[Maura's note:  I
don't see anything
wrong with people
like Eli Broad trying
to improve
education.  What I
do find unethical is
CT's efforts to stifle

Susan Ohanian seems
to be either unaware
or unconcerned that
school board
members and top
district employees
often keep their
power by spending
funds on unethical
lawyers.   She doesn't
seem to think that the
huge amounts of
public money involved
in paying these
lawyers, and paying
rising rates for liability
insurance because
these lawyers earn so
much, is a problem for
schools.  Not just
because of the loss of
money, but because
the rule of law is
thrown out the
window, and all too
often, the worst
teachers and
administrators and
board members, not
the best, control the

Maybe Ms.
Ohanian knows
this, but she just
doesn't want to
think about it.

She'll be waiting a
long time for
education to
improve if she
doesn't want to
talk about the most
serious issues.

We need people
like Eli Broad to
force change.  

Then, hopefully, CTA
will start facing the
truth: we need to
between good and
bad teachers.
Part 4:
Susan and
Part 1: Teachers and Democrats
Thank goodness
some Democrats
have had the
courage to stand up
to teachers and
their Democratic
pawns who care
more about their
personal power
than they care
about the children
of America.

I think Susan
cares about
kids, but she
can't get past
her apparent
nobody should
interfere with
teacher culture
or the control of
every single
teacher of

I agree with Susan
that NCLB causes a
lot of pain, mostly to
teachers,  and costs a
lot of money, without
accomplishing much,

Good for Nancy Pelosi,
George Miller, Hillary
Clinton and Edward
Kennedy for STANDING

Also, good for Randi
Weingarten of New
York's teacher union
for agreeing to help
run a charter school.
Maura Larkins' Feb. 23,
2008 email to Susan

Hi Susan:
I'm curious about why
you ignore the problem
of unethical education
Maura Larkins

Hi Susan:
What I meant to say is
this: why do you ignore
the problem of unethical
insurance companies
and their lawyers and
the public employees
who aid and abet them?
Maura Larkins

(still waiting)

Follow-up email:

February 29, 2008

Did you miss my email
about school attorneys?

I get the feeling you're
ignoring me.  But I don't
want to jump to that
conclusion.  If I'm right,
you know what to do with
this email.
Maura Larkins

Your message is on its
way to Susan Ohanian
(who will reply as soon
as possible).
Susan Ohanian,
teacher, author, blogger
Arizona State University writes:

Education Policy Research Unit

Susan Ohanian, a long-time public school
teacher, is a freelance writer whose articles
have appeared in Atlantic, Parents,
Washington Monthly, The Nation, Phi Delta
Kappan, Education Week, Language Arts,
and American School Board Journal. In
2003, Ohanian received The National
Council of Teachers of English's "NCTE
Orwell Award" for her outstanding
contribution, via her website
(http://www.susanohanian.org), to the
critical analysis of public discourse. The
website offers information and inspiration on
high-stakes standards and testing

E-mail Susan Ohanian at
"I know that if schools
ever encouraged or
allowed people to
think for themselves,
we'd have a
democratic revolution
dismantling the
current power

--Susan Ohanian
from The Nation:

Susan Ohanian, a
longtime teacher, is a
fellow at the Education
Policy Research Unit at
Arizona State
University and at the
Vermont Society for the
Study of Education.
She is the author of
One Size Fits Few: The
Folly of Educational

Interview with
Susan Ohanian

Home Education Magazine

January-February 2005

Freelance writer Susan
Ohanian, interviewed for HEM
by Ohio homeschooling leader
Peggy Daly Masternak...

What led you to the

The day after I received my MA
in medieval literature, I boarded
a plane for New York City,
hoping to find a journalism job. I
ended up working in the
television department of the
world's largest advertising
agency. In less than three
weeks, I realized that I needed
something more worthwhile for
my life's work than creating
Listerine and Ford commercials.
So I signed up for night school
education courses--as a
back-up plan.
October 10, 2007

Reg Weaver, President
National Education Association
1201 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036-3290

Dear Mr. Weaver:

Our Task Force to Eliminate NCLB represents approximately 10,000 teachers and support
personnel in the San Joaquin Valley of California. We have been campaigning
aggressively during the last twenty-four months to eliminate the Bush agenda to
privatize public education.

We have posted on our Website, http://www.EliminateNclb.org, a letter from Marc Tucker
to Hillary Clinton. The letter, received two months prior to her husband taking office,
clearly paints an agenda that leads to privatization of our public schools.

Our educators are extremely concerned with the leadership of the National Education
Association. We want to make it clear to the officers of NEA and its management team
that we will not accept an endorsement for a Presidential candidate who does not fully
support public education.

Mr. Weaver, if the current proposed NCLB language stands, and is supported by Hillary
Clinton or any other presidential candidate, they will not have our support.

Thank you for your time regarding this matter.


The Task Force to Eliminate NCLB

Pete Lindstrand Lindsay TA/Eliminate NCLB Chairperson
Members of the Task Force to Eliminate NCLB
Kirsten Barnes, Hanford SEA Pamela Beck, Pleasant View EA
Jackie Buckner, Tulare City TA Carol Clarke, Visalia UTA
Jackie Crusha, Lemoore El, TA Tom Douglass, KTUU
Dennis Durbin, Porterville EA Pearl Gonzales, Farmersville TA
Myndi Hardgrave, Hanford SEA Wendi Hulbert, Corcoran FA
Karl Kildow, Visalia UTA Sandy Dana-Kildow, Visalia UTA
Karla Orosco, Central Union El. TA Michael Rogers, Hanford El. TA
April Silva, Hanford El.TA

301 W. School Avenue, Visalia, CA 93291 TKSCC/KTUU/CTA/NEA
Members of the Task Force to Eliminate NCLB

Eduwonk says that
Susan Ohanian refers
to him and his kind as

Eduwonk.com: August 21,
2005 "thugs" -- Susan
Ohanian ....

Susan Ohanian
makes some good
observations.  I just
wish she could get
politics in

Here are some
descriptions of her
latest book from
Susan Ohanian hates censorship--except, apparently, when it's necessary to keep
wrongdoers in power at the California Teachers Association and local affiliates.  

As long as NEA/CTA is able to prevent any real school reform, we will have desperate
and ineffective measures such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

It's time to take a closer look at teachers, Susan.  You appear to believe that as long
as you leave teachers alone, with the teachers union in control of Democratic
politicians, everything will be fine and dandy.

Our schools have been in crisis for a long time.  NCLB is a symptom, not a cause, of
the crisis.

Teacher quality needs to be improved.  And CTA/NEA is standing in the way.
Questions or Comments
If you have questions,
suggestions, or ideas
about this site, please
use this form to send
them along. Content
comments will go to me.
Technical questions will
go to Eric Crump, the
site developer.

—Susan Ohanian
"The media in this country should
be a sanctuary for dissent.
Instead the media simply acts as
a megaphone for the people in

—Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
"Education blogs should be a
sanctuary for dissent. Instead
Susan Ohanian simply acts as a
megaphone for the people in
power--the California Teachers

--Maura Larkins, SD Ed Rpt
Maura Larkin's
[From Susan's blog]

NCLB In Your Face
Eliminate NCLB Task Force

Ohanian Comment:


This letter will go to all members of
Congress. The letter goes overnight
to Reg Weaver on 10/11/07 and
then on Friday, 10/12/07 copies go
to Congress, putting them on notice
that plenty of California teacher
union members are not going to be
stomped on any more. They are
going to take back their profession.

Hundreds of copies of this letter [see
below] will flood CTA offices starting
Friday. Members are encouraged
post it on their websites and pass it
on to everyone they know.

Democrats need to know they can no
longer take teachers for granted. We
are mad as hell and we aren't going
to take it any more.
Teacher union power in the
Democratic party
Susan Ohanian

"Democrats need to know they
can no longer take teachers for
granted. We are mad as hell and
we aren't going to take it any
Maura Larkins

"Has Susan been paying
attention to the real world of
Democratic politics?

"Democrats have long lived
in terror of teachers.  They
don't dare criticize the
teacher unions.  

"I agree that NCLB is bad, but
this is what happens when
no one is allowed to criticize
teachers.  Susan, you have a
big blind spot.  If you want
free and open discussion,
then NEA/CTA has to allow
Democrats to challenge
some of the union's demands.

