Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dear Colleague,

Undoubtedly the biggest national education story of the last few weeks is President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos to be the Secretary of Education. The reform-minded crowd by-and-large lauded the pick, while the teachers unions have been in a state of grief. The NEA has been pillorying DeVos every chance it gets on its website, asserting that she is an “ardent supporter of ‘school choice’ privatization schemes, despite a complete lack of evidence that privatizing public schools produces better education.” The union also claims that she has “invested millions lobbying for laws that drain resources from public schools…fought against the regulation of charter schools…and is not a good fit for a position overseeing the civil rights of all students.”

Responding to the charges, Arkansas writer Paul Greenberg delivers an op-ed in which he states that “Betsy DeVos is a fighter and a winner.” I threw in my two cents, responding to the union’s charges and think that she – with a few caveats – is a good choice for the job.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests  reading, mathematics and science and is administered every three years to 15 year-olds in 72 countries by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The latest results were announced a couple of weeks ago, and the news wasn’t good. U.S. students performed in the middle of the pack in reading and science, but well below average in mathematics. Many make excuses for our poor showing by claiming that the U.S., unlike other countries, tests all its children, not just the elite, has large proportions of immigrants and English-language learners, and has a huge proportion of children in poverty. But Robert Rothman, writing in the Hechinger Report, disagrees.

The fact is that these criticisms are inaccurate. Nearly every country enrolls nearly all 15-year-olds in school, and the U.S. is on the low side, with 84 percent of 15-year-olds in school. Many countries have higher immigrant populations than the United States, and in some, such as Singapore, immigrant students outperform native-born students.

And poverty does not explain the U.S. results. Yes, child poverty rates in the U.S. are high, but they are about at the average for OECD countries. Some high-performing regions, like Hong Kong, have much higher poverty rates. And some, like Hong Kong, have managed to break the connection between socioeconomic status and achievement. In Estonia, for example, 48 percent of low-income students are “resilient”; that is, they score at top levels. In Canada, the resiliency rate is 39 percent. In the U.S., it is 32 percent—and the good news is the rate has gone up over the past decade.

To read more of Rothman’s critique and see the scores, go to

On December 8th, the National Council on Teacher Quality released new ratings for 875 undergraduate elementary teacher preparation programs. One of NCTQ’s findings is that these programs “still have far to go, particularly in preparing elementary teachers in mathematics…. The new findings do little to quell the notion that teaching is an ‘easy major,’ open to anyone who applies in many institutions. Only one quarter of the programs (26 percent) are sufficiently selective, generally admitting only the top half of college goers.” To access the NCTQ report, go to

The same day NCTQ came out with its teacher prep analysis, the Fordham Institute released a report on the difficulty of removing ineffective teachers from public school classrooms. The results of the study showed that in some school districts it is virtually impossible to get rid of an under-performer. The Fordham analysts used a ten point metric based on three simple questions:

·         Does tenure protect veteran teachers from performance-based dismissal?
·         How long does it take to dismiss an ineffective veteran teacher?
·         How vulnerable is an ineffective veteran teacher’s dismissal to challenge?

They then used this framework to gauge the difficulty of dismissing ineffective veteran teachers in 25 diverse school districts across the country and found three major obstacles. In 17 of the 25 districts, state law allows teachers to achieve tenure and never relinquish it, even if poor performance reviews follow. Also, it takes forever to cut through the red tape involved in a teacher dismissal. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, it can take five or more years to complete the process. And finally, teachers have multiple appeals to their dismissal in many districts.

To read more about the Fordham Institute report, go to

Robert Pondiscio, Vice President for External Affairs at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, has written a forceful piece for U.S News & World Report in which he suggests that we “Let Poor Parents Choose Too.” Making the case for parent power in the current political climate, he writes, 

If it's education reform technocrats and accountability hawks versus parents this time, the mood, the moment and the moral argument would seem to favor parents. If this year has taught us nothing else, it's that Americans have had just about enough of their betters deciding what's best for them and expecting them to play gratefully along. Reformers might have to start accepting that our greatest point of leverage is to help parents choose wisely, rather than trying to police their choices by means of aggressive accountability schemes.

While school choice is on the move in other states, California is lagging. EdSource’s Louis Freedberg suggests, “Trump school voucher plan would face huge obstacles in California.” There are many questions: Would a voucher program be legal in California? Where would the federal funds come from? How much would the plan as proposed by Trump cost in California? Where would students be able to use the vouchers? To see how Freedberg answers these and other questions, go to

When Antonin Scalia died in February, the Friedrichs case went with him. But there is another case on the horizon that is trying to accomplish the same end: giving workers a choice whether or not to pay dues to a public employee union as a condition of employment. According to Choice Media,

Enter Illinois plaintiffs Mark Janus and Brian Trygg and a case called Janus v. AFSCME. With the legal counsel of Jacob Huebert of the Liberty Justice Center, they are suing Illinois public sector unions for the same reason as the Friedrichs plaintiffs — forced union fees. The plaintiffs are employees of the state of Illinois; Mark Janus is a child support services worker at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and Brian Trygg is a transportation engineer. Attorney Huebert told Choice Media that if they win their case, the precedent would apply to public school teachers as well.

