dennis Van Roekel, in his last year as NEA president earned a cool $541,632. However, current American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten out-earned Van Roekel, pulling in $543,679 in 2012. Nice work if you can get it. To learn more about teacher union leader compensation and other places the union spends teachers’ money, their income tax returns are a great source and can be found at

If you are not happy paying unions for the pleasure of teaching in public schools, there may be help on the way in the form of a lawsuit. Friedrichs et al vs. CTA could get a hearing at the Supreme Court in 2015. If the case is successful, public employee union dues-paying would become voluntary. To learn more about the case, go to

For those of you who are interested in allowing parents a choice as to where to send their kids to school, there is a new Facebook page called “Teachers for School Choice.” If you are so inclined, please go to the page and “Like” it, and feel free to post any content that you think is pertinent. The page can be accessed at

Speaking of school choice, Dr. Alan Bonsteel, a log-time friend of CTEN, had a very touching op-ed in the Sacramento Bee earlier this month. To read it, go to

The woes of Los Angeles Unified seem to be never ending. First it settled for $139 million (on top of $30 million paid last year) in the Mark Berndt sexual abuse lawsuit. Now the FBI is investigating the district over the botched iPad program. Additionally, the district and UTLA are far apart in their contract negotiations, and the union is talking tough and making strike noises. For more info, go here -, and

For you common core fans and foes, there has been an interesting development in CA. Stanford University has joined forces with CTA to prepare schools “for new learning goals that will change the way California students are taught and tested.” The project, launched earlier this month, “initially involves training 160 teachers and 24 administrators, who, in turn, will reach about 50,000 educators over three years.” To learn more, go to

While we all know that the effects of good teachers on children are supremely important, we are also aware that their home lives greatly affect their learning potential. In its Winter 2015 edition, Education Next has an in-depth study on the effects of single-parenthood.

(Daniel) Moynihan’s claim that growing up in a fatherless family reduced a child’s chances of educational and economic success was furiously denounced when the report appeared in 1965, with many critics calling Moynihan a racist. For the next two decades few scholars chose to investigate the effects of father absence, lest they too be demonized if their findings supported Moynihan’s argument. Fortunately, America’s best-known black sociologist, William Julius Wilson, broke this taboo in 1987, providing a candid assessment of the black family and its problems in The Truly Disadvantaged. Since then, social scientists have accumulated a lot more evidence on the effects of family structure. This article will offer some educated guesses about what that evidence means.

To read this very important piece, go here -

Anyone wishing to make a year-end donation to CTEN can do so very simply through a personal check or PayPal -  As a non-profit, we exist and operate only through the generosity and support of others.

It has been another exciting year for CTEN - and we look forward to an even more vigorous 2015. We remain grateful for your interest and involvement, and wish you and your families the happiest of holidays. See you next year!

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dear Colleague,

Election Day has come and gone and while there is little to report in California, there were major ramifications for educators throughout much of the country. Reform-minded governors prevailed in Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida, and the old guard was voted out in Massachusetts, Illinois and Maryland. The day was especially bad for the teachers unions; they spent millions and lost just about every race they were involved with. Their only victories were the ouster of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Tom Torlakson’s narrow victory over challenger Marshall Tuck in the race for California Superintendent of Public Instruction. Here are a couple of interesting takes on the day that NEA president said gave her a “heavy heart” -   and  Kevin Chavous, executive counsel for the American Federation for Children and board chair emeritus for Democrats for Education Reform, suggests thatDemocrats should beware of being on the wrong side of the school choice issue in 2016. To read his USA Today op-ed, go here - For an interesting take on Tuck’s defeat go here -

Speaking of the election, Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform, writes “Newly Elected Leaders Must Separate Fact from Fiction on Charter Schools.” Good idea. There is much misinformation about charters that their foes – either through ignorance or malice – like to perpetuate. To read Kerwin’s piece, go to
The teachers unions were also in the news recently for having taken offense to the cover of the November 3rd edition of Time Magazine, which shows a photo of a judge’s gavel about to pound an apple. 