"Why is CTA so afraid of merit

"You know very well that
some teachers are fantastic
and others do more harm
than good.  

"Why do we have to pretend
that this isn't so?"
March 2, 2008

I've tried to get in
touch with Susan
Ohanian--to no avail.  

About a year ago I
created a link to a
couple of her webpages
when I was discussing
Downer Five in
WCCCUSD, and within a
couple of hours those
particular webpages
(but no others) were
disconnected from their
addresses.  I emailed a
protest, and the pages
came back on, but I
received no other
More recently, I sent
emails to Susan, but
got no response (see
left column below).  I'll
let readers know if I
hear from her.
Chicago’s Renaissance 2010:
The Small Schools Movement
Meets the Ownership Society

Ohanian Comment:
School reform becomes part of what the
authors call the “ownership society,”
which cannibalizes everything from
education to health care to retirement
benefits, criminal justice, waste
management, elections, public safety, and
water rights. Any area that has traditionally
been part of the common good and
publicly administered is now up for grabs,
and public schools are no exception.
Public space is being divided into sectors
to be sold off or privately managed.

Would-be reformers need to beware of those
who would co-opt the language of reform to
undermine its ideals. Mr. Ayers and Mr. Klonsky
examine how Chicago’s Renaissance 2010
initiative has used the terms of the small
schools movement to promote privatization and
the erosion of public space.

by William Ayers and Michael Klonsky

WE started the Small Schools Workshop in
1991, with the goal of supporting Chicago’s
reformminded teachers as they tried to create
new, smaller learning communities in an
environment that was historically toxic... the
small schools movement offered a strategy for
engaging teachers, students, parents, and
whole communities, the people with the
problem, in a movement for democratic

According to many studies, the results
have been positive.

But ...Some have recently expressed to us their
discomfort with Chicago’s new initiative,
Renaissance 2010, which seems to have more
in common with the erosion of public space, with
the “ownership society,” than it does with
democratic education...

It’s no secret that the language of social
movements can be co-opted or reduced to
empty clichés. In the world of Chicago school
reform, the simple word “choice” has become a
two-edged sword...

Another word commonly used around the
smallschools movement, “autonomy,” was
supposed to signal greater freedom for
educators from bureaucratic
constraints and stupid rules, more local
decision making, and increased teacher

Instead, “autonomy” has been twisted to
mean the absence of accountability or the
“freedom” of charter operators to
implement business efficiencies and run
schools without due process or necessary

This kind of educational doublespeak is
embedded in Chicago’s latest public school
reform strategy, Renaissance 2010.

Ostensibly, it’s a plan to create 100 new
small public schools in six years in minority and
low income neighborhoods.

...The “ownership society,” in matters of
public policy, is... cannibalizing everything
from health care to retirement benefits,
criminal justice, waste management,
elections, public safety, and water rights.
Any area that has traditionally been part of
the common good and publicly
administered is now up for grabs, and
public schools are no exception.

Now, however, the term “open sector” is
being used to turn over large chunks of
public school districts to private school-
operating companies and education
management organizations (EMOs).

What used to be considered public space is
now imagined by groups like the Chicago Civic
Committee and the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation (the main patrons of Ren 10) to be
part of a new marketing space for dozens of
private companies...

Ren 10 also favors politically connected school
operators, private firms that have received
charters to operate Ren 10 schools in
exchange for private investment and high-
powered management and efficiency plans.

One example is the powerhouse Washington
lobbying firm Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal,
whose client list includes such corporate giants
as Mediacom and which enjoys direct ties to
both the White House and the Democratic
National Committee.

Another is K12 Inc., the virtual learning company
founded by former Secretary of Education
William Bennett. Bennett’s name had to be
taken off the company stationery after his
embarrassing, racist comments linking crime
prevention with the abortion of African American

...more than 200 Chicago schools have
now been placed on academic probation,
which, under No Child Left Behind, allows,
encourages, or forces students
to transfer to the new start-ups.

In our opinion, all of this has little to do
with fixing, helping, or restructuring low-
performing schools. But it does increase
instability and uncertainty for struggling

That will make it more difficult for new
schools to sustain their culture over long
periods of time.

While many of the early, mission-driven
charters, which were started by teachers and
community groups, focused on teacher
engagement and empowerment, most of the
100 new
schools will have to focus on bottom-line issues,
with principals or school directors functioning
more as fund raisers than as instructional

Conflicts of interest
abound as charter school operators sit on
board-appointed Evaluation Teams that
approve or disapprove new start-up

The mayor calls openly for a majority of the
100 schools to be union-free, while others
in the Civic Committee are pushing for
80%. All of this has deepened
divisions and fostered distrust in a system
in which a climate of collaboration in the
reform effort had prevailed for the past

Most of the 100 new schools
will have to focus on bottom line
issues, with principals or
school directors functioning more as fund
raisers than as instructional leaders.

The once-heralded experiment in school
decentralization seems headed for the scrap

Resistance to Ren 10 is growing...

...The plan originally called for closing a
whopping 20 of 22 schools in the Mid-South
area, but not a single school in that
neighborhood is closing this year, thanks to the
community-organizing initiatives of groups like
ACORN (Association of Community
Organizations for Reform Now)...

Ren 10 leaders have all but given
up on improving or restructuring the city’s
large traditional schools and are closing
them instead.

The small schools movement was, from its
inception, a collage of educational and political

There was an initial group of autonomy-seeking
young activist teachers who were trying to carve
out some space for innovation and good

Dozens of new schools
were started, and new innovative models like
the multiplex at Cregier High School emerged.
Later, the rug was pulled out from under that
movement, and the new schools were all put on
a strict test-prep regimen.

On Mothers Day 2001, a group of mothers and
grandmothers in Little Village began a hunger
strike, demanding that the leadership of the
Chicago Public Schools fulfill its commitment to
build a new high school in the community.

Funds set aside for the new school had
been spent on new exclusive-enrollment
schools on the north side. The hunger
strike drew widespread support from
church and community groups and led to a
when new superintendent Arne Duncan
announce that the money had been
“found” to build the most expensive high
school in Chicago in Little Village.

...“When we petitioned the board for years for a
decent school, there was no Renaissance
2010. When we had our hunger strike, there
was no Renaissance 2010. When we planned
the design of the school with the architects,
there was no Renaissance 2010. We aren’t
going to turn over our school to Renaissance
2010 now.”

...Small schools are not a panacea, and,
while they create wonderful possibilities,
the language of small schools can be
twisted to become an excuse for inequity
and promotion of the ownership culture.
Every wave of official “school reform,”
including small schools and Ren 10, must
be met with skepticism, agnosticism, and
doubt by those of us who hope and
struggle for a more democratic future, a
more just social order

Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 87, No. 06, February 2006
"... Every wave of official “school
reform,” including small schools
and Ren 10, must be met with
skepticism, agnosticism, and
doubt by those of us who hope
and struggle for a more
democratic future, a more just
social order..."

Florida's school reform
results are "mixed"

from Susan Ohanian blog

"Reform Florida" Policy Briefs

Susan Notes: Although these policy briefs
focus on Florida, everyone should pay
attention. Florida's reforms have served as
de facto models for federal education policy.

This series of policy briefs examining
education reform in Florida finds that the
results of the state's aggressive
school-reform program have been mixed...

Introduction and Executive Summary

For nearly a decade, Florida has been a
laboratory for school reform unlike any in
the nation. While nearly every state has
undertaken a variety of programs aimed at
improving achievement in public schools,
Florida's efforts have been more
far-reaching and wide-ranging. .

...Florida voters have passed a series of
mandates, in the form of amendments to the
state constitution, that seek to reform
education by insuring adequate resources
are provided and by investing in early
education and reduced class size...

In upper grades the news is not so good,
with continued and in some cases widening
achievement gaps along ethnic and
socioeconomic lines.

Lisa Abrams of Boston College (Teachers'
Views on High-stakes Testing: Implications
for the Classroom) reports that the
emphasis on test-driven assessment under
the state's A-plus accountability program
has tended to produce more fear than trust
in Florida's classrooms.