“If the court were to rule in their favor [Janus and Trygg’s], it would extend to all government workers who’ve been forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment,” Huebert said. “That’s really the issue at the heart of the case: Can the government force its employees to pay union fees as a condition of employment? If it can’t force Illinois state workers to do that, it’s not clear how it can force any other kind of government worker to do that.”

And speaking of unions, the new NEA  LM-2 has been released. Dropout Nation’s RiShawn Biddle writes about it here -  To read specifically where NEA spends the $366,881,800 it collected from educators this past year, go to

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 2017. 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 16, 2016

Dear Colleague,

Eight days ago, Donald Trump became our president-elect. And just what will this mean for educators? Hard to say because very little of the campaign was spent on K-12 education issues. Our soon-to-be 45th President did say that school choice is a priority, however.

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump is pledging that, if elected, he'd be the "nation's biggest cheerleader for school choice" and would offer states the chance to use $20 billion in federal money to create vouchers allowing children in poverty to attend the public, charter, or private school of their choice.

"There is no policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly," 
Trump said. "The Democratic Party has trapped millions of African-American and Hispanic youth" in struggling schools.

"We want every inner-city child in America to have the freedom to attend any school," he said.

Trump said that the $20 billion in federal funds could be combined with more than $100 billion in state and local money to create vouchers of up to $12,000 annually for the nation's poorest kids.

Trump also said that he supports merit pay for teachers. For more, go here -

Of note to Californians, the three education-related measures on the ballot all passed. Prop. 58 will largely undo Prop 227, and restore bilingual education. Prop 55 will continue Prop 30, the “temporary tax” on people earning over $263,000 a year through 2030. And Prop 51, a school bond measure, will “help to repair, upgrade and improve California’s K-12 public schools and community colleges” according to its proponents.

The latter initiative was opposed by Gov. Jerry Brown and others. Brown argued that it would “promote sprawl and continue an inequitable system based on which school districts get to the application line fastest, not which ones need it the most.” For more, go to To examine the problem of mounting bond debt, go here -

On the subject of school choice, many in the education establishment contend that any privatization of education hurts teachers. Not so, says University of Arkansas’ Corey DeAngelis, who makes the case that “School Choice Benefits Teachers Too.”

Obviously, diverting resources to private schools must harm teachers in public schools, right? This is debatable, especially since public school teachers do not face a serious threat of dismissal or decreasing salaries. Moreover, even if this caused a realistic dismissal threat, the high-quality teachers would certainly remain shielded. What is unquestionable, however, is that this diversion of resources benefits teachers in private schools voluntarily chosen by families.
Which group of teachers should benefit more? The ones that forcefully receive resources from the taxpayers, or the ones that produce educational outcomes that are desired by children and parents?

To state the obvious, as charter schools and other forms of educational choice proliferate, traditional public schools lose market share. While some school districts complain to legislators and the media about the loss of students and revenue, the more creative ones have turned to marketing.

Joel Dahl, an administrator in the Westonka district, said his small school system outside of Minneapolis was losing children to charters, private schools and neighboring districts for about six years before the flow subsided around 2014, in part because of the outreach to young children.

In addition to sending out about 100 baby bags every three months, the district also sends birthday cards to newborns through their fifth birthday and offers programs to children from birth. One class involves a teacher leading parents and newborns in playtime and singing to help the babies with communication and socialization skills.

“We try and start young and recruit them, and hope they try to stay all the way through,” Mr. Dahl said. “Our goal is to get them in.”

One of the edu-myths making the rounds these days is that teachers are burning out because of tougher tests and evaluations. Mike Antonucci looks at the evidence and finds the claim to be essentially not true, with perhaps one exception.

…as one review of the published evidence put it: “Research to date suggests that accountability has not dramatically changed the career choices of teachers overall, but that it has likely increased attrition in schools classified as failing relative to other schools.” There is less research on teacher evaluation policies, but what exists suggests that turnover and dissatisfaction may be particularly acute for teachers who receive poor ratings.

On the subject of testing, the always provocative Jay Greene has written a most interesting blog post, “Evidence for the Disconnect Between Changing Test Scores and Changing Later Life Outcomes.”