 The story, “The War on Teacher Tenure,” is mostly about the Vergara decision – in which a judge found that the tenure, seniority and dismissal statutes in the California education code are unconstitutional. The article focuses on Vergara’s guiding light – David Welch, a tech titan who has found a second career as an education reformer. It’s a fair piece, and one worthy of discussion. But the national unions just focused on the cover and organized protests, demanding that Time apologize. Time did not apologize, but instead gave various disgruntled parties a chance to respond to the cover and article, which can be accessed here -

As one who follows education reform issues, I am always looking for outside-the-box ideas. Here’s one that certainly qualifies: “An Employee Stock Ownership Plan—for America’s Public Schools.” Benjamin Scafidi, senior fellow with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and a professor of economics, writes,

Public school teachers and leaders typically don’t place much value in private school choice’s worth. However, that education policy could raise their own stock considerably—and literally. As school choice grows, a teacher investment proposal introduced long ago deserves revisiting.

In Can Teachers Own Their Own Schools?, noted economic historian Richard Vedder makes the case for turning over ownership of public schools to public school employees through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), which began in America’s private sector during the 1970s. 

To continue reading about Scafidi’s plan, which is based on a book by Vedder, go to

On another futuristic note, lifelong educator and former union president Doug Tuthill writes, in “The End of ‘School Choice,’”

The annual American Federation for Children conference is one of the country’s largest gatherings of school choice advocates. So it was notable, during the most recent conference in Orlando, that speakers regularly used the terms “parental choice” and “educational choice,” but not “school choice.”

This shift in semantics reflects an emerging trend that’s a game changer – the expansion of choice in publicly-funded education is increasingly including learning options beyond schools.

Florida’s new Personal Learning Scholarship Account program, for students with special needs such as autism and Down syndrome, is a good example. In the PLSA program, public funds go into a bank account that parents can use for numerous state-approved educational options, including private school tuition, a suite of different therapies, curriculum materials, instructional technology, and postsecondary education and training.

The ongoing “value-added” debate has a new contribution. Thomas Kane, researcher at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has written “Do Value-Added Estimates Identify Causal Effects of Teachers and Schools?” in which he concludes,

… there is now substantial evidence that value-added estimates capture important information about the causal effects of teachers and schools.  Rarely in social science have we seen such a large number of replications in such a short period of time.  Even more rarely have we seen such convergence in the findings.  The application of statistical controls using longitudinal data systems often provide meaningful information regarding program impacts even without random assignment.

He does issue two caveats however. To read this balanced piece, go to

The National Council on Teacher Quality has come out with a second edition of its comprehensive Teacher Prep Review, and again the news is not good.

Using evidence from more than 500 higher education institutions that turn out nearly half of the nation’s new teachers each year, we find that in a majority of institutions (58 percent), grading standards for teacher candidates are much lower than for students in other majors on the same campus.

To read the report and learn where the good and not-so-good schools of education are, go here -

For CTA agency fee payers, the November 15th deadline has passed, so we hope you have already submitted your 2014 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

As always, we at CTEN want to thank you for your ongoing support and invite you to visit us regularly at  If you need any information that you can’t find there, just send us an email at or call us at 888-290-8471 and we will get back to you in short order.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dear Colleague,

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a new report on K-12 educational effectiveness last month, and the results are not encouraging. It found that, through the eyes of business leaders, American schools are failing to create internationally competitive, college- and career-ready students. The report focused on eleven measures:
  • academic achievement
  • academic achievement for low-income and minority students
  • return on investment
  • the “truth in advertising” of each state’s student proficiency
  • postsecondary and workforce readiness
  • the quality of the teaching force
  • parental options
  • data quality
  • access to technology
  • international competitiveness
  • fiscal responsibility

A draft of the new History/Social Science Frameworks has been posted online.  The state board is accepting public comments through November 25th.  This is a very good opportunity for teachers and all citizens to weigh in. To make your voice heard, go to

While we don’t know the ultimate fate of the Vergara appeal, some folks are wisely trying to figure out what to do should Judge Rolf Treu’s decision stand. In that case, the tenure, seniority and dismissal statutes in our education code would have to be revised. With reform in mind, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa got together with a couple of advocacy group Teach Plus fellows and hashed things out. Regarding the tenure component, the recommendation included one short-term and three long-term solutions:
  • Extend to four years the time for a teacher to gain “permanent status”; require three consecutive years of evaluations demonstrating effective teaching for a teacher to earn “permanent status.”
  • Base tenure decisions solely on performance.
  • Require schools to provide evidence of support for teachers who receive an unsatisfactory evaluation if those teachers continue their employment.
To read more about the Teach Plus policy recommendations, go to

The race for California state superintendent of public instruction is heating up. Interestingly, reformer Marshall Tuck is neck and neck with the CTA-backed incumbent Tom Torlakson in campaign contributions and in the polls. Also of note is that every major daily in the state has come out for Tuck. The Sacramento Bee had an especially forceful editorial which pointedly asserted,

The Sacramento Bee editorial board has endorsed Tuck because we believe that teachers unions have a chokehold on the state’s public education system and that’s been detrimental for everyone, including teachers.