Florida teachers who took part in a national
survey on the impact of high-stakes testing
on their teaching practices were more likely
than their counterparts in other states to
report positive views of state standards and
of their compatibility with the state's testing

...They also report that the pressure to raise
test scores has produced widespread
anxiety among students and quite possibly
encouraged some to drop out of school.

One result of the testing mandated by the
A-plus accountability program has been the
retention in grade of students who fall
below a threshold test score.

Mary Lee Smith... examines the research on
the impact of retaining students in grade
and finds that the practice drives up
dropout rates. She concludes that although
retaining students in grade provides no
short-term benefits, the policy entails
substantial long-term risks for students, and
increases costs to taxpayers.

Students retained in grade are
disproportionately students living in
poverty and members of ethnic minorities.

Examining the state's record since the 1998
implementation of the constitutional
mandate to provide "adequate provision for
a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high
quality system of free public schools,"
Douglas Harris of Florida State University
(Funding Florida's Schools: Adequacy,
Costs, and the State Constitution) finds that
a strong case can be made that the state
has failed to live up to its constitutional
obligation and that Florida is at risk of being
held legally liable as a consequence.

Harris recommends that the legislature
empanel a bipartisan commission to study
the state's education system and bring its
funding into line with terms that would
enable the state to meet the constitutional
standard voters have approved.

... Florida remains under a 1990 consent
decree requiring "equal and
comprehensible instruction" to the state's
LEP students, efforts to meet the decree's
standards have been hampered by the
requirements of the state's A-plus
accountability system, the No Child Left
Behind act, and the too-hasty movement of
LEP students away from bilingual instruction
and into inclusion programs.

Macdonald notes, however, that Florida has
avoided the wholesale hostility to
bilingualism that has harmed LEP education
programs elsewhere.

Briefs ...examine the challenges of
recruiting high quality teachers for every
classroom and appropriately assessing
them once they have been hired. Harris
warns of a serious challenge in finding
qualified teachers to fill every classroom...

...Policy makers have increasingly turned to
two forms of test-driven evaluations of
teachers: paper-and-pencil tests of
teachers themselves, and student test
scores, where student performance is used
to assess teachers' competence...

Find the report at:

Susan Ohanian, a longtime teacher, is a
Fellow at the Vermont Society for the
Study of Education.

She is a co-founder of Educator
Roundtable. In addition, she is a
free-lance writer whose articles have
appeared in periodicals ranging from the
Atlantic and Washington Monthly to Phi
Delta Kappan and Education Week.

Susan is the recipient of The George
Orwell Award for Distinguished
Contributions to Honest and Clarity in
Public Language, National Council of
Teachers of English, 2003; The Kenneth
S. Goodman "In Defense of Good
Teaching" Award, College of Education,
University of Arizona; and The John
Dewey Award for Extraordinary
Contributions to the Education of Young
People In America (2006).
[Maura's note:  Sadly, educators
have dropped the ball on education
reform, which everyone agrees is
needed.  The National Education
Association has left a vacuum, and
through its political power has
maintained that vacuum.  It's no
wonder that opportunists have
stepped in.  NEA is largely to blame
for the very reforms it is opposing.]
“As we enter this new
century, our nation’s
continued prosperity
rests on a strongly
educated, highly skilled
workforce,” Broad
intoned in “Preparing
Leaders for the New
Economy” in School
Administrator (March
2001). Fran
Zimmerman, the school
board member Broad
wanted ousted from San
Diego, told the Los
Angeles Times, “He’s
dabbling in social policy
with all his money, and
affecting change with it,
but it’s not necessarily
good change, and it’s
not really school
reform.” She
emphasized, “It’s
basically a business
agenda for reshaping
the public school

[Maura's note:
Zimmerman is a
teacher union

On April 6, 2003, Eli Broad
put out a call for school
boards to stop being part
of the problem and
become part of the
solution. The Broad
Foundation supports what
it terms leadership
initiatives, promoting
corporate-style school
management in cities from
Seattle to Atlanta to New
York. They include training
for superintendents and
board members, support
for charter school
development, and
demonstration projects
such as a merit pay plan in
Denver. In addition to the
Broad Prize for Urban
Education, there’s the
Broad Center for
Superintendents, and the
Broad Institute for School

The participants > > >

Arlene Ackerman,
superintendent, San
Francisco Unified School
District; Richard C. Atkinson,
president, University of
California; Alan Bersin,
superintendent, San Diego
City Schools; Dominic
Brewer, director, RAND
Education; Dennis
Chaconas, superintendent,
Oakland Unified School
District; Robert Chase,
former president, National
Education Association;
Rudolph F. Crew, director,
the Stupski Foundation; John
Danielson, chief of staff, U. S.
Department of Education;
Chester Finn, president,
Thomas B. Fordham
Foundation; Patricia Harvey,
superintendent, St. Paul
Public Schools; Genethia
Hudley Hayes, board
member, Los Angeles
Unified School District; David
Hornbeck, founder, Good
Schools Pennsylvania;
James Hunt, former
governor, State of North
Carolina; Nancy Ichinaga,
member, California State
Board of Education; Joel
Klein, chancellor, New York
City Department of
Education; Wendy Kopp,
president, Teach for America;
Robin Kramer, senior fellow,
California Community
Foundation; Diana Lam,
superintendent, Providence
Public Schools; Arthur
Levine, president, Columbia
University Teachers College,
Tom Luce, chairman,
National Center for
Educational Accountability;
Joe Lucente, board
president, California Network
of Educational Charters; Don
McAdams, executive director,
Center for Reform of School
Systems; Richard L.
McCormick, president,
University of Washington;
Theodore Mitchell, president,
Occidental College; Barry
Munitz, president and chief
executive officer, J. Paul Getty
Trust; Mark Murray, president,
Grand Valley State University;
Joseph Olchefske,
superintendent, Seattle
Public Schools; Ron Ottinger,
board member, San Diego
City Schools, William Ouchi,
professor, the Anderson
School at University of
California at Los Angeles;
Roderick R. Paige, U. S.
secretary of education, Tim
Quinn, president, Michigan
Leadership Institute; Richard
Riordan, former mayor, City
of Los Angeles; Nancy Daly-
Riordan, children’s rights
activist; Waldemar “Bill”
Rojas, former
superintendent, Dallas
Public Schools; Steven
Sample, president, University
of Southern California; Jay
Schenirer, board member,
Sacramento Unified School
District; Jon Schnur, CEO,
New Leaders for New
Schools; William Siart,
president, ExED, LLC; Kim
Smith, president, New
Schools Venture Fund; Glen
Tripp, president, Galileo
Educational Services,
Urbanski, President,
Rochester (new York)
Teachers Association
Michael Usdan, senior
adviser, Institute for
Educational Leadership;
Carolyn Webb de Macias,
senior associate provost,
University of Southern
Weingarten, president,
United Federation of
Caprice Young,
board president, Los
Angeles Unified School
A Conversation with Susan Ohanian  

by Jo Scott-Coe  

JSC: You've written and spoken extensively about contradictory and
exploitative language within the "Standardisto" movement. Would you
distinguish between the concept of "standards" and "standardization"? Why
or why not?

SO: Standardistas proclaim that standards are a guarantee of educational
equity. Standardization of the curriculum promises the same thing. Don't let
any teacher or curricular quirkiness disrupt a perfect conveyor belt trip to
education excellence. For everybody.

The cynicism underlying the claims is profound. Handing out standards in the
name of preparing everyone to meet the high skills that will be demanded for
employment in the twenty-first century is as cynical as handing out menus to
homeless people in the name of eradicating hunger...

Let them eat cake. Let them take calculus.

... I don't want to argue about who will and who won't take calculus or read
Hamlet. I want us to sit down and discuss at what age we start training kids to
think that if they don't go to college, they will be failures (with the converse
that if they do go, they will be successes).

JSC: What exactly does corporate America stand to gain by a "failure" of the
public school system? How should conscientious teachers and parents view
corporate offers of "sponsorship" for education?

SO: Some corporate interests want privatization of education, sort of a
capitalist free-for-all—for their own gain. But corporate gain goes deeper
than how many books and tests McGraw-Hill sells. There's a larger pattern at
work. We see a similar attack on the working class as seniority rights,
pension benefits, health coverage are reduced. And outsourcing makes
everyone vulnerable. It suits the power brokers to have a scared, compliant
workforce where everybody is competing with everybody else for survival. In
a dog eat dog world of cutthroat competition, there isn't much hope for
solidarity—or for democracy.