Over the last few years I have developed a deeper skepticism about the reliability of relying on test scores for accountability purposes.  I think tests have very limited potential in guiding distant policymakers, regulators, portfolio managers, foundation officials, and other policy elites in identifying with confidence which schools are good or bad, ought to be opened, expanded, or closed, and which programs are working or failing.  The problem, as I’ve pointed out in several pieces now, is that in using tests for these purposes we are assuming that if we can change test scores, we will change later outcomes in life.  We don’t really care about test scores per se, we care about them because we think they are near-term proxies for later life outcomes that we really do care about — like graduating from high school, going to college, getting a job, earning a good living, staying out of jail, etc…

To continue reading this thought-provoking piece go to  In a similar vein, John Katzman, CEO of Noodle, has made a worthwhile video on the subject which can be accessed here -

Earlier this month, the California Charter Schools Association released a ranking of every school – charter and traditional – in the state. As reported in LA School Report,

Each school is ranked from 1 to 10 as a statewide rank and a “similar student” rank, which compares schools with similar demographics, including race and socioeconomic status.
Elizabeth Robitaille, CCSA’s senior vice president of achievement and performance management, said the “similar student” rank tells more about how a school is educating its students. Students who have educated parents and are from higher socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to do better on standardized tests. Schools that are “beating the odds” rank high on the similar students rank, meaning students are scoring higher on tests than students from other schools with similar demographics.

For CTA agency fee payers, the November 15th deadline has passed, so we hope you have already submitted your 2016 rebate form. However, if you are a first time filer, you may resign from the union after the 15th. You will not get the full amount, but rather a prorated one depending on how long after the 15th you file. For more information, please visit

If you are interested in giving CTEN brochures to colleagues, you can print them right from our 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

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dear Colleague,

There are a load of education bills that became law in California at the end of last month, as well as quite a few that failed. AB 2329, one of the more interesting bills that passed, involves laying the groundwork to expand computer education in all grades. Another, AB 2246,  mandates that “school districts serving 7th through 12th grade students to adopt a suicide prevention policy that specifically addresses prevention procedures for youth who are at high risk of mental health issues and suicidal thinking, including those who are bereaved, homeless, experiencing discrimination based on sexual orientation or struggling with substance abuse.”

One bill of note that died in the legislature, AB 2835, would have required school districts and other employers of public employee unions “to hold annual in-person orientations for all new workers, at which unions would be allowed to make a 30-minute pitch for union membership.” Another high-profile bill that didn’t make it (Governor Brown vetoed it), was AB 2548 which would have given the legislature “a role in overseeing the new statewide school accountability system, based on multiple measures of school success, by locking in statute the work that the State Board of Education is doing on its own through rules and regulations. It would have placed more emphasis on test scores for identifying low-performing schools needing assistance than the state board favors, and it would require a summary ranking of a school’s performance, enabling parents to readily compare schools – a position the state board opposes.”

To see the entire scorecard assembled by EdSource’s John Fensterwald, go to

And speaking of accountability, an educator in Los Angeles penned a thoughtful piece on the matter for LA School Report. Tunji Adebayo, a high school charter teacher who made his case before the state school board in Sacramento, writes,

…I told the board that we need an accountability system that will provide families with clarity and equity. I spoke about Marco’s mom, who works multiple jobs and has half the eighth-grade education Marco has achieved. Marco’s little sister once translated his mother’s question to me, “What high school should Marco go to?” An equitable accountability system is one where Marco’s mom could easily understand the performance of schools in her district to make the right educational choice for her son.
I also told them about my mentee Jayson’s mother, who deserves to know that the school he attends potentially performs in the bottom 20 to 30 percent of schools statewide. An equitable system would give her the tools and information to help her steer her son to greater educational opportunity.

The teacher shortage issue seems to be a rumor that just won’t die. Responding to the latest lamentation from the Learning Policy Institute, Mike Antonucci deftly refuted it. While he agrees that are shortages in certain areas, he writes that the national teacher shortage story is nonsense. In fact, Antonucci asserts that there is a teacher surplus in elementary education. “If you aren’t specific in identifying shortage areas and providing incentives to fill those areas, the result may be an unneeded increase in elementary school teacher candidates who cannot find jobs.”

