Do What We Say, Not What We Do

April 14, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Randi was in full “make stuff up” mode today, making the video above all the more welcome. After a few paragraphs of feverish conspiracy mongering regarding charter schools being a “coordinated national effort to decimate public schools” (er, Randi, charters are public schools…)  Randi stated “To make matters worse, many charters cherry-pick their students, leaving cash-strapped public schools with higher populations of students with special or high needs, further tipping the scales.”

Evidence? She don’t need no stinking evidence!

In addition to the points made by the video about magnet schools and charter school admission lotteries, it is worth noting that district schools routinely “cherry pick” by family income through attendance boundaries encompassing high-priced real estate.


Centralized and Decentralized Reform Longevity in NYC

May 14, 2014

This is my apprentice Darth de Blasio. He will deal with your beneficial retention policy….

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Jay’s important post on choice programs developing a stronger constituency than many other types of education reform has an obvious recent example in Mayor de Blasio’s New York City. New York City has a earned promotion policy for improving literacy instruction. The program demonstrated strongly positive results, including not one but two positive evaluations from the RAND Corporation using advanced statistical analysis.  Sadly when this worthy retention policy ran up against Darth de Blasio the result was:

The unfortunate reality is that the earned promotion policy, while demonstrably effective, has a limited constituency to defend it.  A large population could benefit from the continuation of the policy but lacks organization. One of the most basic laws of politics is that organized interests defeat disorganized interests 99 times out of a hundred trials, or thereabouts.

What happened when de Blasio went after charter schools? Oh yeah…

So how did the assault on charter schools turn out for the Darth Randi’s apprentice?

Does this mean we should avoid all top down policies like the plague and focus only on promoting choice? Not in my book, but it is worth noting that policies enjoying little support outside a small group of supporters can be easily reversed. Developing a base of support is essential to policy longevity.  I don’t think that choice is the only K-12 policy reform that has the potential to develop broad support, but it is an equation that few other policies have solved.


Weingarten/Ravitch v. Tooley/Dixon in Mexico

April 23, 2013

WSJ striking teachers in Mexico

Now THAT”S what I call an army of angry teachers!

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Today’s Wall Street Journal covers events in Guerrero, a state in southern Mexico, where the local version of the Weingarten/Ravitch army of angry teachers is now in head-to-head competition with James Tooley and Pauline Dixon’s army of black market schoolers.

In one corner:

Thousands of teachers protesting a revamp of the country’s education system have closed schools and taken to the streets, in the first significant challenge to overhauls undertaken by President Enrique Peña Nieto. Teachers in Guerrero, one of Mexico’s poorest states, are defying Mr. Peña Nieto’s administration by opposing the education measure signed into law in February, which for the first time requires teachers to be evaluated by an autonomous body. Those that fail the evaluation can be dismissed.

Last week, tens of thousands of teachers, some armed with metal bars and Molotov cocktails, marched in Guerrero’s capital, Chilpancingo. They again blocked for hours the highway that connects Mexico City with the Pacific port of Acapulco, hurting a key economic and tourist hub. The demonstrations have been held sporadically since the overhaul bill was signed.

In the other corner:

The action has left around 42,000 children without classes, and parents, exasperated after almost two months of protests, plan to start giving their own lessons in parks, public squares and even restaurants in the coming days….The lessons would be conducted like summer-school workshops, with hundreds of children expected to attend the first classes, Mr. Castro said. The idea is to teach grade-school students mathematics, Spanish and other basics, and the parents association is trying to get local education authorities to give credit for completed work.

The teachers’ unions of Guerrero have shown the same peaceful spirit we’ve seen so often from many labor unions here in the U.S.:

Initial plans to start the lessons Monday were put off for fear of reprisals from striking teachers, and the parents association is working with state authorities to guarantee safety for the classes, he added.

However, from the overall coverage I wouldn’t count the army of black market schoolers out yet. Conditions are bad enough that the parents are angrier than the teachers.