So start 'em early. Train young children that their standardized test score is
all that matters and they will grow up to be workers who follow orders. Train
young children that they will never be good enough, and they will blame their
lack of success on themselves, not on a system designed for them to fail.

JSC: When you recently visited Santa Monica to speak at a local bookstore,
a school board member stood up to argue that standardized tests "weren't
working" for a large percentage of Santa Monica students. Her implication,
intended or not, was that testing is fine for those who perform "adequately."
What dangers or traps lurk inside this line of argument?

SO: I taught third grade in a school that rigorously grouped kids according to
their reading scores. They didn't even bother with euphemism: the kids were
designated high, middle, low. By request, I had the low readers. Reading took
up nearly half the school day, but the school was also departmentalized, so
that I had mixed groups for social studies and science.
A child with serious
developmental delays and emotional problems mainstreamed into my
reading group but increasingly he asked to stay for more of the day.
When he appeared in the social studies class, a girl from "high"
reading exclaimed, "Charles is weird." Her tone was superior and
dismissive. Her friends laughed. Charles ran out of the room.

I told the children how shocked I was, that "low" readers supported Charles,
never laughing at him or making him feel anything but a regular part of our
group. I talked to them about what high reading scores did and didn't mean in
terms of important community values like friendship, cooperation, loyalty. I
told them the school was wrong when it isolated children into categories of
superior and not-so-superior but that they could overcome these categories
and if they did so, their lives would be better for it. It so happened that Cathy,
the child who called Charles weird, was warm and caring. She took my
message to heart and wrote Charles a note of apology, asking for another
chance to be his friend.

People who make it into the lifeboats think they deserve to be there. The
wealthy think their own good fortune comes from their own superiority. This
attitude even infects wonderful third graders who, when finding themselves in
the top reading group, aren't aware that test scores are more a function of
zip codes than any innate talent. Being infected with a notion of superiority
and entitlement stunts little kids' development as members of a democracy.
They deserve better—and our society needs better.

JSC: Teachers are vocal among themselves with concerns about testing and
test-prep mania—yet they are often forced to embrace textbooks and
ancillary materials published by the same companies which make the tests.
How might we confront this blind spot? What makes it difficult?

SO: This is hard for me to answer without sounding morally superior,
but here goes. Under a tough new regime in my district, a reading inspector
visited schools, making sure that teachers were on the page of the basal
indicated in their lesson plans. By this time I had worked in the district for
more than 10 years, had even been named the district's first Teacher of the

So I used my clout to good purpose. I was quite vocal about refusing
to use the basal. People waited with glee for the Inspector's visit to
my classroom. He blinked—offering a last-minute excuse for his non-

My point here is that veteran teachers must abandon the
longstanding teacher culture of cooperation and compliance with
Authority. They must stand up and say "No."

Nobody is going to do this for teachers. Grumbling in the faculty room goes
nowhere. Corporate and political interests oppress teachers because they
can. Teachers must organize and take back their profession.

JSC: As a new English department chair, I attended District meetings of all
English chairs to discuss textbook adoption. However, real conversation was
often derailed by excitement over which company would offer the best
gimmicks—filet mignon at a luncheon? red and white wines at the door? tote
bags? notepads? etc. How should teachers in leadership positions respond
to base consumer appeals—especially when District officials themselves play
up such enticements to distract from substantive conflicts over policy and

SO: Lobby the school board to ban gimmicks. Ask the board for a policy on
what is required—and what is disallowed—from publishers.

JSC: A teachers' union in Colorado recently voted to connect teacher
financial incentives to student performance on standardized tests. While
applauded by some as a move towards accountability, few have commented
about how this move provides teachers with financial motives to "sell out"
their students to bad curriculum. What are your thoughts on the responsibility
of teachers in this context?

SO: We have already seen that the pressure to escape NCLB labeling has
brought an increase in cheating on tests. I can't even fathom what tying
students' scores to money in teachers' pockets will do. Can't you see the
kindergarten teacher eliminating "show and tell"—because her pay will be
based on children's knowledge of phonemes?

We already see this across the country—where children who score low on
pre-tests are kept in from recess, art, music, P. E., so they can practice their
skills on mountains of worksheets. I shudder to think of what other "wastes of
time" will disappear from schools when a teacher's income is tied to test

I would remind people of the World of Opportunity in Birmingham,
Alabama, which rescues high schoolers pushed out of schools.
There, 522 African-American students were "withdrawn" from school
right before the administration of the state tests. The schools were
in danger of being taken over by the state if they didn't improve their
test scores. Of course the easiest way to improve scores is to get rid
of low scorers. What maneuvering will go on in elementary schools
to get rid of low scorers? More labeling? More behavior expulsions?

We must acknowledge and honor resisters.
When California started
awarding bonuses for student performance on the state test some years
back, a few teachers stood tall and refused it or donated it to a test
resistance advocacy group or some other favorite charity.

JSC: While ill-defined concern over "teacher quality" gets a lot of
press at the moment, how might one play devil's advocate to argue
that underqualified—or underconfident—teachers are precisely what
standardization, with its "teacher-proof" materials, actually demands?

SO: Clearly, lining up behind a behavioristic curriculum of test prep
requires teachers who don't think too much.

And I think there's something else at work.

In my new book, Why Is Corporate America Bashing Public Schools?
(Heinemann), I discuss the new requirements for paraprofessionals. Under
NCLB, they must earn 2-year college degrees. Take a look at the math
requirements: http://susanohanian.org/show_nclb_stories.html?id=38

Read these hyper-qualifications for paraprofessionals along with news that
corporate committees are advocating $100,000 salaries for top teachers in a
restructured profession with tiers of professionalism. Pay a top teacher
$100,000 to direct a horde of paraprofessionals to use the direct instruction
curriculum. Parents will be assured that Paras, who make $9 an hour, have
college degrees. This scheme will be a big money saver and will further
cement corporate values in the schoolhouse.

JSC: It's ironic that, while we claim we want students to be "lifelong learners"
and "critical thinkers," schools seem to expect passivity and acquiescence
from teachers themselves...

SO: ...
I know that if schools ever encouraged or allowed people to
think for themselves, we'd have a democratic revolution dismantling
the current power structure.
Since jobs in our society are distributed on
the basis of social class, it is in the interest of the corporate-politico
Standardistas to keep independent thought out of the schools—for teachers
and learners...

Education Oasis

Ms. Ohanian offers readers
reams of evidence
showing that the
Standardisto boat is
leaking badly.

By Susan Ohanian

seventh-grade teacher
who is intimately familiar
with an atmosphere of
ongoing crisis and
impending doom, I'm not
often overcome by
apocalyptic imaginings.
But the arrival of two
officers of the law from
Gwinnett County, Georgia,
on our doorstep in rural
Vermont did get my
attention. The cops
threatened my extradition
for a felony, punishable by
five years in jail and a
$50,000 fine. I've seen
cantaloupes smaller than
the badge packed by the
cop who told me my link to
the felony is that I live five
miles from the post office
from which a high-stakes
Gwinnett County test,
written by
CTB/McGraw-Hill, was
mailed to the Georgia
media. Go figure.

Gwinnett County, Georgia, isn't
desperate to raise average test
scores, which are pretty darned
good already. This affluent suburban
Atlanta district, which enrolls
110,300 students in its public
schools, is the showcase of Gov. Roy
Barnes' plan for raising school
standards statewide. It is the first
district in Georgia to institute
high-stakes tests. Even so, the
Georgia media have shown no
interest in commenting on the loony
test questions used to decide
whether students pass or fail a
grade. Maybe journalists think it
appropriate for fourth-graders to be
interrogated about the
socio/political/economic effects of
the publication of Harriet Beecher
Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin or
whether one is more likely to find
information about the history of
pretzels in a newspaper or an

Anyone who thinks the answer
to the pretzel question is
obvious should try looking up
"pretzels" in an encyclopedia,
something the test item writers
obviously failed to do.