To read the Learning Policy Institute report, go to To read what Antonucci has to say on the issue, go to and Also, National Council on Teacher Quality president Kate Walsh makes excellent points on the topic here -

On the school choice front, the Nevada Supreme Court delivered a split decision on the state’s universal Education Savings Account program. The ACLU had argued the law was unconstitutional, on the grounds of separation of church and state, alleging that the program would unconstitutionally divert money to religious schools that proselytize or can discriminate against students or staff. The Court denied that claim, but did rule that the legislature can’t use money earmarked for public education to fund it. So the ESA program remains on hold pending the state’s lawmakers’ effort to find a different funding mechanism. To learn more about Nevada’s ESA law, go here -

At the end of September, the American Federation of Teachers filed its 2015-2016 financial report with the U.S. Department of Labor, and once again, it spent a lot of teachers’ dues money on the Clintons. As reported by RiShawn Biddle,

The union gave $250,000 to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the controversial philanthropy run by the Clinton family that has garnered widespread scrutiny during this year’s presidential campaign for receiving donations from corporations and foreign governments that also had business before the former Secretary of State during her tenure in the Obama Administration. AFT gave another $250,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative….

Altogether, AFT has doled out $2.2 million into Clinton-controlled nonprofits over the past four years.

The question then becomes: Is the AFT categorizing this as “political spending?” In other words does an agency fee payer have to pony up for what would seem to be a blatant political contribution? The best way to find out the funding source of the Clinton donations would be to check out a Hudson notice. If you are an AFT/CFT member and have a recent Hudson notice, please contact me at 

To read Biddle’s commentary on the AFT report go to  To delve into the report itself, go here -

Also on the union front, an interesting point was raised in another bill that didn’t get passed into law during the 2015-1016 legislative session. AB 2754 would have required “public unions to hold an election every two years to determine if the current labor union should continue to represent its members. The election would also allow workers to select another public employee union to take its place.” This seems only fair since probably not one person reading this email voted to be in the union that represents them. An excellent paper on the subject was written in 2012 by the Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk. He looked at several states to see how many teachers still employed voted in their union.

Florida passed legislation giving government unions collective bargaining powers in 1974, and by 1975 the state’s 10 largest school districts had unionized. Just 1 percent of current teachers were on the job in 1975. Fully 99 percent of the teachers in Florida’s largest school districts had no choice about being represented by their union.

Michigan gave government unions collective bargaining powers in 1965. Seven of the 10 largest school districts in the state had already unionized (even without full collective bargaining powers) before then or organized that year. One of the state's largest school districts unionized in 1971, and two others did so in the 1980s. Across Michigan’s 10 largest school districts, just 1 percent of teachers had the opportunity to decide who would represent them.

By the way, if you are looking to start a “local only” teachers union with no ties to NEA/CTA or AFT/CFT, please contact Rafael Ruano for help in doing so. If you’d like more information, go to

And on the subject of unions, a reminder: now is the time for agency fee payers to claim their rebate. Or if you are a full-dues payer but want to withhold the political share of your union dues, now is the time to get busy. Existing CTA fee payers have until November 15th to request your refund. For details, go here -

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

If you would like to see us address certain issues, topics, etc. in these newsletters or on our website – – please let us know.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dear Colleague,

Now that NCLB has been replaced by ESSA – the Every Student Succeeds Act – California is readying a new school rating system and a lot of people think it’s way too confusing.

“… a number of parent activist groups and others are pushing the state board to adopt a summative rating for schools based on the chosen indicators and that without it, it will be difficult for families to compare schools or know how well their school is educating their students. They also point to the sea of colors” on the proposed school report cards covering 17 categories, each of which is rated by one of five colors.

“In the absence of a summative rating for a school, it becomes very difficult for families to hold schools accountable for what happens within the walls,” said Seth Litt, executive director of Parent Revolution, an organization that helps parents push for better educational opportunities in their neighborhoods including using the “parent trigger” law to take over low-performing schools.

A parent writes,

California is finally going to measure every school based not only on test scores, but also on their school safety and climate, graduation rates and efforts to engage families. This new potential system, however, has been designed in such a way that it will be virtually impossible for most families to easily understand their school’s overall performance.

For example, the new system does not include any overall rating for each school. Instead, the plan is to give every family a report card with seventeen different categories, each of which is rated by one of five colors. Every family will have to look at this sea of colors and figure out for themselves whether their school is excellent, about average or low performing.

“The teacher pay gap is wider than ever,” subtitled “Teachers’ pay continues to fall further behind pay of comparable workers” is a 29-page report released by the Economic Policy Institute, whose mission is “to inform and empower individuals to seek solutions that ensure broadly shared prosperity and opportunity.” But in fact EPI is nothing more than a union front group whose board includes AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka, SEIU’s Mary Kay Henry, American Federation of Teachers’ Randi Weingarten, National Education Association’s Lily Eskelsen-García, et al.

Not surprisingly, the EPI report is flawed. Perhaps the most honest and well-researched study done on teacher pay, including the time-on-the-job and benefits factors, was done in 2011 by Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Jason Richwine, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. In their report, they destroy the teacher union-perpetuated myth of the under-compensated teacher. Their study, in fact, found that teachers are actually paid more than private-sector workers.

