Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thank you

Thank you for visiting my blog. I sometimes don't have time to post here everything that I send to my school reform email list, so if you want to receive my regular (approximately once a week) email updates, please email me at WTilson at In addition, in between emails, I regularly tweet the most interesting articles I come across, so sign up to follow me on Twitter at:
For more about me and links to my favorite articles, posts and videos on education reform, see my School Reform Resource Page at, in particular my Powerpoint presentation entitled A Right Denied: The Critical Need for Genuine School Reform, which is posted at
The idea for this came to me after watching An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's documentary about global warming. After seeing it, I thought to myself, "That's exactly what school reformers need as well!" My presentation is meant to be a collection of data and arguments that forcefully advocates for an urgent school reform agenda. It was made into a documentary in 2010 that you can watch at

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Students Lose, Liberals Elated

The WSJ with a spot-on editorial on the CA Supreme Court's narrow (4-3), unfortunate decision:

Students Lose, Liberals Elated

California denies a constitutional challenge to failing schools.

Aug. 22, 2016 6:56 p.m. ET

Remember when progressives worked to break down the barriers to minority education? You know, Brown v. Board and all that. Well, nowadays good liberals rejoice when their judicial friends deny upward mobility to poor black and Hispanic children.

That's how the left reacted to http://airmail.calendar/2016-08-29%2012:00:00%20EDT decision by the California Supreme Court not to hear an appeal of the Vergara v. California case charging that the Golden State has systematically denied minority kids trapped in failing schools their constitutional right to an education. The plaintiffs, backed by some public-spirited donors, had won in lower court but lost on appeal and now the state Supreme Court has doomed tens of thousands to lives of diminished possibility, if not poverty.

"I am relieved by the court's decision declining an appeal of the unanimous California Court of Appeal ruling upholding California educators' due process rights," declared Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. At issue were the contractual powers of teachers that denied the due-process rights of students, but facts must be distorted when your first priority is protecting failure factories.

The plaintiffs in Vergara showed that 98% of teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District are guaranteed a job for life after only 18 months on the job. Over a decade only 91 teachers in California had been fired, only 19 for subpar performance. Meanwhile, California students rank near the bottom in the country in reading and math.

The defeat for the students is also a victory for Governor Jerry Brown, who along with most of the state's Democratic establishment sided with the unions. Congratulations, Governor, on another triumph for educational opportunity denied.

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Students Matter

Good to see the CA setback hasn't deterred Students Matter:

Students Matter just filed Martinez v. Malloy, a new federal lawsuit on behalf of a group of Connecticut students and their parents challenging state laws and policies that actively prevent students from accessing quality public schools.

This is Students Matter's third education equality case, and our first in federal court. The lawsuit targets a set of state laws and policies that limit access to quality public school options — including magnet, traditional and charter public schools — that are delivering a world-class education to students of all backgrounds. These unnecessary restrictions have created a system in which zip code and luck of the draw determine whether students have a shot at a quality education and, we believe, violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and due process.

We know what works. It's time to cut through unnecessary and harmful red tape and make sure all students have access to great public schools. Click now to learn more aboutMartinez v. Malloy.

If this case is successful, it will not only have a tremendous impact on thousands of public school students across Connecticut, but it will also reaffirm our nation's commitment to providing every child, regardless of race or family background, with an equal shot at the American Dream.

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Vergara’s dissenting justices write for history

The decision is even more of a disgrace since the court didn't even hear (much less rule on) the case. Nevertheless, two courageous justices wrote scathing dissents:

Unfortunately, Liu and Cuellar were not given the chance. In a shameful abdication of duty, 4 of the 7 California Justices refused to even listen to the arguments of Beatriz Vergara and her fellow plaintiffs. Those four justices, Carol Corrigan, Kathryn Werdegar, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and Leondra Kruger, thus join the ranks of names such as those of Roger Taney and Henry Brown that will be forever tainted by their defense of a brutal and discriminatory system.

Fortunately, California's rules allow dissents even in cases of accepting or denying a petition for review. Thus, Justices Liu and Cuéllar, had the opportunity to keep hope alive for future petitioners. Justice Liu's dissent included the following language:

"One of our criteria for review is whether we are being asked "to settle an important question of law." Under any ordinary understanding of that criterion, our review is warranted in this case. … The trial court found, and the Court of Appeal did not dispute, that the evidence in this case demonstrates serious harms. The nine schoolchildren who brought this action, along with the millions of children whose educational opportunities are affected every day by the challenged statutes, deserve to have their claims heard by this state's highest court. … [The case asks] whether the education clauses of our state Constitution guarantee a minimum level of quality below which our public schools cannot be permitted to fall. This issue is surely one of the most consequential to the future of California. Despite the gravity of the trial court's findings, despite the apparent error in the Court of Appeal's equal protection analysis, and despite the undeniable statewide importance of the issues presented, the court decides that the serious claims raised by Beatriz Vergara and her eight student peers do not warrant our review. I disagree."

