From the CURMUDGUCATION blog: More Ohio Charter Fakery In John Kasich’s Wild West

More Ohio Charter Fakery

Posted: 29 Mar 2016 05:50 PM PDT

We’ve been here before. Back in January of 2015, the Columbus Dispatch reported

that some charter schools in Ohio were reporting on and taking state tax money in payment for students who did not, technically, exist.

John Kasich’s Ohio has been a veritable Wild West of education reform. It’s a great place to open up a charter and close it right back down again

, or to make a truckload of money providing “consulting” services

. Most famously, Ohio is also the state that set aside an entire official government office just to handle faking charter success numbers

in order to make the movement look successful, as well as mounting government moves to simply bushwack a public school system

and rip the “public” right out of it.

So last Friday’s news from the Columbus Dispatch

should come as no surprise.

Turns out that an Akron cyber-charter has some ‘splainin’ to do about student “attendance.”

Cyber-charter attendance, like cyber-charter homework and cyber-charter test-taking, is a nebulous thing that is not always super-clear. But the Akron Digital Academy had some problems that were plenty clear. For one, they gave students excused absences for weeks so that those students could work at jobs. Turns out “wanted to go work instead” is not recognized as a legit reason to play hooky. They also seem to have trouble counting the exact number of students with special needs (the ones for whom they get more money).

This comes on the heels of reports of yet another cyber-charter that scored almost a million extra dollars

by counting students that it had no right to count.

There are students who are well served by cyber charters. But as the cyber charter industry has “matured,” it has enjoyed more and more success by marketing itself as school for students who don’t really want to go to school. It’s only natural that such a market would appreciate a school that wasn’t too strict on that whole attendance thing.

Add to this the research showing that cyber charters are bad, so very very bad,that even the biggest defenders and fans of the charter industry will no longer stand up for them

and one wonders why any state allows them to operate at all outside of very strict and specific strictures. The need to clamp down on cyber charters should be obvious even in a state like Ohio, no matter how many invisible students they serve.


Source: CURMUDGUCATION: More Ohio Charter Fakery

Documenting common reforms strategies using the “Portfolio” approach provides little promise of meaningful benefits for school districts

BOULDER, CO (March 29, 2016) – A new but widespread policy approach called “portfolio districts” shifts decision-making away from district superintendents and other central-office leaders. This approach is being used in more than three dozen large districts, including New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Denver.

But the policy’s expansion is not being driven by evidence of success.

In a new brief released today, The “Portfolio” Approach to School District Governance, William Mathis and Kevin Welner explain that changes in governance involve complex trade-offs and that there exists a very limited body of generally accepted research about the effects of portfolio district reform.

But research evidence does exist concerning the four primary reform strategies that provide the foundation for portfolio districts:

school-level decentralization of management;

the reconstitution or closing of “failing” schools;

the expansion of choice, primarily through charter schools;

and performance-based (generally test-based) accountability.

The research into these strategies gives reason to pause— it provides little promise of meaningful benefits.

In the end, student outcomes in under-resourced communities will continue—absent serious policy interventions—to be driven by larger societal inequities, including structural racism and denied opportunities related to poverty.

While best practices in schools can mitigate some of this harm, the evidence indicates that simply imposing a changed governance approach will do little to overcome these core problems. In fact, Mathis warns, “the focus on governmental structural changes is a false promise, distracting from real needs and deferring needed efforts to address true inequities.”Mathis and Welner explain that instead of changing the governance structure of urban school districts, equity-focused reformers call for a strong and comprehensive redirection of policy to address concentrated poverty.

They nevertheless conclude that this equity-focused approach can be undertaken in a more decentralized, portfolio-based structure—should a community wish to take its district in that direction. The starting point of such a reform would be a restricting of authority, but a research-based model must also include elements that address opportunities to learn.

They offer the following five reforms:Adequate funding provided to our neediest schools,Stable school environments,Meaningful and relevant curriculum and pedagogy,Highly qualified teachers, andPersonalized instruction.Welner is Director and Mathis is Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

This brief is the third in a series of concise publications, Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking, that takes up a number of important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research. Each section focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations to policymakers are based on the latest scholarship.

