Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Blog has officially moved.

Up and Live. Go now.  

Check out, our new radio show site.  Features include Matt Damon's Mom, A Moment of Zinn, and our Activist of the Week.

Below is some of the music that will dominate 
BustED Pencils: Fully Leaded Education Talk

Rise Against: Re-Education (Through Labor)

Sevendust: School's Out

Bridge to Grace: The Fold

Monday, December 1, 2014

School accountability in Wisconsin again: Destroying the hearts of our communities.

Did you ever prepare for an interview, do your research, organize your thoughts, feel confident and then blow it?  If not you’re lucky.  But this is exactly what happened to me when I went in to record a segment for Capital Morning Sunday with host Greg Neumann. 

Watch below.

Here’s what I should have said.

We absolutely do not need another accountability bill in Wisconsin if the accountability bill is supposedly going to be used to close the achievement gap.  You don’t close the achievement gap with standards, curriculum, tests and punishments.  We have 30 years of data that proves this beyond a doubt.  So if legislators are really looking to close the achievement gap they need to stop listening to the accountability hawks and testing companies that are financing them and start looking at the real issues that cause students to perform poorly in school.  In other words they need to do their job and be held accountable for either promoting the conditions in which learning thrives (which are predominantly socio-economic) or they—the legislators need to be held accountable and labeled legislatively failing and then stripped of their legislative license. Oops.  That’s right they don’t need a license toscrew up the lives of children and the communities they serve

Now if the “new” accountability being proposed is simply to streamline and promote the use of more taxpayer subsidized financing for private and religious schools then Wisconsin residents needs to listen very closely.  Using taxpayer money to subsidize private and religious schools will not close the achievement gap.  However, these subsidies will further dismantle our public schools—schools that serve as the hearts of our local communities. Why?  Because this is what taxpayer subsidies are designed to do. These subsidies are simply a way to defund our community schools, schools that should be the heart of all of Wisconsin’s communities.

Some argue that subsidizing private schools with public money will help disadvantaged students.  This is not true.  There just is not any accumulation of evidence to prove this (However,we are starting to understand this ideologically imposed disaster).  Instead, private school subsidies are strictly in the domain of ideology.  Supporters at the policy level simply have a disdain for public and community based schools.  All one needs to do is look at the FriedmanFoundation website and see that this has always been an ideological position and not one based on any evidence.  It is based on the simple idea that by creating losers you will create winners—competition. 

Public schools are not in the business of creating a Hunger Games type of competitive culture.  Our communities are not simply “government districts” that serve to supply a compliant work force.  Our public schools exist because as Americans we made a promise to every child and every community that a powerful education would be a right and that this public education would serve to make sure that children and communities have an educated community capable of participation in critical self-government.

Taxpayer subsidized financing for private and religious schools is not a “choice.” It is simply a poison for the heart of Wisconsin’s communities—our public schools.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Children and public schools take a left and a right to the gut in Wisconsin.

In the aftermath of the disaster that was Tuesday's midterm election a lot has been written about why things turned out so crappy for democrats.  Therefore I am not going to waste my time explaining that when any politician turns their back on our most vulnerable and fails to take the moral high ground they always lose.  No. I don't have time for that right now.

Instead, after reading about the coming Tsunami of Wisconsin-based republican education "accountability"

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters he wants to start with a school accountability bill.

and the proposed "holy crap we better hide" fight back strategy of some school boards,

We will probably hunker down over next couple years in terms of educational initiatives the legislature decides to put us through

 I offer the following advice.

"Hunkering down" has to be one of the most damaging strategies for anybody or any organization that has the democratic and constitutional responsibility to do what is best for children.   Just the idea that the new found power elite are proposing educational "accountability" after 30 years of failed accountability should motivate all that care about children and public schools to regroup, organize, strategize, and then counter attack.

Winning an election does not give permission to anti-intellectual, political hacks to prescribe abusive accountability schemes that only hurt children, teachers, and communities and funnel tax dollars to political donors.

Hunker down?  No!  My daughter and son don't need spineless adults unwilling to protect the only chance they have at a critical and powerful democratic education.  My children deserve (and so do all Wisconsin children) advocacy and action!  Vos and all the other accountability hawks hellbent on killing childhood are the ones that need to be held accountable.  For 30 years they have defunded and redirected precious resources to an accountability scam designed to enrich test and data companies and dismantle OUR public schools.  NO MORE!  Test and punish accountability has been a disaster!

It's time for an accountability system that holds legislators accountable for making sure all children come to school well fed, well clothed, warm, healthy, and protected from the trauma of living in a state of perpetual uncertainty—poverty.  If this new set of power pawns fail to pry our most vulnerable from the trappings of generational racism and destroy the economic system that only rewards their campaign funders then they must be the ones held accountable, judged "legislatively inadequate" and stripped of all legislative power.  We must get rid of "failing" legislators.

