House GOP’s 2010 ‘Tea Party’ Class Heads For The Exits : NPR

Like so many Americans approaching retirement, Virginia Republican Rep. Scott Rigell dreams about spending a little more time on the water.

“I have a little rowboat called Miss Nelly. She’s 13 ft. long and there’s not a motor on it. There’s no radio on it. And I’m so looking forward to being on that rowboat,” says Rigell.

Rigell is retiring after just six years in Congress. He was one of the 87 Republicans who rode the “tea party” wave to a pivotal GOP takeover of the House.

At the end of this Congress, more than one-third of that class will be gone from the U.S. House.

Like many of those freshman lawmakers, Rigell had never held any public office before he arrived in Washington. Before he took office, Rigell was a car salesman.

Source: House GOP’s 2010 ‘Tea Party’ Class Heads For The Exits : NPR

Clinton’s fossil fuel friends: lobbyist bundlers brought in big money (but there’s an asterisk) | from the OpenSecrets Blog

Clinton’s fossil fuel friends: lobbyist bundlers brought in big money (but there’s an asterisk)

Last night, a video that captured presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pointing her finger at a climate change activist went viral. What got Clinton’s goat? An insinuation by the Sanders campaign that she accepts money from the fossil fuel industry. The campaigns are now embroiled in a back and forth on how much money Clinton takes from that industry and whether this money would influence … read more…

Source: Clinton’s fossil fuel friends: lobbyist bundlers brought in big money (but there’s an asterisk) | OpenSecrets Blog

How this year’s super PACs got so fat — day by day by day… | from OpenSecrets Blog

How this year’s super PACs got so fat — day by day by day…

Happy anniversary. The first day of the 2016 cycle to see more than $5 million in contributions to major presidential super PACs was one year ago — March 31, 2015. The day belonged to Right to Rise USA. The super PAC supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush‘s ill-fated campaign, with its “shock and awe” fundraising strategy in full swing, brought in $5.1 million of the $6.4 million collected by all presidential super PACs … read more…

$300 million and counting: Rubio, Trump help drive $100 million in outside spending in last six weeks | OpenSecrets Blog

$300 million and counting: Rubio, Trump help drive $100 million in outside spending in last six weeks

It’s been a month and a half since we last checked in on outside spending for the 2016 election. In that time, it’s grown by 50 percent — nearly $100 million dollars.

By this time in 2012, outside spending was a third of what it is today, or $103,016,139.

Since Feb. 12, the date of our post showing outside groups’ spending was homing in on $200 million, 103 different outside money groups have spent $91.3 million. Conservative Solutions PAC, the single-candidate super PAC that supported former presidential candidate Marco Rubio, spent by far the most of this lot — $27.8 million, likely in a last-ditch effort to save his campaign before he dropped out of the contest on March 16. Next in line was Our Principles PAC, which in the last six weeks has spent more $10 million of the total $13.1 million it has spent this cycle opposing Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

Click here to read the full article

Source: $300 million and counting: Rubio, Trump help drive $100 million in outside spending in last six weeks | OpenSecrets Blog

From the CURMUDGUCATION blog: Testing Has a Mascot!

Testing Has a Mascot

Posted: 02 Apr 2016 07:46 AM PDT

The first hurdle that the Big Standardized Test must clear is getting students to actually care

about the Big Standardized Test. Some schools attack this hurdle with pep rallies to get the students all psyched up for the BS Test. Some of these involve badly rewritten pop songs, while on at least one Really Bad Day, it involved watching a man accidentally set himself on fire. 

But if your school is looking for a way to get the students all pumped up for the PARCC or PSSA or SOL (best/worst test name ever), you have one other option.

Meet YoJo.

The name (according to its creator) means absolutely nothing (though I do now know that Yojo is a band, a piece of Asian holistic culture, and a place you do yoga. You’re welcome.) You can scan the YoJo’s website for lots of info, but I’ll warn you right now– the whole thing is done in Comic Sans.

YoJo (originally named Fuzzball, so a nonsense name is a step up) premiered in March of 2000. He’s the brainchild of Bromley Lowe, whose previous work included a stint as the Baltimore Oriole Bird (Lowe’s best friend is, apparently, the Philly Phanatic guy, and YoJo takes an annual trip to the Mascot Hall of Fame

gathering which, yes, is a thing. You’re welcome.). YoJo is also an indirect result of the 1994-95 Major League Baseball strike; you can readLowe’s whole story here (in comic sans).