Anyone who thinks Gwinnett
County is unique must have
been taking a long snooze.
Fourth-graders in New York
City are interrogated about the
purity of maple syrup;
high-schoolers are asked to
respond to an essay by Roger
Ascham (you know, the
16th-century fellow who gained
fame for his essay on archery).
Students in Los Angeles are
asked about lemon mousse.
The SAT 9 (Stanford
Achievement Test) gives
third-graders a rigorous
proofreading test, along with
some nutty vocabulary items.
Quick, does one visit the Statue
of Liberty or the statue of
liberty? Is a raindrop hitting
one's head more like a dart
hitting a target or a storm
hitting a region? More
important, does anyone think
the answers should determine
whether a student passes or
fails third grade?

The SAT 9 sixth-grade social
studies inquisition defies
description. It seems to be
playing one-upmanship with E.
D. Hirsch's What Your
Sixth-Grader Needs to Know.
I've long thought Hirsch's
curriculum for sixth-graders
was wacky in its scope (and
lack of sequence), but the SAT
9 makes Hirsch look puny.

The SAT 9 interrogates
sixth-graders on the
functions of local
government (as contrasted
with state and national),
on the location of Idaho
and Utah on a U.S. map
(full disclosure: my Ph.D.
husband missed both),
the processes of the
Constitutional Convention of
1787, on the relationship
between production and
consumption, on causes of the
change in American family
structure, and on the meaning
of the Preamble to the U.S.

The SAT 9 asks sixth-graders to
identify the requirements for a
police search of one's home;
the climate of Moscow, Seattle,
Cairo, and Paris; the Northwest
Ordinance of 1787; the
outcome of the Industrial
Revolution; reasons that
English colonists came to
Massachusetts; and results of
the Louisiana Purchase.
Sixth-graders must also know
about Eli Whitney, the
Holocaust, and treaties
between the U.S. and the
Soviet Union in the 1970s and
1980s; the reason for the
growth of urban areas in the
19th century; why the
Republican Party was formed in
1854; the relationship of Henry
Ford's assembly line to the
price of cars; whether the
person for whom
Constantinople was named was
a pope, scholar, emperor, or
poet; what the law says about
handicap access; what
archeologists study; the
differences between a will, a
license, a deed, and a lien; and
the significance of California's
being granted statehood
before Wyoming. Whew!

Fifth-graders have it easy.
They just have to guess
whether totem poles carved by
the Native Americans of the
Pacific Northwest were most
like modern family albums,
road maps, science books, or
almanacs. They also need to
know whether the clothes of
early Hawaiians who lived in
rain forests were most likely
made from wool, feathers,
sealskin, or cotton.

In California, complaints
circulate that the SAT 9 test is
too hard in grade 2 and just
gets worse through the grades.
The Los Angeles Times, long
rumored to be in possession of
a bootlegged test, published
questions in fall 2000, along
with expert commentary
explaining how goofy the
questions are. A teacher,
frustrated by threats of losing
his job if he reveals what he
knows about the
inconsistencies and outrages of
the SAT 9, posted research
findings on a test resistance
website. His work indicates
wildly inappropriate reading
levels. He also points out that
students taking the Graduate
Record Examination or the Law
School Admissions Test are
given more time per item than
is given to a 6-year-old taking
the SAT 9.

Mickey VanDenwerker is a
cofounder of Parents Across
Virginia United to Reform SOLs.
(SOL stands for Standards of
Learning and is Virginia's entry
in the "test 'em till they drop"
marathon.) VanDenwerker
points out that posing
questions like "What is a
cartouche?" to measure a
student's knowledge of "the
contributions of ancient Egypt
and China which have had an
impact on world history, with
emphasis on written language,
laws, calendars, and
architectural monuments such
as the P
yramids and the
Great Wall of China" is
what caused her son, a
sixth-grader, to fall
backwards off the bus
because his book bag was
too heavy. "He weighs 62
pounds; the book bag is 41
pounds. He does
homework from 5 to 9
each night with a
25-minute break for
dinner. He has gone to bed
crying twice this week
because he is doing a
1,000-word research
paper on what the walls of
the U.S. Capitol would say
(from 1800 to 1900) in
addition to everything else.
We are definitely speeded up
around here."

Is it any wonder that the
people who write these tests
and the Standardistos who
spend millions of dollars buying
them insist that they be kept
secret? Teachers in New Jersey
are forbidden to look at the
tests while they are
administering them to the
children in their care. Glancing
at a test question is the eighth
deadly sin in New Jersey.

Teresa Glenn, a North Carolina
middle school teacher, was
suspended for five days for
paraphrasing two oddball test
items on a listserv set up by
the state as a place for
teachers to discuss educational
concerns. Teachers may be
concerned about the test, but
they are forbidden to discuss it.

Fortunately for Oregon
teacher Bill Bigelow, the
Portland superintendent
refused the then-state
superintendent's demand
to fire Bigelow for writing
an article titled "Social
Studies Tests from Hell."

Jim Bougas, a Massachusetts
middle school teacher, was
suspended for two weeks for
refusing to give the state's
high-stakes test as required by
the corporate-led forces of
education reform in that state.
Bougas says, "If the MCAS
(Massachusetts Comprehensive
Assessment System)
continues, I have no job
because they've taken it away
from me as long as I have to
spend my time teaching to the
test." At 17 hours, the MCAS is
longer than the Massachusetts
bar exam.

In Birmingham, Alabama,
Steve Orel, an adult
education instructor, was
fired for questioning why
522 students were pushed
out of city schools that were
under threat of state
takeover because of their
low test scores. The
students were
withdrawn" shortly before
the SAT 9 tests were

Testing experts note that the
easiest way for a school to
raise its scores is to make sure
the students who are likely to
score lowest don't take the
test. Obviously, those who are
kicked out of school won't be
there to take the test.

Although fired, Orel refused to
stay down. He has opened a
new school, with new students
arriving daily. Teachers and
students around the country
are responding to his efforts
and raising money to buy books
to send to Birmingham.

Veteran Chicago teacher
and journalist George
Schmidt has paid the
highest price for resisting
high-stakes tests. Schmidt
was fired from what even
his antagonists admit was
a distinguished career of
29 years teaching in the
public schools of Chicago.
He is also being sued for
$1.3 million for publishing
six of 22 Chicago pilot
tests in Substance, an
investigative and
analytical newspaper
about Chicago schools.

Independent experts,
including Gerald Bracey,
have declared these tests
unprofessional, simplistic,
and error-ridden, but
Schmidt, not the
test-makers, is on the firing
. A group of teachers and
parents has established the
Committee to Recognize
Courage in Education and offers
the Emperor's Clothes Award.3
George Schmidt will be the first
recipient of the group's award.

Last February, the St.
Petersburg Times
challenged Florida
politicians to take the
high-stakes tests they
insist high-schoolers pass
in order to graduate. All

Parents and teachers in
Colorado asked Gov. Bill Owens
and Bill Maloney, the state
commissioner of education, to
take the CSAP (Colorado
Student Assessment Program),
the high-stakes test that the
president of the Colorado
Association of School Boards
said Einstein would probably
have failed. Both state officials

Parents are speaking out
against the testing insanity.
Carol Holst, a Texas
mother-turned-activist who
heads the Parents United to
Reform TAAS Testing, tells of
her fourth-grade son who
couldn't sleep because he was
worried that, if he and his
classmates didn't do well on the
test, Holst would lose her job
and her children would not have
food. She points out that her
son's school had no science or
social studies because they
aren't covered on the TAAS
(Texas Assessment of
Academic Skills).

Mary O'Brien, a parent activist
who has been questioning the
Ohio Proficiency Tests (OPTs)
for more than three years,
says her husband and sons tell
people that the telephone
receiver is "surgically
attached" to her ear. O'Brien
says that her group's largest
success has been in holding
testing parties, groups of 10 to
15 people who come together
to learn about the tests.

Parents in Gwinnett
County, Georgia, took the
fourth-grade practice test
and then asked why they,
well-educated adults,
scored so miserably.

They formed the Concerned
Parents of Gwinnett County to
fight the tests. Now these
parents are under investigation
by Gwinnett County policemen.
The cops who appeared at my
home promised to go easy on
me if I'd just implicate the
activist parent who set up the
protest website, who filed for
documents under the Freedom
of Information Act, and who
distributed fliers that provoked
700 concerned parents to show
up at a school board meeting to
protest the high-stakes tests.
On 3 August 2000, some 1,000
teachers attended the
Gwinnett County school
system's orientation for new
teachers and heard tips on
communicating with parents.
Maybe the governor and the
cops should have been invited.