There is a situation brewing in Philadelphia that other school districts across the country are following with great interest. Last week, after 21 months of fruitless negotiations, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission cancelled its teachers' contract. 

The district says it will not cut the wages of 15,000 teachers, counselors, nurses, secretaries, and other PFT members. But it plans to dismantle the long-standing Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund, which is controlled by the union, and take over administering benefits.

The terms imposed Monday mean most PFT members will have to pay either 10 or 13 percent of the cost of their medical plan beginning Dec. 15, depending on their salaries. They now pay nothing if they opt for a basic plan. Officials said workers would pay between $21 and $200 per month, beginning Dec. 15.

The changes will save the cash-strapped district $54 million this school year, officials said, and as much as $70 million in subsequent years.

That money, SRC Chairman Bill Green said, will be invested directly in classrooms, with principals empowered to use the cash as they see fit - to hire a full-time counselor and nurse, perhaps, or to pay for more supplies or after-school programs.

Needless to say, the local teachers union is having fits, and its president is threatening everyone in sight. To read more, go to
In a post last week, teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci informed us that “NEA Membership Numbers Accelerate Downward.”

Officers of the National Education Association expressed some optimism last July that the union’s falling membership numbers were finally reaching their nadir. Active membership losses totaling more than 9 percent since 2008-09 had slowed to a drop of about 17,000 by the end of the 2013-14 school year. While still a significant loss, surely the end of the lean years was in sight.

That is, until the first figures for the 2014-15 school year came in. NEA is down 37,000 active members from this time a year ago.

“School Choice Means Higher Teacher Pay” according to a new study from the Texas Public Policy Foundation. While the report is specific to Texas, the findings could be applied to other states as well. To read “Teachers Win: A Case for School Choice,” go to

If you are a CTA/NEA agency fee payer, now is the time to submit your rebate request. You must request your rebate this year (and every year!) by November 15th. If you are as much as one day late, you will not get a penny. Also, because liability insurance is important for teachers, we suggest joining the Association of American Educators ( ) or Christian Educators Association ( Both AAE and CEAI are professional organizations, not unions, and are apolitical. (Also, teachers who mention CTEN when they sign up with AAE for the first time will get a $30 discount off the regular $198 first year membership.) For more information, go to

And finally, in a world awash with data, CTEN has an easy-to-read cheat sheet on our website with a load of info -  If you have any questions or would like us to add to it, please let us know. Also, if you enjoy these letters and find them informative, please pass them along to your colleagues and encourage them to join us. 

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

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dear Colleague,

Courtesy of the Fordham Institute, we again learn that there has been a large uptick in the number of non-teaching staff employed in our public schools.The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don’t Teach,” informs us that:

The number of non-teaching staff in the United States (those employed by school systems but not serving as classroom teachers) has grown by 130 percent since 1970. Non-teachers, more than three million strong, now comprise half of the public school workforce. Their salaries and benefits absorb one-quarter of current education expenditures. But is this growth necessary—or even sustainable?

A look at countries which typically beat us in international comparisons tells an important story. Switzerland spends 70 percent of its compensation dollars on teachers and just 14 percent on other staff. In Finland those numbers are 51:11 and Slovakia 54:14. But in the U.S., we spend 54 percent on teachers and 27 percent on non-teaching staff.

In another study, The Friedman Foundation – using U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics data – found that between fiscal years 1950 and 2009,

… the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.  