California’s Prop. 55, which would extend the “temporary” tax hikes ushered in by Prop.30, would seem to be on track to pass in November. Many voters, including a majority of Republicans, are in favor of the initiative.

Voters are also showing strong support for Proposition 55, a measure on the November statewide ballot that would extend for 12 years an income tax increase on individuals earning $250,000 or more per year to help boost education and healthcare funding. Sixty-nine percent of voters showed support for the measure.

One other initiative of note for educators is Prop. 56. If passed it would increase the cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack, with equivalent increases on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes. The tax revenue generated would go to funding existing healthcare programs; also for tobacco use prevention/control programs, tobacco-related disease research and law enforcement….” However, opponents have a very different take. They say that, “California’s Constitution (through Proposition 98), requires that schools get at least 43% of any new tax increase. Prop 56 was purposely written to undermine our Constitution’s minimum school funding guarantee, allowing special interests to deceptively divert millions a year from schools to health insurance companies and other wealthy special interests.”

To read arguments – pro and con, go to  and

AB 2835 was birthed when CTA leaders were frightened that the Friedrichs decision was going to go against them. They decided they needed to carve out an opportunity to deliver a sales pitch to teachers who would no longer be forced to pay money to the union as a condition of employment. But with Antonin Scalia’s death and the Supreme Court’s subsequent refusal to rehear the case, the bill became irrelevant; CTA and CFT still have a captive audience.

The bill had sailed through the California State Assembly but didn’t pass muster in the Senate and on Aug 31st it was sent to the inactive file. To learn more about the bill’s history, go here -  

Did you know that Clovis, a city of about 100,000 located in California’s San Joaquin Valley, home to the 16th largest school district in the state, with 41,000 students, 47 schools, and 1,800 teachers, functions without a teachers union? In fact, there has never been a teachers union in Clovis, but teachers nevertheless have a prominent voice and role in the district’s governance. Instead of a union, they have an elected Faculty Senate, in which each school has a representative. The mission of the Faculty Senate is to be “an effective advocate for teachers at all levels of policy making, procedures, and expenditures, in partnership with our administrators, fellow employees, and community as a quality educational team.” To learn more, please read my op-ed in the Orange County Register

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 but want to withhold the political share of your union dues, now is the time to get busy. For details, go here -

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.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Dear Colleague,

As many 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 gone well.

CTEN is again participating in National Employee Freedom Week, which began August 14th and runs through August 20th. 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, 102 organizations in 42 states are participating. An important objective is to reach those in union households nationwide who are unaware they can opt-out of union membership without losing their job or incur any other penalty. For more information, please visit the NEFW website –  For info specific to teachers in California, go to

In addition to the Democratic and Republican conventions, July saw the National Education Association hold its yearly convention followed by the American Federation of Teachers biannual get together. These meetings tend to be especially boisterous in election years, and 2016 was no exception. AFT president Randi Weingarten spoke at length, extolling the virtues of Hillary Clinton.

Hillary understands the most urgent issues confronting our country. Her bold economic plan puts unions front and center. She will level the playing field for the middle class, raising incomes for hardworking families, creating debt-free college for students, and lifting children out of poverty.

In addition to praising Clinton, NEA president Lili Eskelsen García spent time slamming Republican candidate Donald Trump. From the NEA website:

Fear and divisiveness has always been used as a cudgel by politicians, but the ascent of Donald Trump – and his toxic brand of racial demagoguery – has magnified the stakes of the upcoming election.

“I am terrified that this man has made it this far. This unfit, unworthy man will be the Republican nominee for president of the United States of America,” Eskelsen García said during her keynote. But on July 5, delegates were visited by presumptive 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who “believes that as a nation, we’re stronger when we’re together,” Eskelsen García added.

On the education reform front, Doe v. Antioch is back in the news. This suit is based on a 2012 ruling in which Sacramento-based nonprofit EdVoice maintained that teacher evaluations require, in part, the use of standardized test scores, and the judge promptly ordered their inclusion. However, in a report released in 2015 that sampled 26 districts’ compliance with the decision, EdVoice found that half of them were ignoring the court-ordered requirement to use the test scores. The suit was filed by Students Matter, the same outfit that brought the Vergara case. For more info, go here -  and here -
Ready for California to start teaching kids about sexual consent? Well, it’s coming.

This school year, the state will be the first in the U.S. to require that high schools teach sexual consent — what it is and how it’s established. While some high schools already taught consent, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law in October 2015 requiring all schools that mandate health courses to do so beginning in the 2016 school year.