Lowe’s wife was an Assistant Principal, and Lowe set out to bring the mascot art to school assemblies. And Lowe is not afraid to set his personal bar high. The website lists a mission of being the “#1 professional entertainer for elementary school age children” and names seven larger goals including making a living at this work and getting on tv. Did I mention that Lowe has been at this for sixteen years?

YoJo has four programs, including shows about reading, treating your body right, bullying and his absolutely most popular bit, a program entitled “Ace Your Test.

” Here’s the promo for the PARCC (there are also versions for Virginia’s SOL and Pennsylvania’s PSSA).

 YoJo doesn’t just get the excitement up and the nerves under control. YoJo also teaches test-specific test prep test-taking strategies.

Yes. To all the testocrats who insist that the new improved BS Tests are impervious to test prep, here is a video of a man doing test prep while dressed in a large furry mascot costume. You’re welcome.

YoJo has loads of accolades, including statements like this one from a Maryland principal: “When other principals ask how we got some of the highest test scores in the city, I tell them that YoJo is our secret.” And if you check out YoJo’s Facebook page, you’ll see that the big blue testing mascot has been busy.

I stumbled across YoJo because someone was on line complaining about having a big blue muppet coming to their school to sell the PARCC. But after reading up on the guy, I came away with two conclusions.

One is that this is a guy who is just responding to a market that somebody else has created. I am not excited about living in a world where you can make a living going from school to school trying to help small children cope with the stupidities of BS Testing.

But I was also struck by Lowe’s professionalism. This is a guy who has spent his adult life in big furry suits, networking with other suit wearers, and learning how to work a crowd and how best to do his thing. You can see himon a local MD tv show in 2010

, talking about his work– while he clearly enjoys his work, he is not just some case of arrested development goofing around (and in sixteen years he has never set himself on fire).

In short, this is a guy who actually approaches his work with children more seriously and professionally than the edu-amateurs who are busy trying to use BS Testing to break down and sell off the pieces of public education. Given the choice, I would rather have YoJo in my school than David Coleman. Though the idea of watching YoJo wrestle with Coleman and take him to the mat in a big mascot pratfall– well, let’s end with that image. You’re welcome.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Testing Has a Mascot

Network for Public Education Calls for a National Opt Out

By  Carol Burris – Executive Director, Network for Public Education via <>

After careful thought and deliberation, the Network for Public Education is calling for a national Opt Out

because of the harmful effects of annual high-stakes testing on children and schools.  We enthusiastically support those parents who refuse to have their children take the 2016 state exams.

The alleged purpose of annual testing, federally mandated since NCLB was passed in 2004, is to unveil the achievement gaps within schools, ostensibly to close them. Twelve years later, there is no conclusive evidence that NCLB high-stakes testing has improved the academic performance of any student—particularly those who need the most help. All that has been closed by testing are children’s neighborhood schools.

Fairfield University Professor and NPE Board member, Yohuru Williams,has made the case

that annual high-stakes testing feeds racial determinism and closes doors of opportunity for black and brown children. We agree when he states that opting out is a necessary and direct act of protest

 to highlight the injustice of a system that refuses to address the underlying socio-economic problems that contribute to unequal learning experiences. The current demand for high-stakes testing and uniform standards diverts attention from the hard work of school improvement and the correction of the social and economic inequities that lead to inequitable results.

The Common Core tests rely on passing marks set artificially high, so that at least two thirds of all children will be labeled as failing. When U.S. Secretary of Education, John King, was New York’s Commissioner, he accurately predicted that about 70% of students would fail. Students with disabilities, English Language learners, and children who live in poverty experience even higher failure rates. These tests are manifestly unfair to the neediest children.

Furthermore, the data derived from high-stakes testing is intended to undermine our public schools by creating a false narrative of failure. Once public schools are closed, they are replaced by privately managed charter schools, with insufficient public oversight. When teachers are fired, they are replaced with inexperienced and often temporary staff. Testing data are used to demoralize teachers and take away their hard-earned job rights, thus creating a constant churn of teachers whose work is reduced to test preparation.

Although officials may claim that the information derived from these tests is helpful to children and teachers, this is not true. Test results are reported in the summer or fall, when it is too late to inform instruction. Numerical rankings of 1,2 3 or 4 and percentile ranks are meaningless markers that cannot be used to guide the instruction of any individual child.