For his part, Justice Cuéllar wrote:

"What Beatriz Vergara and eight of her fellow public school students allege in this case is that they, and vast numbers of children in our state's public schools, are burdened by certain statutes governing teacher dismissal, retention, and tenure that create a surplus of grossly ineffective teachers. … Nothing in California's Constitution or any other law supports the Court of Appeal's reasoning. … Even if one ignores the appellate court's inconsistency with settled law, the question its approach begs is as simple as it is important: Why? … Beatriz Vergara and her fellow plaintiffs raise profound questions with implications for millions of students across California. They deserve an answer from this court. Difficult as it is to embrace the logic of the appellate court on this issue, it is even more difficult to allow that court's decision to stay on the books without review in a case of enormous statewide importance. … There is a difference between the usual blemishes in governance left as institutions implement statutes or engage in routine trade-offs and those staggering failures that threaten to turn the right to education for California schoolchildren into an empty promise. Knowing the difference is as fundamental as education itself. Which is why I would grant review."

Beatriz Vergara has reached the end of her K-12 career, and thus the damage to her (and millions of other students) has already been done. For future students, however, Justices Liu and Cuéllar have done a vital service. For all the hundreds of millions of dollars that education bureaucrats spend every year to lobby against education reform, they cannot win if they keep losing the moral high ground. When justices such as Liu and Cuéllar, who have been known throughout their careers as among the most inspiring, moral, and thoughtful members of the bar write such compelling dissents, other courts in other states will take notice. The first legal victory for these students will not come in California, but it will come.


Vergara's dissenting justices write for history

Posted on August 24, 2016 8:30 am by Dmitri Mehlhorn

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Train Teachers Like Doctors

Shael Polakow-Suransky and two others with an insightful NYT op ed entitled, "Train Teachers Like Doctors":

Our nation has faced — and solved — a similar problem before. In medicine, we long ago recognized that significant study and practice under the guidance of a skilled practitioner are necessary to ensure that doctors are qualified to serve the public. After World War II, we increasingly invested public money in a range of efforts to strengthen doctors' preparation, including stipends for training. We now spend $11.5 billion a year on medical education, roughly $500,000 for every new doctor. For a fraction of that cost we can build a strong system of teacher preparation — good residency programs cost about $65,000 per candidate, including tuition and stipends, according to our calculations.

Much of the money could come from reallocating current resources. States and school districts need to do the tough, detailed work to redirect and focus funds that are not being used well. For example, nationally we spend 7 percent of our instructional budget on substitute teachers, 12 percent on teaching assistants and between $6,000 and $18,000 annually per teacher on professional development that many teachers describe as ineffective. Redirecting a portion of these budgets could help us transform teacher preparation.

Minimal training for teachers is simply not good enough. Legislatures and school districts have proven, affordable options at their disposal.If we are serious about improving public education, we need to invest in our aspiring teachers and ensure they get sustained practice with real coaching and support. The nation will need more than a million new teachers in the next decade. They will be teaching our future doctors, engineers and pilots — all of whom will have high-quality professional training at the side of experts in their field. Our teachers deserve the same.

Train Teachers Like Doctors

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Conquering the Freshman Fear of Failure

Two easy interventions help at-risk students from dropping out of college:

Regardless of their credentials, many freshmen doubt that they have the necessary brainpower or social adeptness to succeed in college. This fear of failing hits poor, minority and first-generation college students especially hard. If they flunk an exam, or a professor doesn't call on them, their fears about whether they belong may well be confirmed. The cycle of doubt becomes self-reinforcing, and students are more likely to drop out.

The good news is that this dismal script can be rewritten. Several recent research projects show that, with the right nudge, students can acquire ways of thinking that helps them thrive.

In a large-scale experiment at an unnamed school I'll call Flagship State, incoming freshmen read upperclassmen's accounts of how they navigated the shoals of university life. The accounts explained that, while the upperclassmen initially felt snubbed by their classmates and intimidated by their professors, their lives started turning around when they reached out to their instructors and began to make friends.