The Vergara case was back in the news again at the end of August. After Judge Rolf Treu reaffirmed his original decision, CTA, CFT and the state of California immediately appealed. The unions issued a joint statement, stating that “Judge Treu’s decision striking down five California Education Code provisions is without support in law or fact, the appeal says that Treu’s reversible errors are too numerous to list.” To read the entire statement, go here -  During their recent debate, Governor Jerry Brown and challenger Neel Kashkari had a brief discussion about the appeal. Brown’s comments ( and Kashkari’s heated rejoinder ( leave no doubt as to where the two men stand on the case.
On the Common Core front, there was a reasoned discussion in the Washington Times between Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli and Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey. While the two men differ greatly on the subject, they do agree on certain facts as laid out in this informative piece. To read it, go to
We have come across a website that you and your students might find beneficial. offers homework help and claims that “…80% of questions get answers within 10 minutes.” To check it out, go to  If you find the website beneficial and helpful to your students, please let us know.
Regarding the seemingly endless Los Angeles Unified School District iPad saga, a new chapter has been written. Via some “smoking gun” emails, there are allegations of impropriety by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and his top adviser Jaime Aquino. No charges have been filed … yet. For a basic overview on the latest turn of events, go to

According to a report on school choice by Katie Furtick, a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, more than 2.3 million American students were enrolled in public charter schools in 2012-2013. Additionally,
States continued to expand their school choice options last year, with 13 states creating or expanding their tuition tax credit programs, private school scholarships or school choice vouchers.
  • Forty-eight school choice programs are now available to children and their families in the United States. This includes 22 voucher programs, 16 tax credit scholarship programs, one education savings account program and eight individual tax credit programs.
  • 260,000 students used vouchers and tax credit scholarships in 2013.
  • Enrollment in public charter schools increased by more than 250,000 between 2012 and 2013, totaling 5 percent of public school enrollment nationwide.
To continue reading this brief overview, go to  To access the entire report, go to 
The teachers unions seem to be getting it from all sides these days. The Wall Street Journal’s Teachers Unions Under Fire ( informs us that the percentage of elementary and secondary teachers who are union members is down about 20 percent since 1988.
Also tenure, an important component for the unions in the Vergara case, has fallen out of favor with the public. In an Education Next poll ( released in August:

… Survey respondents favor ending tenure by a 2-to-1 ratio. By about the same ratio, the public also thinks that if tenure is awarded, it should be based in part on how well the teacher's students perform in the classroom. Only 9% of the public agrees with current practice in most states, the policy of granting teachers tenure without taking student performance into account.

And finally, there are some interesting results in the yearly Gallup poll that surveys Americans on their attitudes toward labor unions. This year a question was added about right-to-work laws, and the responses were not good news for the unions. As Mike Antonucci writes,

The poll finds 82% of Americans agreeing that ‘no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will,’ a position advanced by right-to-work proponents. Pro-union forces partly oppose right-to-work laws because of the ‘free-rider’ problem, with non-union workers benefitting as much as union workers when unions negotiate pay and benefit increases with employers. But by 64% to 32%, Americans disagree that workers should ‘have to join and pay dues to give the union financial support’ because ‘all workers share the gains won by the labor union.’

And a reminder: If you are an NEA/CTA agency fee payer, you must apply for your yearly rebate between now and November 15th. For more info and form letters, go to
If you are a member of AFT/CFT or UTLA, please call 888-290-8471 or email for more information.)
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, August 20, 2014

Dear Colleague,

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.

Perhaps the most jaw dropping story of this – or any – month is the internal CTA document that Mike Antonucci unearthed and posted a couple of weeks ago. “Not if, but when: Living in a world without Fair Share…” is a brief PDF in which the largest state teachers union in the country envisions the future. Apparently, CTA is resigned to the fact that forced union dues – the so-called “fair share” – sooner or later will go the way of the dodo bird. I would urge you all to read this revealing document. (

In a similar vein, last week CTEN participated in National Employee Freedom Week ( which is a national effort to inform union employees about the freedom they have to opt out of union membership. Alternatives include becoming an agency fee payer or identifying as a religious/conscientious objector. To support NEFW, CTEN board member Rebecca Friedrichs wrote an op-ed for the Orange County Register (,%202014.pdf ) and participated in a panel discussion at the Heritage foundation ( Additionally, I had an op-ed posted by Investor’s Business Daily ( ) and recorded a 30 second radio spot which ran on KABC in Los Angeles last week. (

In teacher union news in other states, now that Michigan is a right-to-work state, the Michigan Education Association is doing everything it can to prevent teachers from leaving. MEA has been anything but forthright in its dealings with teachers who are no longer interested in being in the union. A typical story is Rob Wiersema’s who was also a panelist in the Heritage Foundation event linked above.