We acknowledge that there is a legitimate role for standardized tests, if they are limited in frequency and time, developmentally appropriate, well-designed and reasonably scaled with realistic cut scores and provide useful instructional feedback. High-stakes tests given for school accountability purposes, do not meet those standards. They are undermining the public school system that is the pillar of our democracy. We believe that opting out of state tests as an act of direct protest will help turn the tide and eliminate damaging policies.

We recognize that some parents will find it difficult or impossible to have their children refuse the exam due to punitive state laws or district policies. We urge those who cannot opt out to speak out and demand their right to do what is best for their children in the face of harmful testing. The brunt of testing for school accountability is falling on children. Our elected leaders must address this broken accountability system and provide relief.

For those who can, we ask that they break ranks, join us and not comply with testing. Policymakers cannot ignore the voices of the public when we speak together. Opt Out gives us that voice.

The promise of a public school system, however imperfectly realized, is at risk of being destroyed. The future of our children is hanging from testing’s high stakes. The time to Opt Out is now.

For more information on how to opt out, we recommend the following sources: United Opt Out’s State by State resources and FairTest’s: Just Say No to the Test

.Listen to Diane Ravitch give reasons why parents should opt out here

NPE Board member Yohuru Williams explained why opt out matters at this year’s United Opt Out conference. Watch him here

And NPE Board member Julian Vasquez Heilig explains how Opt Out rights a “civil wrong” in this video here.



The Network for Public Education is a 501 (c)(3) organization. You can make a tax deductible donation here. You can follow us on twitter and like us on Facebook


Op-Ed from the Detroit News: “Don’t let Snyder poach any more schools!”By Marianne McGuire & Elizabeth Lenhard

(Photo: John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)

Last week a group of Detroiters opposed to Michigan’s emergency manager law went to Ann Arbor to demonstrate at the elegant home of Detroit Public Schools’ latest emergency manager, retired Judge Steven Rhodes.

Rhodes (pictured above) was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder as the district’s fifth EM since 2009.

Like other failed EMs before him, Rhodes has promised each Detroit student the best education possible. He has also been told to reduce the DPS operating debt that tripled under the previous four EMs. Rhodes appointed a longtime DPS employee with a background as a science teacher to lead academics for the beleaguered district: Alycia Meriweather.

The buzz phrase of the moment is “local control.” However, to Snyder, Rhodes and their buddies in the Legislature, there is nothing local about it. They’ve twisted local control to mean they will appoint people from an area they control.

So, even though the current DPS Board of Education was elected by Detroit’s residents, under EMs they aren’t allowed to run the district. Further, to EMs, residents do not get jurisdiction over what they own. Detroiters witnessed this when 15 of their newest schools were stolen by a previous EM and given to Snyder’s now discredited Education Achievement Authority. The EAA was the governor’s attempt to create his own school district, which sadly ended up reducing rather than raising education levels.

Meriweather could well be a fine person, but the fact remains she wasn’t chosen to head DPS by the elected school board, which is something every other district gets to do.

Rhodes wants to lower the DPS operating debt. And he knew that by the beginning of April there would be no salaries for Detroit teachers and more sickouts; but the Legislature passed emergency funding for the district. Almost all DPS schools have closed in rolling sickouts since December by teachers protesting the horrible state school buildings are in: mold, falling ceilings, vermin, no heat and lack of books and supplies.

In the meantime, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has been eyeing a takeover of the schools. While publicly dismissing the notion, he has nevertheless been pushing for a Snyder-proposed Detroit Education Commission that would be the arbiter of which Detroit schools close and which stay open.

Duggan was also on the EAA board for two years, apparently looking the other way while students suffered at the hands of unqualified leadership. Duggan will get to pay back his supporters by naming the members of the DEC.

No state official, except for the elected DPS board and an occasional legislator, is willing to speak out against the EM law, which permits no public accountability, transparency or oversight of anything EMs do. We see what happens without these conditions in place; poisoned water in Flint and decreased test scores in Detroit. Bondholders and bankers are the only ones protected under the EM law.

Marianne McGuire is a former member of the Michigan State Board of Education. Elizabeth Lenhard is a former member of the Warren Woods Board of Education

Source: Don’t let Snyder poach any more schools