…Other freshmen were introduced to research online showing that intelligence isn't a static trait or the luck of the genetic draw, but can grow through hard work. They were exposed to what the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck describes as a growth, rather than a fixed, mind-set. This shift can be transformative; as Dr. Dweck explained, "the view of intelligence that you adopt for yourself shapes your educational experience."

…What's more, the impact of this brief intervention may be lifelong. A follow-up investigation, still in the works, finds that in the initial stage of their careers these students are faring better professionally and personally.

The field of education is littered with fine ideas that never go beyond the hothouse of the lab. But this simple strategy has been shown to work wholesale. What's more, it's cheap. The experience takes place online, and so it costs next to nothing to have students go through it.

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Rising income inequality in recent decades, which has led to rising educational inequality

Interesting and troubling research on rising income inequality in recent decades, which has led to rising educational inequality:

Duncan and Murnane make the case that the ability of the affluent to invest in their children has contributed to the "growth in the income-based gaps in children's reading and mathematics achievement" which, in turn, has "contributed to a growing gap in the rate of college completion." The two authors also document the growing disparity of parental financial investment in "child-enrichment goods and services." In 1972-73

high-income families spent about $2,850 more per year per child on child enrichment than low-income families did. By the 2005–2006 school year, this gap had nearly tripled, to $8,000

in inflation-adjusted dollars. While several of the Russell Sage authors cite the success of a few specialized education programs in raising the academic achievement levels of low-income students, the report suggests that given unequal circumstances at birth, over which children have no control, traditional schooling may be aggravating pre-existing disadvantage.

Two report authors, Isabel Sawhill and Richard Reeves, both of Brookings, found that:

among children born of normal birth weight to married mothers who were not poor and had at least a high school education at the time of their child's birth (advantaged-at-birth), 66 percent can be expected to be ready to start kindergarten, versus only 46 percent otherwise. This gap never narrows.

Citing the work of Sean Reardon of Stanford, Duncan and Murnane point to a substantial increase in the test score gap between low and high income students taking the SAT:

In the late 1960s, test scores in reading of low-income children lagged behind those of their better-off peers by four-fifths of a standard deviation — about 80 points on an SAT-type test. Forty years later, this gap was 50 percent larger, amounting to nearly 125 SAT-type points.

Bradbury and Triest, the Boston Federal Reserve economists, follow up by drawing attention to the inexorable disadvantages accruing to already disadvantaged kids:

A 40 percentage-point gap in college enrollment of students born in the early 1960s between poorest-quartile and richest-quartile students expanded to a 51 point gap for the later cohort; similarly, the earlier cohort's 31 point gap in college completion between rich and poor grew to a 45 point gap for the later cohort.

Bradbury and Triest put forward a bleak assessment of the options available to young people born into the poorest families, even children who possess considerable native gifts:

A key question is whether primary schools, once children come under their care, level the playing field and reduce these disparities. Most research findings suggest that they do not.

Not only do "children of affluent parents graduate from college at substantially higher rates than children of low-income parents," according to Bradbury and Triest, "the gap persists even when controlling for ability in the form of test scores."

They cite data showing that

a child's earnings in adulthood reflect parental investments in his/her human capital (education) as well as his/her endowment of earnings capacity and market luck. That endowment, in turn, is determined by the reputation and "connections" of their families, the contribution to the ability, race, and other characteristics of children from the genetic constitutions of their families, and the learning, skills, goals, and other "family commodities" acquired through belonging to a particular family culture.

Four key factors or mechanisms of intergenerational earnings persistence "that are related to family incomes and that have a return" in the labor market play an outsize role in determining the fate of American children, according to studies cited by Bradbury and Triest: "noncognitive skills, cognitive ability, early labor market experiences, and educational attainment."

Separated at Birth

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Why American Schools Are Even More Unequal Than We Thought

Another troubling study about "persistently disadvantaged" children (in Michigan) – defined as 8th graders to qualified for free or reduced-price lunch every year since kindergarten – which concludes that "American Schools Are Even More Unequal Than We Thought":

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the, publishes student scores by eligibility for subsidized meals. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act and its successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act, districts have reported scores separately for disadvantaged children, with eligibility for subsidized meals serving as the standard measure of disadvantage.

With Katherine Michelmore, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Michigan, I have analyzed data held by the Michigan Consortium for Educational Research and found that this measure substantially understates the achievement gap.

In Michigan, as in the rest of the country, about half of eighth graders in public schools receive a free or reduced-price lunch. But when we look more closely, we see that just 14 percent have been eligible for subsidized meals every year since kindergarten. These children are the poorest of the poor — the persistently disadvantaged.

