First look at Snyder’s 2018 school aid budget | from Michigan Parents for Schools


Happy belated Valentine’s Day! Unfortunately, rather than sweets, we have legislative news to share. It’s not all bad. Read on!

  • Budget: Gov. Snyder presented his FY2017-18 recommendation last week, with some good news for schools. Districts would get between $50 and $100 more per pupil, some extra funds for high school students, and an increase in the funds available for at-risk students. But it still doesn’t keep up with inflation, and the Legislature is likely to balk at some of the better provisions. Read our “first look” summary here:
  • School closings: While the controversy swirls

    about the State Reform Officer threatening to close some 38 schools, mostly in Detroit, the state Senate is looking at repealing the law creating the SRO and considering alternatives. We testified before the committee, suggesting our “educational audits” proposal as a viable alternative. See our letter and attachments here:

  • Erasing Common Core: Later today, the House committee on Michigan Competitiveness will hold hearings on HB 4192

    , a bill which would prohibit our state from using any educational standards that were ever touched by the Common Core proposals or were developed outside the state. It also gives the Legislature final authority over state tests, and, in a twist, even makes the state standards themselves optional. The bill also explicitly bans the “next generation science standards” and includes language that seems to hint that faith-based topics such as creationism would be allowed in public schools. We hope to testify on the bill, to explain that parents want something that works, no matter where it comes from, and that public schools are not an appropriate place for religious education.

With all this, and more, going on, we are certain to need your help to remind our lawmakers of what parents and citizens really want from our public schools. We’ll have more information about these and other proposals, and opportunities to make your voice heard, in the coming weeks.

Thanks for reading!

Steve Norton Michigan Parents for Schools

Source: First look at Snyder’s 2018 school aid budget | Michigan Parents for Schools


CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.


FL: Merit Pay (Still) Doesn’t Work

Yes, and in other news, the sun is expected to rise in the East tomorrow.

So, Florida has a merit pay system. In fact, Florida has tried to implement merit pay for quite a while. Of course, there are issues:

The design and implementation of merit pay faces several key challenges. First, student outcomes are difficult to define and measure. Second, the contributions of individual teachers to student outcomes are difficult to disentangle from student background and prior achievement. The analysis shows serious deficiencies in several measures of teacher performance. Policy makers should be wary of adapting any measure without careful analysis of its properties and a plan to monitor how it is performing. 

That’s from a RAND Corporation study of Florida merit pay published in 2007.

Florida: Why drain the swamp when you can sell swampland?

So maybe that system wasn’t so great. Florida’s leaders maintained their childlike faith in competitive test-based merit pay, and by 2011, they were ready with a great new law to enshrine it. Flanked by students brought in to serve as props, Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into law. It tied teacher pay directly to test results. In fact, it tied teacher job security directly to test results for all new teachers. Because the bill was suppose to help with recruiting. Because lots of new teachers say, “You know, I’d go work in Florida, but I hate the idea of having job security. I want a job where I know I can be fired every single year.” Not only does the system rest on the widely-debunked VAM scores, but the majority of teachers get to be judged based on subject areas they don’t even teach (“Don’t like your pay check, Mr. Phys ED teacher? Then get these kids to read better!”) Of course, some folks thought it was great stuff:

It was quickly praised as “breakthrough legislation” and a “model of bold reform” by the foundations run by education reformer Michelle Rhee and former Gov. Jeb Bush, respectively.

That was 2011. It’s now 2017, and Orange County schools, based on their own internal study, are ready to call the whole thing a bust. 

“Performance pay systems are not an effective way to increase student achievement,” the report concluded.

The system requires teacher evaluation to be tied to test scores without local district input. It continues to evaluate teachers with test scores for subjects they don’t teach. Merit pay has lowered morale without consistently raising test scores (which, as always, is the only “achievement” we’re talking about). Some go up, some go down, and nothing in the study suggests that merit pay is helping in any way, shape or form. But because the accountability system is part of state law, there is no escaping it.

And absolutely none of this is a surprise. We’ve known all along that teacher merit pay does not work. Here’s a synopsis of the arguments and some pertinent research from ASCD, published in January of 2017. We know this doesn’t work, but Florida is intent on trying to be the nation’s leading laboratory for bad education policy.  And I would mock this foolishness some more, but M.S. from the Economist got there first– in March of 2010.

