Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dear Colleague,

Now that President Obama has signed the latest version of No Child Left Behind – rechristened the “Every Student Succeeds Act” – we all need to know what comprises the law. Education Week’s Allyson Klein provides a good overall summary here - At the same time, Mike Antonucci writes “I’m the Party Pooper” in which he expresses doubt that much good will come of it, and presents a “been there, done that” scenario. To read Antonucci’s take, go here -

In the myth-busting department, the American Enterprise Institute’s Nat Malkus takes issue with the much talked about “teacher shortage.” He writes that the national data tell a different story.

Last week, the National Center for Education Statistics released a report (which I authored when working for a prior employer) that shows the difficulty public schools have filling vacant teaching positions has dropped considerably over the past dozen years. The report uses data from the Schools and Staffing Surveys from 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012, which asked a national sample of principals about vacancies in their schools and the difficulty they faced filling them. The percentage of public schools with at least one difficult-to-staff position dropped by more than half between 2000 and 2012, from 36 to 15 percent.

“America has too much standardized testing” has been repeated so many times that it’s believed to be a fact. But is it? According to a recent Hechinger Report, it’s not – at least when compared to other countries. Andreas Schleicher, an international education expert based in Paris, has looked at data from over 70 countries and finds thatmost nations give their students more standardized tests than the United States does. He notes that the Netherlands, Belgium and Asian countries — all high-performing education systems — administer a lot more. He adds that in many countries there is a test going on every month.”

He adds that annual tests are common the world over. “Roughly 97 percent of 15-year olds in the United States said they took a standardized test once or twice a year — about the same share as in Finland, a country that’s famous for not relying on standardized testing.”

To read more of this piece, go here -

A new study by researchers Michael Lovenheim and Alexander Willen reveals that the collective bargaining process for teachers leads to lower future earnings, occupational skill levels and hours worked for the students involved.

While they find no clear effects of collective bargaining laws on how much schooling students ultimately complete, their results do show that laws requiring school districts to engage in the process with teachers unions lead students to be less successful in later life. ‘Students who spent all 12 years of grade school in a state with a duty-to-bargain law earned an average of $795 less per year and worked half an hour less per week as adults than students who were not exposed to collective-bargaining laws. They are 0.9 percentage points less likely to be employed and 0.8 percentage points less likely to be in the labor force. And those with jobs tend to work in lower-skilled occupations.’

While collective bargaining may not be good for students, some union spending isn’t doing much for teachers. A new report claims that “Teachers Unions Spent Millions on Luxury Hotels, Overseas Travel, Car Services.” Investigators from The 74, a news site headed by former newswoman-turned-education-reformer Campbell Brown, dug up financial documents filed with the U.S. Labor Department by the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and United Federation of Teachers which reveal that the union elite “show a penchant for five-star business expenses that are far removed from the $56,000-a-year average teacher’s salary in the U.S.” Between 2011 and 2014, the country’s largest teachers unions “spent more than $5.7 million booking rooms at the world’s poshest hotels and resorts, scoring flights to exotic overseas destinations and traveling back and forth in limos….” 

The latest NEA political spending numbers have been released and, not surprisingly, the amount is astronomical. RiShawn Biddle, using the yearly teacher union’s labor department report finds that,
The union spent $131 million on lobbying and contributions to what are supposed to be like-minded organizations in 2014-2015, just slightly less than the $132 million spent during the previous year. This doesn’t include the $40 million it spends on so-called representational activities, which are often just as political in nature.

One of the big recipients this year: The Center for Popular Democracy, the progressive outfit which has become a key player in efforts by both NEA and the American Federation of Teachers to oppose the expansion of public charter schools. The outfit and its political action fund collected $570,900 from NEA last fiscal year, double the $250,000 collected from the union in 2013-2014. This is certainly good news for AFT President Randi Weingarten, who sits on Popular Democracy’s board and whose own union poured $160,000 into the outfit and its political wing.

Talking about unions, if you missed the special email we sent a few weeks ago, CTEN and the Association of American Educators hosted an event in September in which we examined the Friedrichs and Bain lawsuits and their possible ramifications for teachers and the general public. The panel discussion featured lawyers and plaintiffs from both cases, and was followed by a lively audience Q&A. A video of the event is now available and can be accessed here -  

Our friends at the National Council on Teacher Quality have just released the “2015 State Teacher Policy Yearbook.” It is their ninth annual report and is comprised of a National Summary and State-specific reports for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The 52 volume Yearbook provides a 360-degree analysis of every state law, rule and regulation that shapes the teaching profession—from teacher preparation, licensing and evaluation to compensation, professional development and dismissal policy.”

Among the report’s many findings is that “California gets ‘D’ in supporting teacher effectiveness.” To read more about California’s troubles, go here - To access the NCTQ report, go to

History teachers, we have found a program that teaches traditional American values to high school students. It includes materials that explain the “principles and values of America's free-market/limited-government history and heritage. There is a series of nine resource packets delivered to each participating high school's Social Studies department on a one-per-month basis during the school year. Packets save teachers valuable lesson-plan preparation time and provide students multiple discussion/debate opportunities relating to major public policy issues. Also, there is coverage of all aspects of the Presidential election process beginning in January and continuing throughout 2016.”