Also worth noting: it’s not clear how many of the teachers support what their unions are doing.

Photo by Zuma Press via WSJ


Weingarten Has a Great Idea!

December 10, 2012

Lisa Simpson keep out sign

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

What a shock – Randi Weingarten wants to solve the teacher quality crisis with higher barriers to entry. Because unions never erect barriers to entry for a profession in order to fatten themselves by exploiting the weak and vulnerable.

Weingarten’s article opens with yet another sign that we’re winning: “Every profession worth its salt goes through such periods of self-examination. That time has come for the teaching profession.” Yes, it sure has!

But you know, maybe this is a good idea. Hey, Randi, how about this: we institute a bar exam for teachers and then anyone who passes the exam is allowed to teach. What do you say to that?


Sea Change in Tenure Policy

July 13, 2011

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Ed Week delivers a solid piece on the changes around the states on teacher policy- LIFO, tenure reform, etc. Money quote:

Jennifer Dounay Zinth, a senior policy analyst at the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, which has been tracking the legislation closely, said the protracted interest in revamping the teaching profession amounts to a “sea change.”

“It’s hard to get your arms around—not just the number of bills being enacted but the breadth and depth of changes being made,” she said.

Note that while Red states are in the lead, even deep Blue states like Illinois have undertaken reform as well.

Randi Weingarten seems to have noticed, as the NYT reports:

Ms. Weingarten, who has long opposed the cuts — both budgetary and rhetorical — made to teachers, told her audience that the current debate on education “has been hijacked by a group of self-styled reformers” from “on high” who want to blame educators’ benefits and job security for states’ notorious budget problems. Calling the union gathering “an affirmation,” she countered that change to the education system should instead come through greater community support for teachers themselves and recognition for the commitment to children they already demonstrate. 

Hijacked from self-styled reformers from on high

…oh sorry…

…just savoring the moment.

We are still in what I view as the early stages of divorcing ourselves from the entirely indefensible practice of treating teachers like interchangeable widgets. We have a great deal to learn, and may need to develop a reliable system of third-party academic assessment as we seek to attach greater consequences to student learning gains if techniques like erasure analysis ultimately fall short. Rather than an argument for the status-quo, this is all the more reason to get on with it.

The debate hasn’t been hijacked Randi, it’s been won fair and square.


Randi Weingarten Endorses Florida K-12 Jebolution

May 6, 2011

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Keep reading the story past all the complaints about cuts…

While praising Orange educators, Weingarten, a former New York City teachers-union leader, was sharply critical of the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott, whom she accused of taking “a wrecking ball” to the academic progress Florida has made.

Though not all teachers agreed with all facets of the state’s reform efforts in the past decade — pushed initially by former Gov. Jeb Bush — most embraced the effort to improve public education, she said.

And across the country, Florida gained notice for improved test scores, better national rankings and winning a share of the federal Race to the Top grant last year.

“There was a real sense of Florida schools moving in the right direction,” she said.

Ok- so let me catch my breath here.

The story seems to be Florida used to be making progress, but now that the housing bubble crash is forcing spending cuts and Florida law is no longer going to treat teachers as interchangeable widgets, it is all going to fall to pieces.

Riiiiiiiiight

“Not all teacher agreed with all facets” is a true statement. It would also be true to say that “teacher union leaders opposed almost all facets” of the reforms and that the NAEP has revealed their opposition to have been utterly and totally indefensible.

Sorry Randi- as Jay has noted, teacher union leaders have approximately the same level of credibility on education reform as tobacco executives have on cancer research. If you didn’t dislike the latest reforms, there would be something wrong with them.


Ravitch Escapes the Dark Side of the Force

April 23, 2011

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Awesome news! Diane Ravitch escaped from the clutches of Emperor Weingarten and has disavowed the Dark Side of the Force. At least, that’s the way it looks on Twitter, where someone has taken to posting quotes from the time before Ravitch joined the Sith.

 Better late than never! Welcome back Diane!