The math scores of these poorest children are far lower than predicted by the standard measure of economic disadvantage. The achievement gap between persistently disadvantaged children and those who were never disadvantaged is about a third larger than the gap that is typically measured.

Education researchers often express test score differences in standard deviations, which allows for a consistent measure of gaps across different tests, populations and contexts. Measured using that conventional approach, the gap in math scores between disadvantaged eighth graders and their classmates in Michigan is 0.69 standard deviations. This places disadvantaged children roughly two grades behind their classmates. By contrast, the gap based on persistent disadvantage is much wider: 0.94 standard deviations, or nearly three grades of learning.

Why American Schools Are Even More Unequal Than We Thought

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How Kids Learn Resilience

Paul Tough with an in-depth article in the The Atlantic about "How Kids Learn Resilience":

But here's the problem: For all our talk about noncognitive skills, nobody has yet found a reliable way to teach kids to be grittier or more resilient. And it has become clear, at the same time, that the educators who are best able to engender noncognitive abilities in their students often do so without really "teaching" these capacities the way one might teach math or reading—indeed, they often do so without ever saying a word about them in the classroom. This paradox has raised a pressing question for a new generation of researchers: Is the teaching paradigm the right one to use when it comes to helping young people develop noncognitive capacities?

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Monday, August 08, 2016

Thank you for visiting my blog

Thank you for visiting my blog. I sometimes don't have time to post here everything that I send to my school reform email list, so if you want to receive my regular (approximately once a week) email updates, please email me at WTilson at In addition, in between emails, I regularly tweet the most interesting articles I come across, so please sign up to follow me on Twitter at:


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Pics, video and description of summiting the Matterhorn for KIPP

I've posted a pdf with my pics, video and description of summiting the Matterhorn for KIPP at:

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Democrats for Education Reform

Democrats for Education Reform hosted Camp Philos in Philadelphia during the day on Monday around the Democratic National Convention. Among the speakers were Congressman Bobby Scott, Senator Chris Coons, Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles from 2005-2013, and Ann O'Leary, Hillary Clinton's Senior Policy Adviser, who specializes in issues relating to families and education. It was a great event! 

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Where Does 'Education Reform' Go in a Post-Obama World?

Speaking of DFER, here's a good article, Where Does 'Education Reform' Go in a Post-Obama World?, about the challenges we reformers face now – and will face even more under a new administration:

Back in 2008, Democrats for Education Reform had what amounted to its coming out party at the party's national convention in Denver. But a lot has changed in eight years.

On Monday, an event put on here by Education Reform Now, an affiliated organization, felt like an opportunity for a little soul searching, as some big name speakers pondered a central question: Where exactly, does the education-redesign movement go in a post-Obama administration, post Every Student Succeeds Act world?

"There's a lot of anxiety about the transition from this president to the next 
administration," Shavar Jeffries, the national president of the organization, a non-profit think tank affiliated with DFER said as he kicked off the policy forum.

But Jeffries isn't worried. His message? Hang tight and play the long game.

"For us this is a social justice project," Jeffries said. "And social justice is never easy. It's never short-term."

Jeffries linked education redesign to other social-change movements, noting that after the success of the Montgomery bus boycott, the civil rights movement experienced a seven-year period of "defeat, after defeat, after defeat."

End of an Era

The event attracted a star-studded cast—well, star-studded as wonky education events get—including Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia; and Ann O'Leary, Clinton's campaign advisor, all of whom spoke of their continued commitment to ensuring schools are better able to help the neediest kids.

Still, the past couple years have been challenging for fans of education redesign who have seen some of their favorite policies—high standards, teacher evaluation through test scores, dramatic school turnarounds, and testing—attacked in school districts, statehouses and Congress. 

Where Does 'Education Reform' Go in a Post-Obama World? 

By Alyson Klein on July 26, 2016 9:00 AM

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KIPP School Summit

After the convention on Monday night, I flew to Atlanta for the annual KIPP School Summit, which is always one of the highlights of my year – so inspiring! At the end of this email are lots of pictures I took (mostly at the closing gala last night – where I, of course, wore my favorite Trump NOPE t-shirt!). Here are two videos: a) a video I took at the opening of the gala, where Dave, Mike and Richard were rockin' with the KIPPsters (; and b) the annual KIPP video ( And here's the KIPP website from the Summit with various other videos:

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Nine Times Diane Ravitch Was Wrong About Common Core

Following up on my last email, in which I included Diane Ravitch's op ed in the NYT critiquing the Common Core, below is an excellent response. Here's the summary:

It was no surprise when, this weekend, education historian and vehement Common Core-opponent Diane Ravitch railed against the standards and assessments – again – this time in a New York Times op-ed. While she admits to numerous times she's been completely wrong in the past, we'd like to take this opportunity to point out nine additional times that she's completely wrong in this single piece:

1. and 2. Ravitch repeatedly refers to Common Core State Standards as national standards, and as a curriculum.