‘Our dedication to a more comprehensive approach to sex ed — principles that are evidenced based, culturally appropriate, nonjudgmental, the whole thing about establishing parameters about not having sex — is really revolutionary, positively revolutionary….’ said Claire Brindis, a pediatrics professor and adolescent health policy researcher at University of California, San Francisco.

Also, bilingual education is back on the ballot 18 years after California voters passed Prop.227 in 1998. The proposition mandated that ESL students be taught in English only, rather than in bilingual programs, which instructed students primarily in their native language while they gradually picked up enough English to enter mainstream classes. Supporters want to “make it easier for schools to establish bilingual programs for both English learners and native English speakers seeking to gain fluency in a foreign language.” But there are forces that maintain that Prop 227 worked, including Latinos who were frustrated that their children were “getting caught in essentially Spanish-only classrooms where they never became adept at English.” To learn more, go here -

Can civic education save America? Robert Pondiscio, Senior Fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, certainly thinks so and he makes a good case for it. He sums up his argument:

I have often observed that the first and most important relationship a child builds with a civic institution is with his or her school… It is not an overstatement to suggest that if we are threatened by intolerance and slouching toward authoritarianism, the civic mission of education is elevated—immediately and urgently—not merely to a priority for education itself, but something very much like a matter of national security.

To read Pondiscio’s compelling piece, go to

The problem with our schools of education is an ongoing theme in this newsletter. The latest installment is from our friends at the National Council on Teacher Quality. In a report released in late July, Michigan State University professor William H. Schmidt and his colleagues “look at the mathematics that American middle school teachers took during their teacher preparation and produce some hard evidence of prevailing substandard preparation.”

This latest study looks more closely at US preparation, examining how many US programs deliver this essential content. Even on this basic question, Schmidt finds enormous, inexplicable variations among institutions in what they consider to be essential content. Schmidt estimates that only about a third of America's middle school teachers took coursework addressing this content. For the rest of teachers, a sizeable portion of the content never gets covered. Compare that to some of our international counterparts which include a number of countries where 80 percent of all teachers learned essential content. 

The educational savings account battle rages on in Nevada. On July 29th, both defenders and opponents of a school choice law passed by the 2015 Nevada Legislature “drew equal optimism from the pointed questions… during two state Supreme Court hearings over the controversial measure’s constitutionality.”

The seven justices carefully avoided offering a clear indication of how they eventually will rule. But each took their turn grilling attorneys on whether the law illegally diverts money from funds deemed sufficient by the Nevada Legislature to fund public schools, or if it is in conflict with a constitutional prohibition against taxpayer dollars being used for sectarian purposes.

While the rulings will come at a later date, the oral arguments emboldened both proponents and critics of the legislation.

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 share our experiences and ideas. Our original Facebook page can be found here   Our second page, which deals with teacher evaluation and transparency, can be accessed here -   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 20, 2016

Dear Colleague,

The California budget is now public and there’s lots of money in it for education. The $171 billion budget includes $88.3 billion for all K-12 education programs, a 4 percent increase from last year. Per pupil spending has increased to $10,643, which is $3,600 more than in 2011-12. To read more, go here -

AB 934 is dead. The tenure and seniority bill would have placed poorly performing teachers in a program that offers professional support. If a teacher received a second low performance review after a year in the program, they could be fired via an expedited process regardless of their experience level. Also, permanence would not always be granted after two years, and seniority would no longer be the single overriding factor in handing out pink slips. Teachers with two or more bad reviews would lose their jobs before newer teachers who have not received poor evaluations. But CTA did not approve and went into action, eviscerating the bill. Ultimately it was killed off in the state’s Senate Education Committee. For more, go to

The Supreme Court has decided not to rehear the Friedrichs case, which was deadlocked 4-4 due to the untimely death of Antonin Scalia in February. Had Scalia lived, he would undoubtedly been the deciding vote in favor of the plaintiffs. Needless to say, Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, the non-profit public interest law firm representing the teachers, was disappointed: “Today’s decision was not a decision on the merits of our case nor was it accompanied by an opinion. We continue to believe that forcing individuals to subsidize political speech with which they disagree violates the First Amendment. We will look for opportunities to challenge compulsory union dues laws in other cases and continue our efforts to stand up for the rights of teachers and public sector workers across the country.” To read the entire CIR press release, go here -

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush wrote a very interesting piece for National Review in which he lays out his vision for the future of education in the United States. He states bluntly that, “We must massively disrupt our education system if we want to ensure our long-term national and economic security.” Several of his proposals:

There are no more assigned schools. Parents of all income levels are able to choose from a robust marketplace of options, including traditional neighborhood schools, magnet schools, charter schools, private schools, and virtual schools. Information on their performance is readily available, and they are held accountable to parents and communities.