And for those that choose to "hunker down" while the rest of us fight for children, please truly "hunker down" and stay out of the way.  We have children and a public school system to save! And WE GIVE IT ALL!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Who's Got Big B@lls? @PegwithPen @motherafrika have BIG B@lls? #donoharm

Four years ago when I decided that my son Luke would not take NCLB mandated high stakes tests I never had any idea that a simple act of "refusal" would introduce me to the most amazing group of friends—who are also kick ass activists!

It's one thing to "opt out" your own child from high stakes testing.  However, as a public school teacher, refusing to administer the high stakes tests designed to destroy the American public education system requires  (excuse the sexism) "big b@lls."

Peggy Robertson and Ceresta Smith you are my heroes!  

Peggy Roberston

Dear Citizens of Colorado,

I am a teacher in the Aurora Public School District. I am writing to let you know that I will 

be refusing to administer the PARCC in the 2014-2015 school year. I do not stand alone in 

my refusal of this high stakes test. I join the ranks of educators across the country who are 

fighting back against policies and mandates that ultimately harm our children and destroy 

our children’s opportunities to become confident, active, problem solving citizens.

I have watched the testing increase over my 18 years of teaching in the public schools. I 

have watched what it has done to my ability to meet children’s needs and to allow children 

the opportunities to engage in learning that is authentic – learning that furthers the purpose

 of these children’s lives. This year, in particular, I am watching an onslaught of common 

core curriculum infiltrate our schools, along with additional tests and test prep to add to the 

test load which permeates every minute of every school day.

Read More!

Ceresta Smith

After careful consideration, I have decided not to issue the MDCPS district interim writing test. The test consists of several non-fiction reading passages that are followed by a prompt that requires students to a write multi-paragraph argument. It is not clear if this assessment is a result of ignorance in regards to the writing process or the result of forced culpability, as Florida did pay the state of Utah 5.4 million dollars for their state standardized tests that incorporate Common Core State Standards.[1]  Florida leaders, in their rush to have "tests" in which to hold educators, schools, and students "accountable" via a dubious and punitive evaluation system, opted not to wait until Florida assessments were created and properly vetted via a pilot and peer review process. Whatever might be the cause, the result is an assessment that leaves most students in a compromised position with little choice but to engage in pervasive plagiarism. It is faulty pedagogy at best and liable to litigation at worse.  Therefore, I will not engage in actions that will result in leading students down a wrong path that can ultimately cause them harm and penalty. 

[1] Woods, B. (2014, April 7). Florida to pay Utah $5.4M for Common Core test rental. Retrieved from

Monday, October 27, 2014

#AACTE is "anxious" about Duncan. #notgoodenough !

Once again we hear that Duncan wants to go after schools of education.  While some have pointed out how silly this idea is and just another "test and punish" reform, the leaders in the field still remain silent.  

Instead of down right disdain the profession offers this little snippet from AACTE president Sharon Robinson in Politico,

“Anxious is not too strong a word to describe the degree to which we are waiting and watching,” said Sharon Robinson, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. “These regulations could well be a seminal statement for this administration.” Robinson is concerned that the administration will tie financial aid to a rating system that relies on metrics such as how many graduates of a given teacher prep program land jobs after they graduate — and how well their students perform on standardized tests. She says education colleges want to track that data and use it to improve their programs — but they don’t want it used against them, since they can’t control crucial variables like the strength of the local job market or the conditions inside local K-12 classrooms.

We're "anxious" and "concerned?"  I don't know who "we" are but if Ms. Robison is speaking for the profession we have a huge problem.  Why are "we" not OUTRAGED?  And why do our leaders and organizations that represent us still present some possible middle ground appeasement?

If teacher educators in the trenches don't stand up and demand that our leaders (Deans, Department Heads, Program Leaders, etc) and professional organizations (AACTE, and all the state AACTE affiliates) take an aggressive stand on "test and punish" teacher education reform, then we truly have no one to blame except ourselves.  In fact here is a blog I authored for Huffington Post in October of 2011 that tried to move rank and file teacher educators.