If this sounds like something you can use, please visit their website -

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 people like you. (And to those of you who already regularly donate – our heartfelt thanks!)

It has been another exciting year for CTEN - and we look forward to an even more vigorous 2016. 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 18, 2015

Dear Colleague,

An issue that can’t seem to keep itself out of the news these days is standardized testing – it has even made its way to the White House where President Obama has officially weighed in.

Faced with mounting and bipartisan opposition to increased and often high-stakes testing in the nation’s public schools, the Obama administration declared Saturday that the push had gone too far, acknowledged its own role in the proliferation of tests, and urged schools to step back and make exams less onerous and more purposeful.

Specifically, the administration called for a cap on assessment so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. It called on Congress to “reduce over-testing” as it reauthorizes the federal legislation governing the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.

However, edu-pundit Robert Pondiscio has a very different opinion. Writing in U.S News & World Report, he claims the problem is not with over-testing, but rather with test-prep.

When parents complain, rightfully so, about over-testing, what they are almost certainly responding to is not the tests themselves, which take up a vanishingly small amount of class time, but the effects of test-and-prep culture, which has fundamentally changed the experience of schooling for our children, and not always for the better.

While testing has become the education story-du-jour, the Common Core controversy isn’t far behind. The political battles over the standards have been well documented, but a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal “Financial Woes Plague Common-Core Rollout” gets into its costliness.

The total cost of implementing Common Core is difficult to determine because the country’s education spending is fragmented among thousands of districts. The Wall Street Journal looked at spending by states and large school districts and found that more than $7 billion had been spent or committed in connection with the new standards. To come up with that number, the Journal examined contracts, email and other data provided under public-records requests by nearly 70 state education departments and school districts.

The analysis didn’t account for what would have been spent anyway—even without Common Core—on testing, instructional materials, technology and training. Education officials say, however, that the new standards required more training and teaching materials than they would otherwise have needed, and that Common Core prompted them to speed up computer purchases and network upgrades.

As some of you know, CTEN has been working with Rafael Ruano, a lawyer who helps teachers establish an alternative model to the traditional teachers unions. Here is a message from Mr. Ruano detailing his plan:

Many California teachers are completely unaware that they can opt out of part of their CTA dues every year. Even fewer know that they, in conjunction with a majority of their fellow teachers in their school district, can actually choose to cast CTA aside and adopt an independent model of teacher representation. While still a small minority, in the past few years, a small set of independent teacher associations have navigated the process of decertification to gain recognition as the exclusive bargaining representative for the teachers and other certificated employees of their school districts.

In 2013, the Corning Union High School District certificated employees  gathered the necessary signatures to submit a petition to decertify their CTA local chapter and replace it with their newly created Corning Independent Teachers Association. After overcoming the expected dirty tricks and scaremongering from CTA, the Corning teachers voted for the alternative model. Two years later, CITA is thriving, providing professional representation to its members, charging dues about one fourth of the old CTA fees (saving teachers approximately $650 per year), and managing to avoid all of the dismal predictions made by CTA should Corning teachers make the change. 

If you are a California teacher who is dissatisfied with the status quo and want to learn about a different model, go to

A comprehensive analysis by the National Council on Teacher Quality shows 42 states and Washington, D.C. require that student growth and achievement must be considered in teacher evaluations. Just six years ago only 15 states did so. From the NCTQ website:

This report presents the most comprehensive and up-to-date policy trends on how states are evaluating teachers. It also breaks new ground by providing a look at the policy landscape on principal effectiveness. Finally, this report examines state efforts to connect the dots – that is, use the results of evaluations to better inform practice and make decisions of consequence for teachers in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

California is one of the eight that does not, despite the fact that it has been the law to do so since 1971 when the Stull Act was passed. In 1999, the state legislature amended the law, requiring that the governing board of each school district “shall evaluate and assess certificated employee performance as it reasonably relates to: the progress of pupils toward the standards established pursuant to subdivision (a) and, if applicable, the state adopted academic content standards as measured by state adopted criterion referenced assessments.” In other words, a teacher’s evaluation must be based at least in part on how well her students perform on state tests. But school districts still turned a blind eye to the law.

Then in 2012, per a suit brought by Sacramento-based nonprofit EdVoice, a judge ordered the inclusion of test scores to be part of a teacher’s evaluation. However, in a report released earlier this year that sampled 26 districts’ compliance with the decision, EdVoice found that half of them were ignoring that court-ordered requirement to use the test scores.

To learn more about the NCTQ report, go to
Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has twice rolled out statewide pension reform initiatives for public employees, but both times Attorney General Kamala Harris, using “slanted” language, killed the measures before Reed could get them off the ground. But Reed is back, and along with former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio, he submitted two new initiative proposals. As Contra Costa Times writer Daniel Borenstein explains, the measures are directed at new workers. Each would slow mounting retirement costs for state and local governments but in slightly different ways:

The Voter Empowerment Act would require voter approval to offer traditional pensions to employees hired after 2018. The balloting would be among residents of the affected jurisdiction, such as a city, county or, for state employees, the entire state.