3. She claims the standards are "another excuse to avoid making serious efforts to reduce the main causes of low student achievement: poverty and racial segregation."

4. She claims "the people who wrote the Common Core standards sold them as a way to improve achievement and reduce the gaps between rich and poor, and black and white. But the promises haven't come true."

5. Ravitch claims the Common Core State Standards ignore "children with disabilities, English-language learners and those in the early grades."

6. She concludes Common Core isn't working.

7. Ravitch claims computer glitches while administering tests is a big problem.

8. Ravitch laments that the "Common Core tests" are harder and that "predictably depresses test scores, creating a sense of failure and hopelessness among young children."

9. She claims that "if we really cared about improving the education of all students, we would give teachers the autonomy to tailor instruction to meet the needs of the children."

Here are some additional comments about Ravitch's op ed by Alexander Kugushev, who is completing a book on education: "We are 34th in Education! It's the culture":


Common Core's purpose is not to establish social justice. That is not an educational goal. Common Core's purpose, no matter what the rationalizations, is to raise our educational standards – to show Americans what is necessary in a modern society that favors the educated over the uneducated, unjust as that may seem to some. How does Diane Ravitch perceive the objective of democracy: to debase everyone to the lowest common denominator in a quest for "equity", or to allow everyone to rise as high as effort and ambition will allow?  


Do we want, in a quest for "equity", an educational system where prevail low expectations, easy grades, no homework, fear of blows to students' self-esteem, fun as learning motivator, moving kids along to graduation even with mediocre grades in easy courses? Or one in which education aims for understanding the meaning of ideas and applying them to concrete real-world problems, capacity to transfer knowledge and skills to new situations, ability to communicate and collaborate in problem solving across disciplines? How can one succeed in an automated, robotized 21st century short of such capacities? Progressive society's purpose should be to raise all by showing what can be achieved.


Nine Times Diane Ravitch Was Wrong About Common Core in the New York Times

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Just want to say thanks to you Whitney for sending all these emails on how you feel about Trump.

I received this email from a friend this morning, who lives/votes in a swing state, Virginia. It made my day!


"I'm with her" :)


Just want to say thanks to you Whitney for sending all these emails on how you feel about Trump. At first I was irritated to read all these attacks on him, as I considered myself conservative/Republican and I volunteered for Trump earlier this year (then again, I sign up to get this email voluntarily), but after reading all your emails, and watching last week's convention and this week's, I have a change of heart.


I can't believe I was charmed by Trump. Now I don't think he has any chance to win (if he wins, I lose hope about the American people) since people should be able to see his true self (I did read Art of the Deal and was impressed with his business acumen and negotiation skills, but I learned this week from Kaine, Barack and Michele Obama, Elisabeth Warren and Joe Biden that Trump ruined many people's lives and Hillary is indeed a better choice - albeit she has her own issues, but then again no one is perfect, we are human after all). 


Thanks also for working so hard on promoting the Never Trump movement. I will volunteer for Hillary/Kaine when they came to rally in Virginia and will try to convince people/friends not to vote for Trump.

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This makes my blood boil

This makes my blood boil: my oldest daughter, who's halfway through college at a liberal-leaning school (Carleton), tells me that when she tells her classmates (most of whom love Bernie) that she supports Hillary, they wrinkle their nose. They're not supporting Trump, to be sure, she says; rather, they say that they're not to vote as a matter of principle (though she suspects most will end up voting for Hillary). (Another friend, who also has a college-age daughter, reports that he's hearing the same from her.) 


Boy, do I want to grab these idiots by their lapels and give them a good shake! Are they really so obtuse that they can't see how Hillary is totally aligned with their views/worldview and Trump stands for the exact opposite?! And the young women especially: can't they see that women like Hillary fought brutal battles to give them the opportunities they have today?! Hopefully they will come to their senses by Nov. 8th

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Seth Meyers Has A Reality Check For The Bernie-Or-Bust Crowd

An AWESOME 3-minute rant by Seth Meyers, aimed at my daughter's friends:

HEY! Seth Meyers Has A Reality Check For The Bernie-Or-Bust Crowd

"I don't know which class you ditched to go to those Bernie rallies, but I have a feeling it was history."