We have a system that rewards success, replicates it, and weeds out failing schools. It is a system based on the simple premise that all students can learn, and that it is up to us to figure out how. In this new school system, the current model of funding bureaucracies has been replaced by a new regime in which the money follows the child, guided by the decisions of parents.

In this new school system, the current model of funding bureaucracies has been replaced by a new regime in which the money follows the child, guided by the decisions of parents.

To read the rest of Bush’s provocative ideas, go to

Though the teacher union war against education reform-minded Wall Street hedge fund managers is not new, AFT president Randi Weingarten is ramping up the attack. The union leader has influence over more than $1 trillion in teacher pension plans, many of which traditionally invest in hedge funds. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, she bluntly states, “Why would you put your money with someone who wants to destroy you?” Weingarten’s #1 target is Daniel Loeb, founder of the $16 billion Third Point fund. Loeb has been a financial supporter of the successful Success Academy charter school franchise, run by Weingarten’s avowed enemy, Eva Moskowitz. Weingarten has also accused Loeb of being involved with a group that is “leading the attack on defined benefit pension funds.” To read more about Weingarten’s war on hedge fund managers, go to

Weingarten is not alone in her offensive. She has enlisted the support of the “Hedge Clippers,” which claiming to be a “grassroots” group, is really nothing more than a union owned-and -operated entity. Writing for The 74, David Cantor reveals,

Few would guess from the ragtag, grassroots feel of the protest that Hedge Clippers’ organizers have been funded with millions of dollars from teachers unions — or that the group is led by a teachers union lobbyist and based at the Broadway headquarters of that union, New York City’s United Federation of Teachers.

All told, the UFT and its upstate colleagues, New York State United Teachers, along with their national affiliate, directed $5.5 million over the last five years to the groups that created and collaborate most frequently on the Hedge Clippers project — led by $2.5 million to Strong Economy for All, a coalition of labor and advocacy organizations.

On the subject of teachers unions, there have been some very damning videos circulating, courtesy of investigative journalist James O’Keefe. With four videos available online and several more to come, his Project Veritas has delivered a devastating blow to several union honchos who obviously were not aware that their misdeeds were being recorded. In one of the videos, a union president and VP are seen trying to help a teacher who claimed to have physically assaulted one of his students while uttering a racial epithet. Upon seeing the video, a union official became defensive and accused O’Keefe of doctoring the footage. But after watching the uncut version, the Inspector General of Yonkers, NY – the locale of the misdeed – has recommended that the involved union officers be terminated. To read more about this story, go to  To learn more about Project Veritas and see all their videos go here -

How about a Yelp for schools?  That’s the type of feedback Jacqueline Elliott, cofounder of PUC Triumph Charter High School in LA’s San Fernando Valley, solicits to improve instruction.

The focus group-style exit interview Elliott's conducting has become part of the year-end ritual at PUC (which stands for "Partnerships to Uplift Communities"). Over five weeks, Elliott spoke with all of the roughly 260 seniors graduating from the charter network's high schools in the San Fernando Valley, including Triumph. The network's other co-founder, Ref Rodriguez, interviews the seniors at PUC's high schools in East Los Angeles.

Since 2010, the first year Elliott says they began the practice, their questions to the seniors have been simple: what about their school is working? What about it is not? The co-founders then share the answers with campus administrators — and those answers have even occasionally prompted changes to how PUC schools are run.

Strive, a unique after-school program located at 9124 S Main St, L.A., 90003, is seeking retired or currently employed teachers who have a conservative approach for part time work teaching students in grades 1 through 12. For information on all the open positions, please call Don Anderson at 323-779-7501 or email him at To learn more about this terrific organization, please visit their website –

If you are interested in giving CTEN brochures to colleagues, you can print them right from our 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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Dear Colleague,

The California legislature is still dealing with Contra Costa Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla’s revamped tenure and seniority bill, AB 934, which we told you about in April’s letter. The California Teachers Association has weighed in on it, claiming that the changes “would make education an incredibly insecure profession.” On the other hand, Students Matter’s Ben Austin doesn’t think the bill goes far enough. Among other things, he asserts that “the bill could be strengthened by extending the length of the probationary period to at least four years to allow for tenure decisions to take into account three evaluations.” He also writes, “AB 934 respects hardworking and talented teachers by creating a new layoff system that still protects effective senior teachers, while generally prioritizing quality of instruction over years in the classroom. However, the bill still prioritizes seniority instead of effectiveness for rehiring and reassigning teachers after necessary layoff cuts.” To read more of Austin’s proposed fixes, go here -  To see the latest version of Bonilla’s bill, go to