HEY THERE, talented recent university graduate! I’d like to offer you a job in an extremely challenging and rewarding field. The pay is based almost entirely on performance metrics—you know, what they used to call “commission” in the old days. The better you do, the more you earn! Of course the worse you do, the less you earn, but don’t focus on that—you’re a winner, you’ll do great. We can offer you a five-year contract to start. By “contract” I mean we’ll let you work for us, if things work out, but we can of course fire you at any time. And after that you’ll have solid contracts! Each contract lasts one year, and we can decide to let you go at the end if you’re not performing up to our standards. And by that time, you’ll be earning…well, actually, you’ll be paid at exactly the same rate as when you started out. We’re prohibited by law from paying you more just because you’ve worked for us longer. If, however, you want to go get qualified in some new technical field or obtain an advanced degree, then…we can’t raise your pay either. We basically just pay you a flat standardized commission depending on how well you perform on the mission.

The mission is to train 18 to 25 children to correctly fill out the answers on a series of standardized tests. You have no control over which children will be assigned to you, and unlike other commission-based workers (door-to-door salesmen, say), you will be stuck with the ones you’re handed for the whole year. Average salary is $45,000 a year, but if you work your butt off and get lucky with the kids who are assigned to you, you could push it to, oh, $60,000.

And that is why Florida remains a state of last resort for people looking for a teaching career (not that North Carolina isn’t trying hard, too). Because it’s the Florida way– we were told this doesn’t work, there’s proof this doesn’t work, and we’ve collected our own evidence that this isn’t working, but by gum, we’re just going to keep doing it anyway.

Republican Tim Walberg is hiding from and lying to his constituents, refuses to meet with them | Eclectablog


‘Republican Tim Walberg is hiding from and
lying to his constituents, refuses to meet with them’, at Eclectablog

You may view the latest post at

Source: Republican Tim Walberg is hiding from and lying to his constituents, refuses to meet with them | Eclectablog

Limitations in Methodology Mar Report on School Turnarounds | National Education Policy Center

Limitations in Methodology Mar Report on School Turnarounds

BOULDER, CO (February 14, 2017) – A new report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education states its goals as strengthening the evidence base on state-initiated turnarounds and providing guidance to help states use turnaround strategies more effectively. But given multiple methodological limitations, the report fails to elevate either the research base or the policy discourse.

Betty Malen and Jennifer King Rice, professors at the University of Maryland, reviewed Measures of Last Resort: Assessing Strategies for State-Initiated Turnarounds for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at CU Boulder’s School of Education.

The report draws on multiple sources of information to accomplish three related goals: (a) to develop a conceptual framework and profile of state-initiated turnaround strategies, (b) to array the evidence on the effectiveness of turnaround initiatives, and (c) to identify key elements of a successful turnaround strategy. But the report suffers from methodological limitations that severely undermine its usefulness.

Specifically, the methods used to carry out the original research are neither well-described nor justified. This unexplained research involved analysis of state policies, interviews with stakeholders, and illustrative cases. Likewise, the methods employed in the eight evaluations selected to assess the effectiveness of turnaround approaches are not described, and the evidence base produced by these evaluations is insufficient to support the sweeping claims made in the report.

Equally important, explain Professors Malen and Rice, the report neglects to consider relevant research on the specific mechanisms (e.g., school reconstitution, intensive professional development, and private management systems) that states use when they employ the broad turnaround strategies discussed in the report. As a result of these problems, the report neither enhances the evidence base nor provides the substantive guidance state policymakers require to make informed decisions about the use of various school turnaround strategies.