07/27/2016 02:52 am ET | Updated 2 hours ago 

Seth Meyers unveiled a new segment on Tuesday called "HEY!" ― and it was aimed squarely at the Bernie Sanders diehards who have been raising a ruckus at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

"," the "Late Night" host said. "Bust won. We don't have time for this."

He added:

"We're on the cusp of electing a racist demagogue, and that never ends well. I don't know which class you ditched to go to those Bernie rallies, but I have a feeling it was history."

See his full "HEY!" segment in the clip above. 

Meyers and Trump have been feuding for far longer than the presidential campaign. In 2011, Meyers, then head writer of "Saturday Night Live," mocked Trump's presidential ambitions at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

"Donald Trump has been saying he will run for president as a Republican, which is surprising, because I just assumed that he was running as a joke," Meyers said at the time.

In 2014, when Meyers was named host of the Emmys, Trump blasted him on Twitter.

"That Seth Meyers is hosting the Emmy Awards is a total joke," Trump wrote. "He is very awkward with almost no talent. Marbles in his mouth!"

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Any Democrat not enthused about Hillary needs to read this

Any Democrat not enthused about Hillary needs to read this:



I see it as voting for the EPA, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Voting Rights Act, Food Stamps, Minimum Wage, ACA, Roe v. Wade, Marriage Equality, Dep't of Ed, National and Community Services Act, environmental research at Dep't of Energy, USAID, Rail grants, Community Dev Fund, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, CPB, NEA, a liberal majority in SCOTUS for the next 30 years that will overturn Citizens United.


It's not about Clinton. It's about 80 years of progress we're in danger of losing because some are not looking at the big picture.


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This Australian comedian, Jim Jefferies, nails the danger of Con Man Don:

This Australian comedian, Jim Jefferies, nails the danger of Con Man Don: It's pure brilliance (and has 2.3 million views)!


Since I know most folks don't have the time to watch a 6-min video, I've transcribed it:


Now Donald Trump. Don't get me wrong: he's a lotta fun. And there's a little bit of me that thinks, "Fuck it! Let's do it! Let's do it and see how crazy shit can get!"


What happens is, he says really simple shit that means nothing and then fuckin' dummies… If you've ever said this sentence, "I like him because he's a straight talker," you're as dumb as shit! Just because someone says something simple that you understand, doesn't mean they're a straight talker. You can say a complex thing and be telling the truth. He says, "I'm going to make America great again," and you're like: "I got every word in that sentence." He's like, "I'm going to build a wall." "I have a wall at home – you're a straight talker!" And then he just says shit that isn't going to happen: "I'm going to build a wall and Mexico's going to pay for it." I haven't heard a Mexican yet say, "Yeah, we got this." What are you talking about?! What the fuck are you talking about?! That's insane shit! He's like a kid running for class president who's just walking around going, "We're gonna have two lunches and there's gonna be a soda machine in every classroom. Nashville football rules!"


Here's where is doesn't get fun. What he does is he preys on fear. In the beginning it was the MexicansL "they're coming over and raping." There was a terrorist attack and he said, "Aw fuck, I'll go after the Muslims. We should kill the families of Muslims," which, by the way, you're not allowed to do. And then he says after the Paris attacks, "We should put every Muslim on a register and we shouldn't let any more refugees come in from Syria. And the Muslims who live here on a register…that means ISIS wins. As soon as he says that, ISIS has fuckin' won because their plan to shoot people in Paris, that's not their end plan: they didn't kill 128 people and then go, "Aw, well that's done." You know what I mean? It's a recruitment tool – and the recruitment tool can only work if hate is bred. So what he does is he says, "Oh, we're gonna ban them and not let any more into the country and the ones here are going to have to be on a register."


Now you're a 16-year-old boy or girl that's living in this country that's a Muslim. You've spent your entire life in this country. You've always considered yourself an American. And then all of a sudden, someone who could be your President says, "You are not welcome here. You should be put on a register." Now that kid – how fuckin' quickly do you think that kid could be radicalized now? Before, he wasn't going to be radicalized at all!


So what he's trying to do is, he's trying to defeat hate with hate – and hate doesn't beat hate. It's never fuckin' beaten hate – it just makes more hate. Now this might be the most hippy thing that ever comes out of my mouth, but it's true: the only thing that can beat hate is love. 


Now love doesn't always beat hate, but it does do something. Think about your own personal life. Think about a person who hates you and you hate them. From now on, just show that person nothing but love. Now I'm not saying for a second that that person will start loving you. They'll probably still fuckin' hate you. But one thing will happen: eventually, everyone will see them as the asshole. Don't be the asshole, America. Don't be the asshole!