Find William Mathis and Kevin Welner’s brief on the NEPC website at:

Source: The “Portfolio” Approach to School District Governance | National Education Policy Center

From the “Fix The Mitten” blog:The Voters Can Repeal Michigan’s EM Law 

Go here: The Voters Can Repeal Michigan’s EM Law – Fix the mitten

Opting In: In Pennsylvania, you can’t give a child an IQ test without parental permission. Imagine that.

Opting In

Posted by Peter Greene of the CURMUDGCATION blog: 24 Mar 2016

CURMUDGUCATIONDuring yesterday’s professional development session, we were reminded of a fun fact.

In the state of Pennsylvania, you can’t give a child an IQ test without parental permission.

The IQ test. Controversial and highly debatable, but well know, moderately well understood, and extensively tested over the decades. Everybody kind of knows what it’s for and what it measures. A longstanding part of the educational landscape.

And yet– the school cannot give your child that test without your permission.

Imagine if we did that with the Big Standardized Test in every state. Imagine if we recognized parental authority when it came to administering Big Standardized Tests to children. Imagine if the state and the school had to get parental permission before administering to your child the PARCC or SBA or PSSA or WhateverTheHellAnagramYourStateIsPlayingAt. Imagine if the people fighting so hard against opt out had to fight to get everyone to opt in.

Could they make a case for the tests? Could they convince parents that there is some useful reason for building an educational system around high stakes testing?

We know the answer. They know the answer. That’s why they’ve kept making sure that the force of law is behind the BS Tests.

But if I have to ask permission to give an IQ test, why not the same for the BS Test?


Lifting All Children Up | National Education Policy Center

BOULDER, CO (March 21, 2016) – What will it take to ensure that all children have an opportunity to learn and to thrive, regardless of their background or which school they attend? The opportunity gaps faced by children arise in their schools and in larger structural inequalities like housing, poverty, parental unemployment, and disinvestment of public resources.

These structural problems weigh down students and their schools in ways that do not burden more affluent communities. So what should we as a society do about this added weight?

There are two possible solutions.

Source: Lifting All Children Up | National Education Policy Center

CURMUDGUCATION blog:  Kansas – The Legislature’s Coup

KS: The Legislature’s Coup

The official Kansas Road To Nowhere

Posted by Peter Greene: 20 Mar 2016 12:53 PM PDT

What do you do when your state supreme court rules that you must spend more money on your public education system?

Several states have faced this challenge, and most of them have gone with something simple, like “Just ignore the ruling” (looking at you, Washington state). But Kansas has decided to take a more direct approach.

The funding problem has been brewing for a while, with the Gannon vs. State case dragging on since 2010. In 2014 the court ruled that the state had to fix

the inequity of its funding for schools, and the state used a block grant to paper things over for a bit, but now the court has ruled again

, giving the legislature till June 30 to get their act together.

Kansas has been a mess for a while now. Governor Brownback and a GOP legislature has tried to turn Kansas into a free market laboratory,

with “business friendly” tax cuts that have put the state’s finances in free fall. The attempt to implement a full-on super-GOP model is leaving the state broke. Tax cuts for the wealthy

didn’t trickle down, and the state is now in a mess (while Brownback runs the standard playbook of throwing attention to social issues, as if gay marriage is somehow responsible for Kansas poverty). It is no wonder that education is underfunded in the state using a formula that the state supreme court says is unconstitutional.

And that’s not all. Kansas has voted to allow unlicensed persons to teach in the classroom. They voted to strip teachers of all job protections

in a bizarre fracas that featured the Koch Brothers coming to Topeka to extort votes out of moderate GOP members (Nice re-election prospects you have there. Shame if anything happened to them). They have suggested that teacher evaluation could be handled by the school janitor. And they have been watching a steady exodus of teachersfrom the state. All that on top of the purposeful and deliberate underfunding of education, which is where the state supreme court shows up to tell them they are violating the state’s own constitution.