In 1937 Frank Lloyd
Wright built a house in
Wisconsin for industrialist
Hibbard Johnson. One
rainy evening Johnson was
entertaining some
important guests for
dinner when the roof
began to leak. The water
dripped onto Johnson's
bald head. He telephoned
Wright in a rage. "Frank,
you have built this
beautiful house, but I have
told you the roof leaks,
and right now it's leaking
right on my head."

Wright replied, "Why don't
you move your chair?"

That's an answer worthy
of the Standardistos. When
97% of the schools in
Virginia fail the state test,
state officials declare that
something must be wrong
with the students, but not
with the test.
But as the
Honor Roll of Resistance shows,
the Standardisto boat is leaking
badly. Last October, on the
occasion of receiving the New
York ASCD (Association for
Supervision and Curriculum
Development) Educator of the
Year award, Thomas Sobel, the
former state commissioner of
education, remarked that we
"don't need more prizes for
measuring rain but should
award prizes instead for
building arks." Sobel added
that it's time for people to
stand up and say that our
current mania for standards
and measurements is "crazy
and immoral." He concluded by
observing that the people who
do stand up may be lonely. But
they will also be doing the
Lord's work.

SUSAN OHANIAN is a ...media
consultant for the John Dewey
Project on Progressive
Education at the University of
Vermont, Burlington.

from Phi Delta Kappan
We need to remember that
our high school graduates
will become chefs, plumbers,
child-care workers, as well
as musicians and artists. We
must consider the possibility
that the ability to manipulate
quadratic equations might
not be a realistic goal for all.
Certainly we must not dump
kids who don't achieve this
goal to the slagheap of high
school dropouts.

Don't parents want clear

Parents want their children
to be in the care of
competent teachers who are
capable to nurturing those
children, teachers who like
their children whether or not
they read on grade level.

I sat on the plane next to a
heart-broken father whose
son was denied a high
school diploma because he
did not meet the reading
standards. Dad kept telling
me what a great kid his deaf
son is personable, reliable,
hard working, honest,
helpful. And now he can't get
a job in the Federal Express
warehouse because he
doesn't have a high school
diploma. Dad didn't expect
his son to get a high-tech
job; he wanted his kid to be
able to work in a warehouse.
Mining the knowledge and
experience. What a
metaphor. What a reality.
Dig right in.
Susan Ohanian of Charlotte is a senior fellow at the Vermont
Society for the Study of Education.

Is it rigor, or is it rigor mortis?

By Susan Ohanian
Rutland Herald
April 6, 2006

Rigor, this decade's word of the day for the education industrial
complex, commands scrutiny. In 1999, when Edward Rust Jr.,
chief executive officer of State Farm Insurance Company,
addressed the U. S. House of Representatives, saying that "the
federal government has a role in helping states develop and
maintain rigorous academic standards," he brought the weight of
his chairmanship of the National Alliance of Business and the
Education Task Force for The Business Roundtable, not to
mention board positions at McGraw-Hill, Achieve Inc., and the
Business-Higher Education Forum. Six years later, speaking at
the National Governors Association education summit, Bill Gates
identified a new set of three R's — the first one being rigor. In
announcing a $42 million initiative to prepare all students for
success, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation trumpeted:
Leaders call for equity, rigor in the American high school. And
when money talks, politicos legislate. The president's 774-page
budget bill calls for the federal government to rate the academic
rigor of the nation's 18,000 high schools. Republicans and
Democrats vie for whose education platform is more rigorous:
Mom, apple pie, and rigor.
Rigor: Strictness or severity, as in temperament, action, or
judgment. A harsh or trying circumstance; hardship. A harsh or
cruel act.
Physiology: A state of rigidity in living tissues or organs that
prevents response to stimuli.
Synonym: Stiffness, rigidness; inflexibility; severity; austerity;
sternness; harshness; strictness; exactness.
—The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language,
4th edition.
Nonetheless, the clamor for rigor increases. It's no surprise that
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings promotes advanced
placement courses as "a very effective model to get teachers
the full capability to teach rigorous course work." More
disquieting, even bizarre, is Montgomery County superintendent
Jerry Weast's campaign, headlined in an article "Why We Need
Rigorous, Full-Day Kindergarten." In June 2006, Montgomery
County holds its second annual conference titled Partners for
Rigor Through Relevancy.
Stevens Elementary School in Washington promises to achieve
its goal of 77.2 percent of students meeting standards on the
fourth grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning by
promoting a "school focus of respect, responsibility, and rigor."
The South Dakota Department of Education distributes
checklists on which teachers indicate how well professional
development activities produced "Increased Academic Rigor in
my Classes." The CESA 4 Standards and Assessment Center in
Wisconsin, provides alignment worksheets and rigor ladders in
reading and mathematics, though just what the difference
between a rigor ladder and a skills checklist is not readily
In the Elementary Education Newsletter, winter 2006, California
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell writes
that the mathematics framework for California public schools
provides for the "implementation of a rigorous and coherent
mathematics curriculum for kindergarten through grade 12."
California unionists join in. Representing the 319,000-member
California Teachers Association, Betty Ann James announced,
"Let me assure you that today's rigorous kindergarten aims to
prepare youngsters to succeed in the hard academic work that
begins in first grade."
Not surprisingly, for-profit organizations move in for the rigor kill.
The International Center for Leadership in Education, headed
by Dr. William R. Daggett, has developed The Rigor/Relevance
Framework. Vermont's former education commissioner Ray
McNulty is a senior consultant with this outfit. Their Rigor and
Relevance Handbook is available for $40 (plus postage).
In its report the State of State Standards the Thomas B.
Fordham Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., assigned
each state a grade for their academic standards. The grades
were based on the standards' measurability, specificity, and
rigor. Rigor being in the eye of the beholder, Vermont received
a D-plus.
Across the country, journalists and editorialists pick up on the
corporate call for rigor: "more academically rigorous material to
lower grades" (Burlington Free Press); questioning "whether
spring test results meet rigorous new federal standards for
student performance" (Raleigh News and Observer); "Blame
parents for lack of rigor in high schools, Gov. Tom Vilsack says"
(Des Moines Register); "the national effort to ratchet up the rigor
of American high school education." (New York Times)
Perhaps we in Vermont can take some small comfort that rigor
doesn't rear its ugly head until page 3 of the Vermont
Department of Education application for a Reading First grant
from the federal government. There, the department promises to
provide rigorous expectations for reading instruction throughout
the grant sites and across the state. And please note: They are
talking about the education of 5-year-olds.
Read further and you'll see what the department has
abandoned in the name of this rigor. Thanks to the edicts of the
rapacious No Child Left Behind and its illegitimate spawn,
Reading First, kindergartners and primary graders now inhabit
rigorous skill drill zones.
In the guidelines for Reading First applications, the federal
government made it clear what was expected, warning, "State
applications, however, will be held to rigorous standards for
approval." Money commands, and the Vermont Department of
Education followed orders. In marching to the corporate-
politicos' tune, the Department of Education has strayed far from
the principles of the Vermont Design for Education, a 1968
statement of belief about how children learn. One must ask
whom, besides functionaries at the U. S. Department of
Education, they consulted before doing this. The word rigor
does not appear in the 10-page Design for Education, but plenty
of good words do. Vermonters would do well to reject the
corporate-politico jingles and look again to our educational
roots. The Vermont Design for Education is a good place to start.
Susan Ohanian of Charlotte is a senior fellow at the Vermont
Society for the Study of Education.