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Cory Booker gave an AMAZING speech on Monday night

Cory Booker gave an AMAZING speech on Monday night – and followed it up with a BRILLIANT rebuttal to Con Man Don's usual nasty attack:

Trump fired back Twitter, writing enigmatically, "If Cory Booker is the future of the Democratic Party, they have no future! I know more about Cory than he knows about himself."

Shown the tweet during an interview on CNN's "New Day," Booker declined to respond in kind and instead offered a somewhat backhanded olive branch to the GOP nominee.

"Let me tell you right now: I love Donald Trump," Booker said. "I don't want to answer his hate with hate. I'm going to answer it with love. I'm not going to answer his darkness with darkness. I love him. I know his kids, I know his family. They're good, the children especially, good people."

You can read more about it and watch Cory here:

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Michelle Obama the coolest

Is Michelle Obama the coolest, or what? Gosh, I'm going to miss her (and him of course)! "First Lady Michelle Obama Carpool Karaoke" on YouTube:


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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

At the Democratic National Convention Monday night


I was at the Democratic National Convention last night with my wife Susan and Charlie Ledley (fellow DFER board member)– it was great!

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The injustice of California’s teacher tenure

George Will with a spot-on op ed, The injustice of California's teacher tenure:

The mills of justice grind slowly, but life plunges on, leaving lives blighted when justice, by being delayed, is irremediably denied. Fortunately, California's Supreme Court might soon decide to hear — four years after litigation began — the 21st century's most portentous civil rights case, which concerns an ongoing denial of equal protection of the law.

Every year, measurable injuries are inflicted on tens of thousands of already at-risk children by this state's teacher tenure system, which is so politically entrenched that only the courts can protect the discrete and insular minority it victimizes. In 2012, nine Los Angeles students, recognizing the futility of expecting the legislature to rectify a wrong it has perpetrated, asked California's judiciary to continue its record of vindicating the rights of vulnerable minorities by requiring the state's education system to conform to the state's Constitution. 

After 10 weeks of testimony, the trial court found the tenure system incompatible with the California Supreme Court's decision, now almost half a century old, that the state Constitution, which declares education a "fundamental" state concern, guarantees "equality of treatment" to all K-12 pupils. It "shocks the conscience," the trial court said, that there is "no dispute" that "a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers" — perhaps more than 8,000, each with 28 students — are doing quantifiable damage to children's life prospects.

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Continuing Change in Newark

Education Next with an in-depth look at the excellent progress being made in Newark under Chris Cerf, building on what Cami Anderson started:

The contentious years ahead were the subject of a high-profile book by former Washington Post reporter Dale Russakoff, The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools, which was published just as Cerf became superintendent. The book focuses on the difficulties in implementing change in Newark, despite bipartisan leadership, financial support, and the attention of education watchers nationwide. A major theme, according to Cerf, is a "narrative of failure" in Newark schools.

Changing that narrative is a critical challenge, he says, one helped by evidence of improvement in recent years. The suspension rate is down 37 percent. The graduation rate has risen to 70 percent from 61 percent in 2011. And about one in three Newark students attends "beating the odds" schools, those that outperform schools with similar demographics in their state in reading and math, according to a 2015 study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

Newark has retained 95 percent of teachers evaluated as "effective," Cerf says, even though the district pays salaries lower than in surrounding towns. Only 63 percent of teachers who did not earn "effective" ratings remained in the district. The district also has invested heavily in new curricula in mathematics, science, history, and the arts. And more than half of Newark schools now have longer school days.

The premise of The Prize, Cerf says, was that if he, Anderson, and Booker had moved more slowly and worked harder to build local support for their ideas, they would have gotten a warmer reception. But, he says, that analysis is flawed.

"For Dale to criticize Cory and Cami for failing to have overcome political saboteurs, but give a complete pass to the saboteurs themselves, tells only part of the story. There was a vicious campaign of misinformation that was designed to thwart any changes."