Reports the Website "Schools Matter":In recalibrating what information the Feds will require of ed schools, a graying and sallow Arne announced that his Gates and Broad handlers have come up with a scheme to reward and punish teacher preparation programs based on the scores from tests taken by students who will one day be taught by the ed school graduates. 
HELP! Where are all the credible teacher educators? Where all of my colleagues? Do you really think that hiding behind your "research" agenda shields you from the reality of this new push to destroy the American public school system along with quality teaching and learning? WAKE UP! PAY ATTENTION! The corporate reform movement is coming for you and me now. 
AACTE and CAEP, now support "accountability" as defined by the Obama/Duncan Department of Education. As reported by Stephen Sawchuck, "Momentum appears to be gathering behind a U.S. Department of Education plan to hold teacher education programs accountable for the achievement of students taught by their graduates." If you need to, go back and read that statement again and again until it sinks into your thick skulls. 
We are now going to be responsible for the test scores of children that end up being taught by our graduates. In other words, if my son fails and his teacher was your student, it's now your fault! And if you don't make the changes needed to help your students "teach" my son how to do well on his standardized tests you, your department, your school, and/or your college will be slapped and eventually shut down. When that happens please tell me about how important your "research" was. 
I'm sorry was I too harsh? Did I offend you (my colleagues)? Did I dare pick on your research? Yes I did. Now get over it and start speaking, writing and screaming about how "No Child Left Behind" for teacher education is at best a bone-headed idea and at worst an absolute assault on our academic freedom and an unethical attempt to make us do what we know is absolutely wrong. 
Remember NCLB? Yeah, some of you complained and some of you even managed to turn it into a productive line of research. And what was it that you complained about and what did all that research reveal? You complained that testing would not do anything to the achievement gap, that the curriculum will narrow, that the "least among us" would be hit hardest, and that linking student test scores to teachers and schools was problematic. Then after years of conducting research you found out that all of your complaints were substantiated. The achievement gap still exists, public school children now receive little to no instruction in the arts or the humanities, the children of poverty are bearing the brunt of this misguided ideological attack on public schools and value-added measures of teachers are extremely unreliable and the public reporting of these statistics causes harm to all involved with public education. 
It is our turn to join with the children, parents, teachers and public schools. All across the country there is an "Opt Out" movement occurring. Parents are refusing to allow their children to take standardized tests (hereherehere), teachers are refusing to administer the tests, administrators are speaking out against the negative consequences associated with the tests, and some schools have actually stopped administering the tests. 
What should we do? How should we respond? Who's willing to be the first teacher educator to say: "No. I opt out too. I will not abandon everything I know about children, teaching learning and schools. I refuse to take part in a rigged political system designed to dismantle public education and thwart democracy."
Isn't it our turn to tune in and "opt out"?
I'll ask again three years later:

  • Teacher education colleagues are you ready to organize and speak truth to power?  
  • Can we move beyond simply complaining about Duncan and the reformers?  
  • Can we look within the profession and demand that our leaders not offer "anxious" compliance?  
"I don't want to be here anymore!"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#edTPA: Another high stakes disaster planned for Wisconsin's future teachers

Dear Elected Officials,

I know you are extremely busy courting campaign donors—especially with the election just weeks away.  However, I wanted to alert you to an issue that will greatly affect the future of teaching in Wisconsin and thought some of you might want to have a heads up and start thinking about how you might address this issue—really!

My sense, along with quite a few of my teacher education colleagues across the state, is that most of you assume implementing the edTPA—another accountability gate imposed on the teacher education process—will provide the state with better teachers.  Even DPI leadership seems incapable of understanding the disaster that will accompany this gate (edTPA) upon full implementation.

What seems like simple accountability is actually going to result in creating a population of teacher education students unable to get a teaching license at the end of their education—after having passed through multiple gates and accountability measures.  

In other words the current implementation model for edTPA will falsely deny teacher education students a teaching license.  This will occur after years of success in teacher education programs and passing through multiple accountability gates set in place by the state and institutions of higher education.  

We are literally going to have teacher education students that will have 4.0s and superior recommendations that testify to their abilities NOT able to get a teaching license.  Why Because the edTPA is set up as a high stakes test in Wisconsin.  This is a guarantee that a sample (15 - 35 %) of teacher education students will fail the edTPA simply based on setting an arbitrary cut score.

There is no reason (both empirically from a research perspective and from an accountability application) to set a cut score for the edTPA.  The edTPA is an experimental “performance” assessment that was never designed to be used as a high stakes exam.  The edTPA should NEVER be used to deny teacher education students access to the profession. The best use of the edTPA would be to provide data for teacher education program assessment.  Also, the data might (and that is a huge might) be helpful when analyzing teaching behavior and how purposive reflection MIGHT help teacher candidates become more powerful in the classroom.

I am also writing to you to help you get the word out that when this policy is implemented (as currently planned), hundred’s of teacher education students that will have paid full tuition for a college degree will be denied access to the profession of teaching.  

Who will these students be?  A large body of research exists that demonstrates how high stakes tests are racially and culturally biased.   Therefore the probability that these same students will experience the most difficulty is high.  This is seriously problematic considering these are the exact students that we want in today’s classrooms.  

The edTPA (used as a high stakes test) will be a disaster and do nothing but cause harm and set in motion an outcry from teacher education students (and their parents) who have proven over 4 or more years to be potentially powerful teachers.

Say Hi to your campaign donors for me.  I’ll be here after the election and more than willing to have a conversation about the issue presented in the above paragraphs. In the meantime I will continue to help potential teacher education candidates understand how politics and special interests—not research—drive education policy in the state of Wisconsin.

Kind Regards,