So back to the problem–follow the link below…

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: KS: The Legislature’s Coup

From CURMUDGUCATION blog: One Right Answer

One Right Answer

Humans come out of the womb predisposed to believe in One Right Answer, and some of us spend our whole lives searching for it.

I watch my students (mostly high school juniors) struggle with it. There’s supposed to be One Right Answer for which college to pick, which career to pursue, which partner to marry. One beloved fantasy has persisted for all the decades I have taught (and my years as a student before that). “I wish,” says a student, “that somebody would just appear and tell me what I’m supposed to do. I wish somebody would tell me what the right answer is.”

Growing up, I believed in One Right Answer even as I didn’t. Like many fifteen-year-old, I believed that many of the right answers proposed by The People In Charge were wrong– and that I knew what the One Right Answer really was. I went to college and learned there were two kinds of English professors– those who believed that there was one way to read each work, and their job was to teach us what it was, and those who believed that there were many right answers, and their job was to teach us how to find an answer that could be argued successfully with evidence and sense. I decided I wanted to be the second kind.

I still thought there was One Right Answer to most of life’s questions, and that was a belief that I rode right through marriage and into divorce, plus any number of other major and minor screw-ups. I believed that the way to navigate life was to lock the steering wheel in place and set a brick on the gas pedal, and if you hit a tree or drove off a cliff, that just meant you needed to recalibrate the steering wheel and get a different-sized brick.

Eventually, sitting in the rubble at the bottom of a cliff, I saw a light bulb (I never claimed to be a quick learner). The One Right Answer is that there is no One Right Answer. The best you can hope for is guidance by principle, relationship, context, and timing. You drive the car based on where the road goes, where you want to go, maintaining a speed that keeps you connected to the road, and turning the wheel at the right moment.

I believe that the most fundamental thing that we teach students is a view of How the World Works, and I also believe with all my heart that we do them a huge disservice if we teach them that the world is a place built out of One Right Answers.

When colleagues periodically suggest that we adopt one set of documenting standards for research papers to be used throughout the whole school, I always argue against it. “But why,” goes the argument,” should they have to use one set of standards in one class and a different one for that teacher and different ones when they write a paper in that other department.” My answer is “because that’s how the world works.” When they get to college, different professors and departments will have different requirements. If they end up writing professionally, they will have to adhere to the local style guide. I still teach documenting and endnotes and bibliography and the rest, but the first rule I always teach is this– the correct style is the one preferred by the person who is giving you your grade or signing your check.

Over the years, I have read calls from administrators for completely consistent grading systems within schools. I understand how undesirable it would be to have a school environment where grading systems varied wildly from teacher to teacher and day to day. I have personally experienced the frustration of being the teacher at a grade level who does NOT give the easy grades, watching students bail out for a transfer to lazier pastures. But what is the value in teaching students that they will answer to exactly the same standards no matter where they go or what they do? Will they get a standardized job for a standardized boss? Will they marry a standardized spouse and raise standardized children?

When dealing with actual human beings, you have to deal with the actual specific individual non-standardized human beings. Why would we not structure schools to teach that same lesson?

This is one of the reasons that charter schools often present the opposite of choice. Because they are set up around one very specific vision that is pushed down through every staff member, modern charters often can serve just one type of student. Meanwhile, larger, messier public schools offer a wide variety of educational styles under one roof. Students should be able to go to a school where they can find teachers and classes that match their personal style and interests; students are not served by a school in which all teachers and classes are identical interchangeable widgets. They should be able to go to such a pluralist school not just because it’s better for their education, but because it’s better preparation for real life.

Belief in One Right Answer is particularly problematic in difficult times. It is precisely the belief that gets you an ugly monstrosity like the candidacy of a Trump or a Cruz– we are in trouble and we need the One Right Answer so let’s turn to the guy who confidently asserts that he has it.

The belief in One Right Answer is the paving stone of the Road to Totalitarianism. Every Fascist and Beloved Leader made the same deal– I will take all the power and give you the One Right Answer.

Yes, I realize that I’m arguing that allowing English teachers to require different endnote punctuation within the department is a step to fighting Fascism. I know it sounds like a large journey for such small steps, but I believe all large journeys are made of small steps.