Also, there is another push in Sacramento to put together some sort of meaningful and coherent teacher evaluation bill. A new bill from San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, passed the Assembly in late May and will now be considered by the State Senate. As reported by Voice of San Diego, AB 2826 would require that “teachers be evaluated on a periodic basis – the timelines are different depending on a teacher’s level of experience – and that a broad set of measures be used. Rather than focusing intensely on test results, the bill encourages the use of portfolios of student work, English proficiency, surveys from parents and students, reports from classroom observations and more to be taken into account when evaluating a teacher.” To learn more, go to To see the bill itself, go to

Weber also has a school accountability bill making the rounds in Sacramento. AB 2548 “would require districts to measure student progress in such ‘key variables’ as achievement in English, math and science; progress toward proficiency among English-language learners; high school graduation rates; and absenteeism. This information would be easily available on a state website and would be used to guide decisions on when schools or districts need assistance or intervention.” To read more about the bill, go to  To read the actual bill, go here -

The transgender bathroom issue is certainly a hot topic these days, with the American Civil Liberty Union, POTUS, state legislatures and think tanks all weighing in on the subject. But I have seen very little from boots-on-the-ground teachers and parents. One story caught my eye, however. In Georgia, an ACLU state leader stepped down from her post “citing her own daughters' ‘frightened’ reaction to biological males using the women's restroom.” Maya Dillard Smith, a self-described “progressive” and “unapologetically black,” said that she cannot go along with the ACLU's transgender legal agenda. To read more about this “mugged by reality” story, go to  (If any of you have had any experiences with this issue – good, bad or indifferent, please shoot me an email or post it on the CTEN blog -

Perhaps a close second to the bathroom kerfuffle in amount of media coverage is the testing issue. Test scores and their validity have been undergoing examination for some time now, and we have two world-class reformers taking different sides. University of Arkansas professor Jay Greene claims that test scores have “weak predictive power.” Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli disagrees, maintaining that we should use “reading and math gains as imperfect indicators of effectiveness while working to build better measures.” All six parts of this wonky, in-depth look at testing can be accessed here -

Education writer RiShawn Biddle is the latest to try to get past the government stranglehold on the path to becoming a teacher. Along with Jeremy Lott, senior fellow at Defense Priorities, Biddle penned an op-ed for the NY Post, “Invite all comers to teach in our public schools: It's time for a new bargain to get bright new educators from all backgrounds into our classrooms” They write,

There are plenty of highly-talented men and women, including middle-aged engineers and others with math and science skills, who want to become teachers. Forty-two percent of college-educated adults aged 24-to-60 would consider teaching as a career, according to a 2008 study by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Not everyone with specialized skills and knowledge is cut out to stand in front of a classroom. But the teacher credential systems in this country unnecessarily narrow the field of people who can teach in schools, which directly harms students by making good instruction scarce.

This is harmful because studies have shown that the only two things that really matter when it comes to teaching children are subject-matter competency, and how adults relate to students they teach.

The writers claim that our ed schools don’t help with either of these things. To read this provocative piece, go here -
As usual, much has appeared in the edu-press about charter schools over the last month, but one story leaps out. The United Teachers of Los Angeles released a report which claims that independent charter schools drain half a billion dollars from the LA Unified School District. However, the school district did a quick “Huh?!” As written in LA School Report, “In January when the Charter Schools Division presented its budget, it showed that the district receives half a million dollars more than they need to pay for the division. That report, presented to the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee by Charters Division Director Jose Cole-Gutierrez, showed that the 1 percent oversight fee collected from charter schools brings in $8.89 million while the annual expenses of the division’s 47 employees including their benefits total $8.37 million.” Thus, the school district actually makes money from its charters. To read more, go to

Also, regarding charters, does the press do a fair job? No, claims the Washington Examiner, writing that according to an American Enterprise report, “about half of articles published by major outlets on charter schools in 2015 was neutral or balanced. But there were twice as many negative pieces than positive.” To read the AEI report, go to

So much has been written about school choice, it is sometimes difficult to separate the baby from the bathwater. Perhaps the best guide to use is a report, updated periodically, from Greg Forster of the Friedman Foundation. In his latest “A Win-Win Solution, the Empirical Evidence on School Choice,” a meta-analysis (study of studies), he found that choice improves academic outcomes not only for participants but also for public school students. Summing up the study, Jay Greene writes that choice “saves taxpayer money, moves students into more integrated classrooms, and strengthens the shared civic values and practices essential to American democracy. A few outlier cases that do not fit this pattern may get a disproportionate amount of attention, but the research consensus in favor of school choice as a general policy is clear and consistent.” To read the study, go here -

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

If you would like to see us address certain issues, topics, etc. in these newsletters or on our website – please let us know.

And have a great summer!

Larry Sand
CTEN President