The measure would also limit the government to paying no more than half the cost of pensions and other retirement benefits, with employees responsible for the rest. That 50 percent government share could only be increased with voter approval.

The Government Pension Cap Act would continue allowing traditional pensions for public employees hired after 2018 without voter approval.

The event sponsored by CTEN and the Association of American Educators in September, in which we examined the Friedrichs and Bain lawsuits and their possible ramifications for teachers and the general public, will soon be available on YouTube. When it is posted, we will send you the link.

For CTA agency fee payers, the November 15th deadline has passed, so we hope you have already submitted your 2015 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 21, 2015

Dear Colleague,

Veteran teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci has written a piece for Education Next about the possible ramifications of the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case which he states could “fundamentally alter the education labor landscape.” The in-depth article should be able to answer many of your questions about the case which will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court next year. He points out the many fuzzy areas of union expenditures and addresses the exclusive representation argument:

“No one is forced to join a union—that’s already illegal,” said Michigan Education Association president Steve Cook. The banning of agency fees “allows workers to get out of paying their fair share of what it costs to negotiate the contract they benefit from. Whether proponents call this ‘right-to-work’ or ‘freedom-to-work,’ it’s really just ‘freedom-to-freeload.’”

That’s a pretty strong argument, as far as it goes. Wouldn’t a Friedrichs defeat for the union effectively force CTA members to subsidize benefits for nonpaying employees? Perhaps, if the state government or the local school district were forcing the CTA to be the exclusive representative of all bargaining-unit workers. But it is the union that demands exclusive representation.

On the subject of Friedrichs, the event sponsored by CTEN and the Association of American Educators last month in Long Beach was very informative. As announced in the last newsletter, we examined the Friedrichs and Bain lawsuits and their possible ramifications for teachers and the general public. The panel discussion featured lawyers and plaintiffs from both cases, and a lively audience Q&A followed. The video of the event will be accessible on our website very soon. We will alert you when it’s available.

Los Angeles a half-charter district? If Eli Broad and some other philanthropists get their way, that will be a reality within the next eight years. Los Angeles Times education writer Howard Blume broke the story:

According to a 44-page memo obtained by The Times, the locally based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other charter advocates want to create 260 new charter schools, enrolling at least 130,000 students.

Organizers of the effort have declined to publicly release details of the plan. But the memo lays out a strategy for moving forward, including how to raise money, recruit and train teachers, provide outreach to parents and navigate the political battle that will probably ensue.

… the proposed expansion would mean more than doubling the number of charter schools in Los Angeles, a feat that even backers say might prove demanding.

Needless to say, the United Teachers of Los Angeles is outraged about this plan. To read Blume’s piece and access the Broad memo, go to

An article posted last month by the Foundation for Economic Education describes an educational model “in which the student is the customer.” Written by Thomas Bogle, a public school teacher from Arizona, the piece examines public education from a libertarian perspective.

When education becomes a public good, the power to make decisions about the educational opportunities for the majority of students falls directly into the hands of politicians and unelected bureaucrats. While these groups can be responsive to parents with children in the public education system — at least occasionally to a bloc of angry voters — their voices are simply few among many. Even if the policymakers offer more than lip service to the voting public, they have myriad other constituents who all want their voices to be represented in this domain, too — from developers who want to build $70 million football stadiums to the teachers’ associations and unions.

He then goes on to suggest that education adopt a business model. To read this provocative article, go to

In a similar vein, Greg Forster, a senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, writes:

At the root of our education debates is a debate about the family. The government school monopoly is one of the most important factors undermining the family unit; universal school choice would be a big step toward strengthening it.

To continue reading “Choosing Choice Is Choosing Families,” go here -

It’s no secret that too many of our students are not “college ready” and, according to a new study, it’s because students’ critical thinking skills are not what they should be.

California teachers say critical thinking skills, not scores on standardized tests, are the best way to assess whether students are prepared for success in college and the workplace, according to an online survey by EdSource in partnership with the California Teachers Association.

Teachers said they have received much more training on how to prepare students for college – and far less on preparing them for non-college options.

They also said college and career readiness has not been fully integrated into the professional development training they have received to implement the Common Core State Standards.

While important for all teachers, high school teachers and administrators especially should take note. To read about the study, go to

The National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit and nonpartisan education policy organization, has a new project called “Path to Teach.” Its website allows you to “determine cost, location and where you'll get the best preparation for the realities of the classroom.” The site is excellent for would-be teachers and those in the field looking to advance. You can access rankings of more than 1,100 colleges and universities and 85 alternative certification programs to find the one that will guide you toward a successful career path. To learn more, go here -

Have a bullying problem at your school? Bridg-it may be worth looking into. According to Lauren Weisbarth, teacher and Bridg-it team member,

Bridg-it collects and analyzes individual school data to increase school safety and to create a positive school climate. It is a digital platform that enables the school community to use strategies that employ proven, restorative techniques when dealing with student incidences. 

If this sounds like something your school can use, please visit their website –

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 back. 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

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

Also, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money order or PayPal - As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always.

Larry Sand
CTEN President