Thanks for posting this Susan.
I've been meaning to research education in Vermont, as I'm
convinced that bad education is one of the United States'
primary ills. Let me get this straight- Vermont consistently places
in the top five states in primary education, but we get a "D," in
I went to a high school with 4000 students in Fairfax County,
Virginia, ranked as one of the three best counties in the nation
for education. There were certainly several tiers of expectations.
In particular, English classes & political science classes differed
markedly for the "smart," kids.
The rest was rigorous Pavlovian cash-register conditioning.
All this "rigor," is going to do is squelch the inquisitive mind, and
convince children that "learning," is miserable work. They'll be
much happier if they simply go to work, watch T.V. and buy stuff.
Yeah. And don't ask too many questions, kid, we're studying for
a test, and we get more money if you do well...
If we want to have a functional citizenry in our new Vermont,
we're going to have to dispense with this assembly line
education. This is the perfect place to ask the question: would
we like to have $10,000 to spend as we want, or $11,500 to
spend as the American Federal government says we have to?
I'll take the $10,000.
Submitted by J.Arthur Loose on Fri, 04/07/2006 - 9:29am. Login
or register to post comments Greetings Susan and Jol,
AsGreetings Susan and Jol,
As an educator for fifteen years myself, I agree with both of you.
We can do more with less.
We can educate our children with more compassion AND teach
them real life skills suitable to living in our changing 21st century
world, one that won't need to instill rigor for rigor's sake, or
assembly-line obedience, in the hearts and minds of our young
Let's take this up in our fall "back to school" Vermont Commons
issue, shall we?
Cheers, Rob

from Susan Ohanian's blog

Parents Use Test Scores To Pick Out New Houses

When Aparna Seethepalli and Sarvesh Jagannivas jumped into
the housing market, they met their real estate agent armed with
spreadsheets, charts, and one number: 920.

With two young children, the couple only wanted to buy in one
of Silicon Valley's best school districts. So they insisted on
seeing houses near schools with scores of 920 or above on the
state's Academic Performance Index.

The latest API scores, released Thursday, rank California
public schools based on how well students score on
standardized tests.

Parents, teachers and superintendents always pay close
attention to the scores. But the scores are also driving real
estate prices for prospective home buyers and sellers, real
estate agents and educators say, because they make it
possible to compare schools to others within the same school

From Fremont to Almaden Valley to Palo Alto, ``score
shopping'' is more important to some than commute times, lot
size or granite counter tops.

Critics argue that API only proves how well students take tests,
while real learning is influenced by creative teaching, innovative
music or arts programs, and classroom culture. High API scores
are overwhelmingly associated with socioeconomic status and
the education levels of parents, so some educators grumble
that API stands for ``Affluent Parent Index.'' Schools with low
scores tend to have high concentrations of students living in
poverty or learning English for the first time.

Sarvesh Jagannivas, a marketing director at San Jose's Agile
Software, knows that API doesn't tell a school's whole story. But
when he and his wife began their house hunt last spring, he
crunched API data with gusto.

He talked to friends and colleagues about schools and scores
and pored over Web sites such as www.great schools.net. He
carefully plotted charts and graphs, paying close attention to
schools that made gains on API over time and those that
showed volatility.

``It became for us literally a number for the school and the
community,'' said Jagannivas, who attended private schools in
his native India but wants a public school experience for his
children. ``If a school had 850 and they inched upward in a
consistent fashion, I knew something good was happening in
the school.''

His intense preparation made his wife chuckle.

``My husband is an analytical MBA type of guy -- everything
has to be graphed and charted out,'' she said. ``Education is
very important to us, and API scores were the best measure for
us to say `This is a good school.' ''

Their Realtor, Malka Nagel, has seen this kind of research

``One client came in with a map of various cities and stickers
everywhere,'' said Nagel. ``It was color coded for Most
Acceptable, Acceptable, and Least Acceptable schools.''

One Cupertino real estate agent plans to include API scores in
an upcoming mailer. Another found clients a townhouse they
loved -- great neighborhood, right price -- but they declined to
make an offer because the assigned school had an API of 818,
and they wanted 850 or above. The state says that all schools
should strive for a score of at least 800.

``Realtors ask questions about API that are as technical as any
questions I get from local superintendents,'' said Jack
O'Connell, a former teacher and the state superintendent of
public instruction.

The Fremont Union High School District has five high schools --
Cupertino, Fremont, Homestead, Lynbrook and Monta Vista --
that are among the best in the state.

But within the district, slight variations in API scores greatly
affect real estate prices. Homes within the boundaries of high-
scoring Monta Vista and Lynbrook command higher prices than
equivalent houses in the Homestead or Cupertino attendance
areas, which in turn are higher then Fremont. One agent said
that a house that would sell for $780,000 in the Cupertino high
school attendance area probably would fetch $1 million in
Monta Vista.

``It becomes a situation where the good schools get sought
after, and that drives up appreciation,'' said Steve Elich, a
Coldwell Banker agent in Cupertino. ``As the prices go up the
people who can afford them tend to be higher educated, so the
schools get even better. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.''

Shelby Spain, Fremont Union's assessment director, warns that
API, while important, is not the only measure parents should
look at.

``We need to get the message across that API is not the most
important factor,'' said Spain. ``You need to look at the courses
that are offered and the culture of the school.''

One of Elich's clients, David McDonnell, is currently renting in
San Francisco with his wife and two children. McDonnell
commutes to Redwood Shores in Redwood City for work, and
they want to buy in the Cherry Chase neighborhood of
Sunnyvale. Elich taught them the ins and outs of API, and 850
is the number they have in mind.

``We look at the home as the largest investment we'll ever
make,'' said McDonnell, who is already thinking about preschool
for his 20-month-old son and 5-week-old daughter. ``I see good
schools as an insurance policy against a crash in the market.
Even in down markets, if the real estate flatlines, you'll be able
to get a good return on your investment.''

Seethepalli and Jagannivas got lucky. They could afford to buy
a house in Saratoga's ``golden triangle,'' the area that feeds
Saratoga High School. In April, they closed on a house with a
beautifully landscaped front yard, three bedrooms, and a plum

It cost more than $1 million, but they feel it is worth it. Their 6-
year-old daughter, Ankitha, is in the first grade at Argonaut
Elementary, which has an API score of 949 (a slight drop from
last year's score of 952).

``We are quite happy with the school,'' said Jagannivas, who
likes the emphasis on math and science, the level of parental
involvement, and the fact that it feeds Redwood Middle School
and Saratoga High School. ``So far my hypothesis has come

— Dana Hull
San Jose Mercury News

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This is G o o g l e's cache of http://susanohanian.org/atrocity_fetch.
php?id=3155 as retrieved on Jan 31, 2008 23:25:45 GMT.
[Maura's note:  I agree with Susan and Spock--to a
degree.  Psychologists find that the truly
intelligent know more than they think they know,
but that there are many less-intelligent people
who are confident that they are smarter than
everyone else, even though tests prove they are
fooling themselves.

I suggest standardized testing for teachers, and a
competent teacher in every classroom.  Then we
wouldn't have to give kids standardized tests very
often, maybe once every few years.

The fact is that "standardistos" come from the
dominant teacher culture, which is NOT
knowledgeable, intuitive, pragmatic or flexible.]
According to the Broad
Foundation website (http://
www.broad foundation.
org/), its plan is to
“redefine the traditional
roles, practices, and
policies of school board
principals, and labor union
leaders to better address
contemporary challenges
in education.”

Broad’s deep pockets mean
it gets to define those
challenges. Follow Broad
money: A pattern emerges of
business and foundation
money moving in on local
Founder Eli
Broad was influential in
getting the Los Angeles
superintendency for
former Colorado governor
Roy Romer,
and it’s no
coincidence that the Broad
Foundation gave its first
urban ed prize to Houston —
with Rod Paige at the helm. A
tight circle of backslapping
and influence peddling

Writing in the San Diego
Reader, Matt Potter
asked, “Why would two
obscure East Coast liberal
foundations unite with
some of the most
conservative and
wealthiest of San Diego
business interests in a
secretive attempt to
defeat incumbent board
member Frances O’Neill

The answer is that Los
Angeles billionaire Eli Broad’
s money reaches far and
wide — from California
school boards to East Coast
foundations with liberal ties.
In 1999, Broad teamed up
with then-Los Angeles mayor
Richard Riordan and Ron
Burkle to get what they called
a reform-minded school
board elected. According to
the Los Angeles Daily News,
funds from the Coalition for
Kids, created by Riordan and
Broad, broke the union
stranglehold over the Los
Angeles Unified School
District. The Los Angeles
Times agreed, also tagging
Riordan’s manipulations as
“reform.” A Times editorial
praised Riordan and “the
business-led Committee on
Effective School
Governance” for supporting
school board reform
candidates who would “hold
greedy labor demands at bay
. . . and put improving
student achievement ahead
of teacher union wish lists.”