In December 2012, Michigan passed a Right to Work law, which allowed teachers and other workers to keep their jobs without belonging to the union. Until then, union membership was all but a requirement for employment.

“I thought, great, I’m out,” Wiersema said. “As soon as I heard you could leave, I thought, great. My contract is up in 2013. I sent letters to the MEA and the local association to say I quit, but it obviously didn’t work.”

He called the union and sent letters asking how to leave, but he got no reply. In June, he sent a “quit letter” to the state and local branches and the school. In July, union dues showed up on his credit card.

“I disputed the charge and said I wasn’t going to pay it,” he said. “Then I heard the MEA was going to go after people who didn’t pay it and have their credit reports take a hit.”
To read more about Wiersema’s (and others) trials and tribulations go to

And in Wisconsin, Act 10 – which gives teachers the right to not pay union dues and limits collective bargaining – has survived yet another challenge. On July 31st, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ended a three-year battle over Gov. Scott Walker’s signature legislation delivering a 5-2 decision in the law’s favor. To read more, go to

Back in the Golden State … things are heating up in Los Angeles. New UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl is talking tough – saying outright that if teachers aren’t offered a generous pay hike, there will be a strike. Not one to be easily cowed, LAUSD superintendent John Deasy had a few choice comments for the union. To read both sides go here - and here -

In other news, researcher Collin Hitt reports on a Mathematica study which dispels some of the oft-repeated myths about charter schools, in this case the KIPP franchise.

KIPP schools demand a certain kind of student – a student who is willing to put in long hours and put up with very strict rules. KIPP has been shown to substantially increase student test scores. But critics argue that the culture at KIPP has major effects on recruitment and retainment. KIPP schools attract better students and are more likely to weed out low performing students, the argument goes. If this is true, KIPP students who persist in school are more likely to have a high-achieving peer group – and the effects of simply being in a peer group are really what explain any positive effects at school. A new study from Mathematica destroys this critique.

As the Common Core battle rages, Pacific Research Institute’s Lance Izumi takes a refreshing view. While Common Core critics typically use the federalist argument or simply trash the quality of the standards, Izumi looks at the standards’ implementation. It’s not a pretty picture.

Bryce is a sixth grader at a public school in Northern California. He is a very bright student, achieving several perfect scores on the state’s math exam and consistently receiving A+ grades in math. Yet, Core Connections has had a discernible negative impact on Bryce.

Under Core Connections, Bryce and his fellow students are organized into teams of three to four students. Bryce says that there is unequal participation among team members, with more advanced students being more involved and carrying more of the work.

Further, not all the groups finish at the same time. Those that finish early can’t go on to harder problems, but have to wait until other teams finish. Oddly, Bryce says that his teacher doesn’t want early finishers to read because that’s English language arts, and not math.

Since the teamwork method started, the class usually doesn’t finish math lessons in time, and sometime it cuts into their science time or the math is simply not completed. Bryce emphasized that this situation happens a lot. When asked if the class starts the next day where they left off the day before, he answers “no,” saying that the class simply goes on to the next new concept.

In late July, Ray Fisman, an education economist from Columbia University, wrote an article for e-magazine Slate claiming that Sweden’s universal school choice program has caused a decline in student achievement. However, several other researchers found Fisman’s contentions to be way off the mark. To read the original piece and the blowback, go here -

CTEN sent out an email last week with agency fee payer information. In case you missed it, here is the text of that email:

If you are a member of CTA and considering becoming an agency fee payer, it’s a two-step process and now is the time to get started. To get a full rebate, you must have your resignation form in the mail by August 31st. (If you resign after Aug. 31 you will get a prorated rebate.) Then between September 1st and November 15th, you must submit a request to receive your full rebate. For more info and form letters, please go to   

(Also, teachers who mention CTEN when they sign up with the Association of American Educators for the first time will get a $30 discount off the regular $198 first year membership.)

If you were a member of CTA and have already become an agency fee payer, you must apply for your yearly rebate between September 1st and November 15th. For more info and form letters, go to
If you are a member of AFT/CFT or UTLA, please call 888-290-8471 or email for more information.)

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.

Larry Sand
CTEN President