And no– I’m not arguing that we tell students that 2 + 2 = whatever they want to say it equals. For every question there are many answers, and some of those answers are easier to justify than others. Some vary over time and circumstances more than others– 2+2 works out pretty much the same almost all the time, while “what shirt should I wear today” varies a great deal over time, space, individuals, and shirts. Somewhere in between we find questions like “What does Hamlet mean by ‘to be or not to be’?” and “What caused the Great European War?” and “What do I want for a job?”

If we are not careful, we model for our students a world in which they are blind and helpless, trapped in a darkened room where there is one object– chosen by someone else– that they must fumble around for in hopes they’ll know it when they touch it. Or we can model a world where they are free, clear-eyed, and know how to turn on the lights so that they can look around the room and find what they themselves have chosen to look for.

Belief in One Right Answer disempowers, limits and dehumanizes. And it’s a bad model for how the world works. We don’t have One Right Answer for whom we should marry (or not), where we should work, what car we should drive (or not), or how we should raise our children. We need our guiding principles, our sense of who we are, our understanding of the situation, our relationships with the other humans involved, and the particular moment in time that intersects with all the rest.

One Right Answer is not how the world works, and if it’s not how the world works, then what sense does it make for schools to work that way? If we raise our children in a little world that works nothing like the world they will enter as adults, how will they ever succeed in that world?

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: One Right Answer

Testing mania? I don’t know…you tell me

Testing mania? I don’t know…you tell me

"Too many kids taking too many tests for too many lousy reasons."

“Too many kids taking too many tests for too many lousy reasons.”

Following the recent release of test-taker data for the state’s 2015 high school grads by American College Test and the State of Michigan, those who follow such things like me, learned that composite test scores continued to hover around 20.0 dating back to 2011.  The latest results showed Connecticut graduates led all states with a 24 composite score while Hawaii was lowest average with an 18.5 composite score. Michigan’s composite score ranked 38th in the nation along with New Mexico.

For those unfamiliar with the ACT, the multi-part test (English, math, reading, biology and writing) is scored on a scale of 1-36. Michigan’s composite scores remain relatively consistent since the Legislature mandated 100 percent of high school juniors take the test.  See historical below.

Why compare Michigan’s ACT scores to all 50 states?

I don’t know… You tell me.

While the MLive article I read recently compared Michigan across all 50 states plus the District of Columbia since there are ONLY 12 states that mandate 100 percent of their high school students (11th graders) take the ACT there really is no reason to compare such a large group – just those 12 that mandate 100 percent participation.

Then, I would suggest take the numbers and compare demographics especially noting the poverty rates for those 12 states.

In spring 2013, all public high school 11th graders in the states of Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming were tested with the ACT as required by each state.

Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming students who met ACT’s 2014 graduating class criteria are included in the 2014 graduating class average score results. 

What was the point back in the spring of 2007 when the Michigan legislature mandated that all Michigan juniors regardless of their interest in post-secondary education, courses completed, academic standing must take the ACT?

I don’t know… You tell me.

Michigan Historical ACT Composite Scores – Percentage of graduates as test-takers… not how remarkably consistent the scores are!

2015* – 20.1 – 100 percent of juniors regardless of post-secondary education plans

2014 – 20.1 – 100 percent

2013 – 19.9 – 100 percent

2012 – 20.1 – 100 percent

2011 – 20.0 – 100 percent

2010  – 19.7 – 100 percent

2009 – 19.6 – 100 percent

2008 – 19.6 – 100 percent

2007 – 21.5 – 70 percent/college-bound graduates only

2006 –  21.5 – 67 percent

2005 –  21.4 – 69 percent

2004 – 21.4 – 68 percent

2003 – 21.3 – 69 percent

2002 – 21.3 – 68 percent

2001 – 21.3 – 69 percent

2000 – 21.3 – 71 percent

1999 – 21.3 – 69 percent

1998 – 21.3 – 68 percent

1997 – 21.3 – 68 percent

1996 – 21.1 – 64 percent

1995- 21.1 – 64 percent

1994 – 21.0 – 63 percent

* Michigan’s high school juniors will take the SAT in the spring 2016

Maybe to prove that non-college bound student scores will lower the composite average?