Find Betty Malen and Jennifer King Rice’s review at:

Find Measures of Last Resort: Assessing Strategies for State-Initiated Turnarounds, by Ashley Jochim, published by the Center for Reinventing Public Education, at:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project ( provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at:

Source: Limitations in Methodology Mar Report on School Turnarounds | National Education Policy Center

The Next Big Thing – Have You Heard

The Springfield Empowerment Zone is light on results, heavy on hype and rife with red flags…

Barely had Massachusetts voters cast the last *nay* vote on raising the charter cap, aka the Last Big Thing, than the Next Big Thing was sweeping the Bay State. I speak, of course of the zones of empowerment, that suddenly have everyone who is anyone talking. The experiment in school turn around-ing underway in Springfield, headed up by education reformer magnate Chris Gabrieli, is now in its second year and has already put up impressive numbers. No reader, not the measurable results that were the occasion for the takeover. I mean *buzz* as they say in the biz. There’s Boston Globe sage Scot Lehigh singing the Empowerment Zone’s praises. Now here’s Chris Gabrieli singing his own praises. Here’s Governor Baker giving the EZ a shout out and proposing a statewide expansion. Here’s the Globe editorial page echoing the Governor’s call. Now here’s the front page of the Globe reporting on the growing momentum behind the Empowerment Zone crusade. Oh, and here’s Representative Alice Peisch, fresh off her turn as lead flog-stress for the Last Big Thing, filing the *enabling legislation* that will empower the growth of zones across the land.

Empower failure
Close readers of all of this positively positive press will notice an, um, curious omission. Why is there no mention of whether the Empowerment Zone is actually doing the thing that was zoned to do: rapidly accelerate achievement, meaning test scores, at the EZ’s eight schools? You didn’t miss anything; there has been no rapid acceleration. When Governor Baker cited *positive results* in his State of the State address he was venturing into the land of, if not alternative facts, extremely wishful thinking. As Gabrieli conceded in a letter he sent to *interested parties,* *none of our schools reached our two-year goal of 50 median SGP in both English Language Arts (ELA) and math.* *The scores are dreadful,* one source told me (we’ll call him @Alt_DESE). *There really wasn’t any improvement after year one of the EZ.*

Suspending disbelief
Than there are the numbers that Gabrieli and Team EZ aren’t talking about at all: the eye-popping suspension numbers at the Empowerment Zone schools. To put it bluntly: The EZ schools are suspending the crap out of their students. Here’s a little perspective for you. The top suspending school in the state last year was City on a Hill in New Bedford, a no excuses charter school that suspended 37.9% of its students, followed by Roxbury Prep at 28%. If the state included individual district schools in its tally, the Empowerment Zone schools would round out the top ten. Here’s Van Sickle at 31%, Kennedy at 30.2%, Chestnut North at 26.5%, Duggan at 25.7%. It gets even worse when you dig down further and look at who is getting suspended. The Empowerment Zones schools are suspending a higher percentage of students with disabilities and African American boys than virtually any other schools in the state. That something is going wrong here shows up in another data point that zone boosters never mention: chronic absences. The kids have stopped showing up at school.

A different system for a different outcome
Let’s pause here briefly for a spot of context, to familiarize ourselves with the origins of the Empowerment Zone concept. Strip away the Third Way rhetoric about empowering empowerment, and the Empowerment Zone is a familiar beast. It’s the latest iteration of the achievement district craze that’s been sweeping the country since Katrina swept through New Orleans, blowing away the unions and the bureaucracy that was holding kids back, ushering in a system that now spends more on administration (and less on teaching) than before the storm. And while New Orleans gets most of the ink, Zone boosters would do well to study some of the high-profile failures spawned in NOLA’s wake as they will quickly detect some familiar themes.
Like Eli Broad’s botched effort to build *a different system for a different outcome* in Detroit in 2012, aka the Education Achievement Authority or EAA. I spent last week combing through thousands of emails about the EAA that a dogged state rep and a local professor got their hands on, and the parallels between Broad’s experiment and Gabrieli’s are hard to miss. The data was awful, the red flags—like high disciplinary rates and students *voting with their feet*—getting redder all the time, and yet the PR side of the operation powered on, abetted by a gullible press and a plethora of highly-placed boosters. Even as alarm bells sounded from within the education laboratory, the 15 schools scooped up by the EAA, its emissaries were traveling the country, touting the miracle. Meanwhile momentum was growing in the legislature to expand the EAA statewide. Lawmakers, especially those funded by our new Secretary of Education, smelled an opportunity: to privatize schools, undercut democratic school leadership and neuter the state’s teachers unions.