The Value of Listening

Cerf has set two major goals for Newark schools: to give every student in the city a chance to attend a successful school, and to meet state requirements that would allow the district to regain local control. Unlike Anderson, who was charged with using the Zuckerberg largess and the state's backing to bring about the dramatic changes envisioned by Booker and Christie, Cerf views his job as making sure those changes take root, grow, and eventually bear fruit. Both jobs are difficult, and require different skills and temperaments. Anderson had to be bold and was under pressure to get quick results. Cerf has to build on and improve Anderson's initiatives, while preaching patience and building and maintaining productive, long-term relationships with major constituencies in the city: families, the advisory board, the teachers union, and the mayor's office. Change in Newark

Education Next, FALL 2016 / VOL. 16, NO. 4

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Content-rich curriculum drives achievement at Icahn Charter School

Charles Sahm with an excellent article on the Icahn Charter Schools in NYC, led by Jeff Litt, which should get much more attention than they do, as they're doing great work:

In the 1980s, billionaire financier Carl Icahn and his wife, Gail, opened Icahn House, a large transitional-housing facility in the South Bronx, then and now the country's poorest congressional district. "Through our work at Icahn House, it became clear that you can't break cycles of poverty if kids don't get a high-quality education," Gail Icahn says. "As soon as Governor Pataki got the charter law through, we decided to open a school."

Fliegel introduced Litt to the Icahns, and Litt helped write the charter application. In 2001, the Icahns asked him to be principal of the new school and gave him great freedom in designing it. Litt again used the Core Knowledge curriculum, and he hired the best teachers he knew. A modular-construction company built the school on land the Icahns had purchased across from their housing facility. "The school came over the George Washington Bridge on twenty-two tractor-trailers," Litt recalls. In September 2001, the school opened as one of the first charters in New York State.

By 2004, Icahn 4th graders were posting higher test scores than students in any other school in the Bronx, save for a couple in the affluent Riverdale section. In 2006, the network joined with the nonprofit Civic Builders to construct a 125,000-square-foot building in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx to house Icahn 2 as well as a district school. Over the next several years, the Icahn network expanded to a total of seven schools. Typically, Icahn charters open as K–2 schools and add a grade each year as students move up. Icahn 1 through 4 are now full K–8 schools, and the other three are expected to follow suit within a few years.

The Bronx is Learning

Content-rich curriculum drives achievement at Icahn Charter School

Fall 2016 / Vol. 16, No. 4

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Diane Ravitch criticizing the Common Core

I normally don't send out something I disagree with (this NYT op ed by Diane Ravitch criticizing the Common Core), but I don't have time to respond to it, so I'm hoping someone will send me a good response that I can include in my next email. In the meantime, it's worth reading and understanding the critique:

As the damage escalated, I renounced my support for high-stakes testing andcharter schools. Nonetheless, I clung to the hope that we might agree on national standards and a national curriculum. Surely, I thought, they would promote equity since all children would study the same things and take the same tests. But now I realize that I was wrong about that, too.

Six years after the release of our first national standards, the Common Core, and the new federal tests that accompanied them, it seems clear that the pursuit of a national curriculum is yet another excuse to avoid making serious efforts to reduce the main causes of low student achievement: poverty and racial segregation.

The people who wrote the Common Core standards sold them as a way to improve achievement and reduce the gaps between rich and poor, and black and white. But the promises haven't come true. Even in states with strong common standards and tests, racial achievement gaps persist. Last year, average math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progressdeclined; reading scores were flat or decreased compared with a decade earlier.

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5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win

Turning to the Presidential race, as you've probably gathered, I've taken a strong interest in this election (I do every four years, but never more so than this one), and have been reading/writing/emailing/blogging/Facebook-posting about it with increasing frequency and intensity (email me if you want to be added to my politics email list and/or Facebook friend me).


That's because I think the stakes have never been higher. In fairness, I thought this in the past, but I was wrong then: how insignificant it would have been if McCain or Romney had been elected, when compared to the completely unpredictable and potentially calamitous things that could result from Trump becoming the most powerful person on earth.


Tony Schwartz, who ghost-wrote The Art of the Deal (and, as part of this, spent pretty much every waking moment with Con Man Don for 18 months), said in an article: "I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization."


OK, perhaps this is a bit hyperbolic – but not much… Almost daily he says or does – or journalists looking into his past expose – something totally outrageous. In spite of this (or perhaps because of it), he very well might win. I still don't think there's more than a ~30% of this calamity, Michael Moore (the ultra-liberal filmmaker) thinks it's likely for five reasons her outlines in this article. It's very scary because it's very plausible. Excerpt:


What happened in the UK with Brexit is going to happen here. Elmer Gantry shows up looking like Boris Johnson and just says whatever shit he can make up to convince the masses that this is their chance! To stick to ALL of them, all who wrecked their American Dream! And now The Outsider, Donald Trump, has arrived to clean house! You don't have to agree with him! You don't even have to like him! He is your personal Molotov cocktail to throw right into the center of the bastards who did this to you! SEND A MESSAGE! TRUMP IS YOUR MESSENGER!

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