I don’t know… you tell me.

Think there’s a direct correlation between a state’s ACT composite scores and the same state’s percentage of poverty?

I don’t know… You tell me.

States Mandating ACT                2014 Composite Score            % Poverty Rate

  1. Utah                                        20.8                                         12.7
  2. Illinois                                     20.7                                         14.7
  3. Colorado                                 20.6                                         13.0
  4. No. Dakota                             20.6                                         10.0
  5. Montana                                  20.5                                         16.5
  6. Michigan                                 20.1                                         17.0
  7. Wyoming                                20.1                                         10.9
  8. Kentucky                                19.9                                         18.8
  9. Tennessee                              19.8                                         17.8
  10. Louisiana                                 19.2                                         19.8
  11. Mississippi                               19.0                                         24.0
  12. No. Carolina                            18.9                                         17.9


Maybe there really is a correlation between educational “success” as measured by ACT composite score.

I don’t know… you tell me.

By the way… the 6 states with the most people living in poverty as of 2014 are:

  1. Mississippi (100 percent of graduates took the 2014 ACT – Poverty Rate: 24.0 percent – ACT composite = 19.0)
  2. New Mexico (69 percent of graduates took the 2014 ACT – Poverty Rate: 21.9 percent – ACT composite = 19.9)
  3. Kentucky (100 percent of graduates took the 2014 ACT – Poverty Rate: 19.8 percent – ACT composite =19.9)
  4. Arkansas  (93 percent of graduates took the 2014 ACT – Poverty Rate: 19.7 percent – ACT composite = 20.4)
  5. Louisiana (100 percent of graduates took the 2014 ACT – Poverty Rate: 19.2 percent – ACT composite = 19.2)
  6. Georgia (53 percent of graduates took the 2014 ACT – Poverty Rate: 19.0 percent – ACT composite = 20.8)


To this list I probably should list the District of Columbia where 37 percent of graduates took the 2014 ACT – The Poverty Rate: 18.6 –  and the ACT composite = 21.6)

As noted above, Michigan’s percentage of people living in poverty is 17.0.




So, what should all that mean to parents, teachers and students?

I don’t know… You tell me.

CURMUDGUCATION: Micro-Credentials for Fun and Profit (In which Relay certifies your hand)

Micro-Credentials for Fun and Profit (In which Relay certifies your hand)

Posted: 18 Mar 2016 05:47 AM PDT

Part of the new wave of competency based education for teachers is the vogue of micro-credentials. Micro-credentials, sometimes linked to little badges, are an attempt to break down teaching into verrrrrry small competencies, and not coincidentally, monetize the certification of them. How micro can we get? Oh, you have no idea.

Meet Relay Graduate School of Education’s micro-credential for Checking for Understanding Using Gestures.

Relay is a charter-created fake school for teaching teachers, and this is some of their more spectacular work.

You may look at the name of this micro-credential and think, “Can that be what it looks like? Surely there’s some deeper, more clever technique that they’re selling.” Well, here’s the full description…

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Micro-Credentials for Fun and Profit (In which Relay certifies your hand)

Why none of the Detroit Public Schools legislation will actually stabilize the district | Detroit Metro Times blog

Get ready for an influx of undertrained teachers in Detroit.

Source: Why none of the Detroit Public Schools legislation will actually stabilize the district | Blogs | Detroit Metro Times

On Thursday the Michigan House passed a “rescue package” that would give $47.8 million to Detroit Public Schools to help the district finish out the rest of the school year.

Earlier this month the district’s new Emergency Manager Judge Steven Rhodes (who for some reason prefers to go by the title “transition manager”) announced that the district would be unable to stay open and pay teachers/staff past April.The House “rescue package,” which takes dollars from the state’s tobacco settlement fund and would allow the district to remain open through June, now heads to the Senate for deliberation. It should not, however, be confused with the bigger legislative debates currently happening around DPS’s future.