Theory of change, unchanged
Alas the story didn’t end happily; the schools that the state doesn’t close will return to Detroit this fall, the *interlocal agreement* that made it happen dissolved.  But what education reformers refer to as the *theory of change* that gave rise to the EAA remains unchanged and is shared by the education changemakers who are changing things up in Springfield. A Detroit teacher described the theory to me this way: Black and brown kids aren’t ready to learn; their teachers aren’t ready to teach them. This is why those suspension numbers at the EZ schools are so high; remaking the kids’ characters is a messy business. It’s why Empower has put so much effort into constructing a *human capital pipeline* to stock Springfield’s classrooms with fresh new teachers, who come via Teach for America, which recently expanded into Western Mass, or Empower’s own Teach Western Mass. Veteran teachers are harder to convince that suspending students is the way to *build the skills they need to achieve their goals.* Hence the call for *high quality teachers,* no teaching experience required.

Measuring success
Here’s a question for us to contemplate as we finally reach the conclusion of this post. How will we know when the Empowerment Zone has succeeded? A new  *report* on the Zone’s success concedes that it’s too early to tell whether the EZ is working, but argues that the true test of success will be growthBlueprint 1—not the student growth percentile kind but the expansion of the zone idea itself. Based on this metric, the Empowerment Zone concept could soon become very successful. In Springfield, the Zone just absorbed its ninth school and, according to the report, could conceivably take over all of the schools in the district. Meanwhile enabling legislation filed last month by State Rep Alice Peisch would allow any district with a single Level Four school to be declared an Innovation Zone, overseen by an appointed board of directors who can then contract with outside management companies to run the schools.

Good morning, sunshine
While we wait to see how things play out in Springfield, maybe EZ boosters should take a trip to visit Boston’s Dever school, site of a disastrous outside partnership with a Gabrieli partner, Blueprint Schools. Boston recently ended the much-hyped arrangement and will soon resume control of the school, which is in worse shape than before Blueprint took it over. Field trippers can prepare by taking in Blueprint’s most recent take on its success at the school, filed with the state just two weeks before its relationship with the Dever ended, and filled with the kind of sunny jargon that professional turner arounders traffic in. Even as suspension numbers spiked up near EZ territory among students with disabilities, the stock photos of the kids on the Dever website smiled through it. And when teachers abandoned the school in droves, sorely testing the network’s *human capital* pipeline, Blueprint responded the only way it knew how. No, not by adjusting the theory of change that underlies all of these efforts, but by setting up a Sunshine Committee to boost employee morale…

Thanks to Cleo Hereford for assistance with graphs. Send me your thoughts at And follow me on Twitter at my new spot: @BisforBerkshire.

Source: The Next Big Thing – Have You Heard

Early detection of some cancers increased under Obamacare – Journalist’s Resource Journalist’s Resource

When cancer is caught early, it is easier and cheaper to treat. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, sought to help Americans catch the disease early by requiring insurers to pay for some types of preventative care as well as an annual checkup.

Before the ACA was introduced in 2010, mammograms to detect breast cancer were common and affordable. By contrast, the screening procedure for cancers in the colon and rectum, a colonoscopy, was expensive. It is also intimidating: The test requires a patient flush his or her bowels beforehand by drinking a formidable laxative.

The ACA made both of these routine screenings free to senior citizens with Medicare. It also made annual checkups free for everyone with this or other kinds of insurance. Research has shown that patients who regularly see a doctor are more likely to discuss preventative care and more likely to undergo a colonoscopy.

A new paper finds a sharp increase in the number of early colorectal cancer diagnoses after these changes took effect, suggesting that the ACA helped many individuals detect and get treatment sooner.

An academic study worth reading: “Affordable Care Act Changes to Medicare Led to Increased Diagnoses of Early-Stage Colorectal Cancer Among Seniors,” in Health Affairs, 2017.

Study summary: Using population data from the National Cancer Institute covering about 25 percent of the American population, Brett Lissenden and Nengliang Yao, both of the University of Virginia, estimate the impact of ACA policy changes on screenings for these two types of treatable cancers. They look at first-time cancer diagnoses from the years 2008 to 2013, which cover a period before and immediately after the ACA began (in 2011) requiring that Medicare fully pay for the tests. Looking at different age groups, they produce a sample including 4,428 observations. One limitation to their research, they acknowledge, is that generational lifestyle trends change overtime; for example, Americans today smoke less than they did a few decades ago.

Key takeaways:

  • Starting in 2011, the authors found an 8 percent increase per year in the number of early-stage colorectal cancer diagnoses. Extrapolated across the country, they estimate the ACA led to approximately 8,400 additional early-stage colorectal cancer diagnoses among seniors between 2011 and 2013.
  • These diagnoses grew by 6.7 percent for Americans aged 65 to 75 and by 10.5 percent for those aged 76 and older.
  • The increase for women (12.8 percent) was higher than for men (3.8 percent).
  • The authors found no correlation between the ACA and detection of cancers in the breast, uterus or pulmonary system. They note that the ACA did not substantially lower the cost of screenings for these ailments (the costs were already much lower than the colonoscopy).

READ MORE HERE: Early detection of some cancers increased under Obamacare – Journalist’s Resource Journalist’s Resource


CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.


Guest Post: Open Letter To Pat Toomey

Barbara Ferman is a professor at the College of Liberal Arts, Temple University. She’s also the Director of the University Community Collaborative. She passed along this letter to share. If you want to make sure Senator Toomey sees it, feel free to help direct it to him.

February 13, 2017

An Open Letter to Senator Toomey, Pennsylvania

Dear Senator Toomey:

I grew up in a working class family and neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. I was the first in my family to get a college degree, made possible by the then free City University of New York system, an institution that enabled many working and lower middle class kids to achieve the American Dream. I have been an educator for 32 years, 25 of those at a public institution in Philadelphia (Temple University). During that time, I have enabled other kids, like the one I was, to reach, dream, and land higher than the place from where they came. But, now, that dream is in jeopardy.

I am extremely fearful of what the new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, will do to public education (K-16) in this country. In the confirmation hearings, she demonstrated her total lack of knowledge about public education and the federal laws that govern it (e.g IDEA), and, even worse, a lack of desire to learn about public education. The unregulated system of charter schools that she financially supported in Michigan has been an unmitigated disaster. The danger she poses to public education has been articulated by some very conservative stakeholders. Eli Broad, a major investor in charter schools, called her “unqualified” and “unprepared,” and cited her support for unregulated charters and vouchers as particularly problematic in his letter to Senators McConnell and Schumer. The Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, an organization representing seventy charter schools in that state, sent a letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren expressing concern that “efforts to grow school choice without a rigorous accountability system will reduce the quality of charter schools across the country.” Two of your Republican colleagues, Senators Murkowski and Collins, voted against her in the full Senate. I am totally perplexed as to the reasons why you voted to confirm her.
Can you please tell me how you think Ms. DeVos will improve public education in this county given her rather poor record in Michigan and her total lack of understanding of our most cherished institution.

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to this letter. I am genuinely interested in your response.


Barbara Ferman

Another announced land grab by GVSU means more surface parking lots

Another announced land grab by GVSU means more surface parking lots
by Jeff Smith (GRIID)
Yesterday, in an article on MLive, it was announced that Grand Valley State University would be leasing (but ultimately purchasing) 3.5 acres of land currently owned by the Louis Padnos Iron and Metal Company for $3.38 million.

The MLive article stated that GVSU would have a new surface parking lot ready for us by the 2017 Fall semester. In this arial view, it is the land/property outlined in red that will be used for parking. This decision was made by the GVSU Board of Trustees, which makes complete sense since the trustees represent monied interests throughout the state.

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Yesterday, in an article on MLive, it was announced that Grand Valley State University would be leasing (but ultimately purchasing) 3.5 acres of land currently owned by the Louis Padnos Iron and Metal Company for $3.38 million. 

The MLive article stated that GVSU would have a new surface parking lot ready for us by the 2017 Fall semester. In this arial view, it is the land/property outlined in red that will be used for parking. This decision was made by the GVSU Board of Trustees, which makes complete sense since the trustees represent monied interests throughout the state.


This is just the latest development in GVSU’s history, when it comes to their expansion through land grabs.screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-1-38-49-pm

Ever since GVSU has had a presence on the westside, they have continued to gobble up land. This first began when the Eberhard Center was opened in 1988 in downtown Grand Rapids…

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