The alternative press put it
differently. Writing in LA
Weekly, Howard Blume
“Most of the money
is from the pockets of the
mayor himself and dozens
of his closest rich friends
and associates.” With big
money being spent to
dump three incumbents
from their $24,000-per-
year low-profile jobs, the
operation is known as the
most expensive school
board campaign in the
country’s history.
[Maura's guess:
because they received
poor educations, too!  
That's the reason many
teachers can't teach
well.  They were never
taught well themselves.]
According to Forbes
400, at $3.8 billion,
Eli Broad places
forty-fifth in U. S.
wealth. Number
eighty-two in world’s
richest. You have to
be quick on your
feet to keep up with
new Broad projects
to reform education.
[Maura's note: Right.  
But why do you talk
about grand, unlikely
scenarios, and at the
same time refuse to
criticize the extreme
hostility of teachers
and their unions
toward discussion of
“By mining the knowledge
and experiences of
successful school districts
and then helping other
districts use that
knowledge and
experience, this program
aims to accelerate the
gains in the bottom line —
improved student
achievement and school
system performance,” said
Eli Broad.

(American Product and Quality
Center. 2001.Press Release.
21 August. Accessed at http:
//old. apqc.org /about/press
/dispPress Release.cfm?
[Maura's note:  I agree with Ms. Ohanian that it
almost always does much more harm than good
when a child is forced to repeat a grade.  
On August 21, 2001, the
Broad Foundation and the
American Productivity and
Quality Center (APQC),
which identifies itself as a
nonprofit organization and
“a recognized leader in
benchmarking, knowledge
management and best-
practice information,”
announced that Chicago’s
school district had been
chosen as a national
model for leadership and
principal development in
our nation’s public schools.
The Broad Foundation’s
Benchmarking Project was
putting up $600,000 to
identify what works in
public schools.
Susan Ohanian makes a lot of
sense a lot of the time--but
why doesn't she talk about
practical solutions?

For example: we could reduce the responsibilities
of mediocre (or worse) teachers, and let them
assist master teachers.  Master teachers would be
responsible for several classrooms.

Example 2: reduce the influence of those who
maintain their power in the education
establishment through illegal tactics (this would
include (
administrators and officials who milk the
system, and the private companies, including
insurance companies, who pull the strings).
Who should be allowed to
talk about school reform?

Apparently only people who
agree with Susan Ohanian and

By Susan Ohanian  

Studying conferences programs
reveals a lot of info about Standardisto

We often hear the political exhortation
"Follow the money!" Here's our chance
to do it: From golf games to breakout
sessions, to every morsel of food and
drink, money talks at the annual
get-together of the National
Association of State Boards of
Education. Money talks, and it talks
dirty. How dirty? Just read this program
very carefully. Then keep this ed biz
coziness in mind the next time you
read blather from your state board of
education about a teacher's
responsibilities for standards and

National Association of State
Boards of Education
2002 Annual Conference
October 10-12, 2002
Westin Horton Plaza Hotel
San Diego, California

Thursday, Oct 10, 2002
Pre-Conference Activities
7:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
NASBE Foundation Golf Tournament
Torrey Pines Golf Course, La Jolla, CA

8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Healthy Schools Network

8:45 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.
High School Institute
Restructuring High Schools: From
Policy to Practice
Sponsored by the Carnegie

2:00 - 3:45 p.m.
Boardsmanship Institute
"State Board Website Technologies"
Amivtav Thamba (1)

Friday, Oct. 11
8:00 - 9:30 a.m.
Opening Session Breakfast
Keynote speaker: Roy Romer
Sponsored by The McGraw Hill
Companies (2)

9:45 - 11:00 a.m.
Breakout sessions

Teacher recruitment and retention
Panel: Michael Poliakoff (3)
Margaret Fortune (4)
Sponsored by National Evaluation
Systems (5)

Physical Education for Life
Panel: Jean Blaydes (6), Phil Lawler
Sponsored by Coca-Cola USA (7)

11:15 - 12:15 p.m.
General Session Speaker
Dr. Charles Hayne (8)

12:30 - 2:00 p.m.
Policy Leader of the Year luncheon
Sponsored by ETS K-12 Works (9)

2:15 - 3:30p.m.
Breakout Session

Implementation of ESEA
James Horne (10), Florida Secretary of
Sponsored by Data Recognition

Saturday, Oct. 12
8:15 ? 9:00 a.m.
Topical Breakfast

Sponsored by Educational Testing
Service **

9:30 - 10:30 a.m.

General Session Speaker
U. S. Assistant Secretary of Education
Susan Neuman (11)
Sponsored by Harcourt Educational
Measurement *

12:15 - 1:30p.m.
General Session Luncheon
Adelaide Sanford (12)
Sponsored by Holy[sic], Rinehart &
Winston and Harcourt School
Publishers *

6:00 - 7:00 p.m.
President's Reception
Sponsored by Houghton Mifflin *

7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
President's Banquet

Notes [regarding speakers]

(1) Amivtav Thamba
Thamba is with Crowe Chizek and
Company, in partnership with IBM. In
his report to the Indiana Education
Roundtable, advocating
comprehensive data collection on
every student, Thamba said, ?doing
this costs less than not doing it.?

(2) Keynoter and McGraw Hill
Standards in practice: Los Angeles
adopts Open Court. McGraw Hill
sponsors LA Superintendent of
Schools Roy Romer.

(3) Michael Poliakoff
President of the teacher-bashing
National Council on Teacher Quality,
formerly the Teacher Quality Initiative,
created by an alliance between the
Education Leaders Council and the
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

(4)Margaret Fortune
Executive Director, Project Pipeline,
Northern California Teacher
Recruitment Center [Alternative

(5) National Evaluation Systems
National Evaluation Systems, Inc.? is
an education services company that
develops and administers customized
teacher certification testing.

(6) Jean Blaydes
Texas P. E. Teacher of the Year

(7) Coca-Cola USA
8/1/02: North Carolina News &
Observer reports that Wake County
students and teachers chugged
enough soda for school system to
collect $2 million from its exclusive
beverage contract. But some folk (not
at Assocation of State Boards of
Education) are beginning to worry
about health risks to children.

(8) Dr. Charles Haynes
Here's the one speaker without a
corporate sponsor. Could it be
because he is from the First
Amendment Center?

(9) ETS K-12 Works
Princeton, N.J. (May 28, 2002) ETS
today announced that its new
(for-profit) unit will be called K-12

(10) James Horne
No Child Left Behind Act includes
many important provisions, but I
believe one that is particularly key and
relevant to this morning's hearing is
the focus on 'scientifically based
research.' This term is used
throughout the new law in a way which
will require everything from technical
assistance for failing schools to
reading programs to be based upon
sound scientific evidence that shows
such strategies are effective toward
improving student academic
testimony to Committee on Education
& the Workforce, 107th Congress

(11)Susan Neuman
"We're no longer debating whether
scientifically based research and
scientifically based evidence is
important, we know it now is important
and we know it is critical. As many of
you know, we have counted one
hundred and eleven times that the
phrase 'scientifically based research' is
in our new law."
February 6, 2002

Susan Neuman said the new federal
No Child Left Behind Act, if
implemented the right way, will put an
end to creative and experimental
teaching methods in the nations'

"It will stifle, and hopefully it will kill
(them)," said Neuman, U.S. assistant
secretary of education. "Our children
are not laboratory rats." October 25,

(12) Adelaide Sanford
New York State Regents Vice
Chancellor, she produced the report
"Perform or Perish."

* McGraw-Hill, Harcourt, and Houghton

When Congress increased this year?s
budget for the Department of
Education by $11 billion, it set aside
$400 million to help states develop and
administer the tests mandated by the
"No Child Left Behind Act" for children
in grades 3 through 8. Among the
likely benefactors of the extra funds
are: CTB McGraw-Hill, Harcourt
Educational Measurement, and
Riverside Publishing (a Houghton
Mifflin company).

According to an October 2001 report
in Educational Marketer, CTB
McGraw-Hill, Harcourt, and Riverside
write 96 percent of the exams
administered at the state level.

The news has been filled with testing
mishaps, but the drum roll for testing
continues. An ad for NCS Pearson
notes that they are the "nation's
largest commercial processor of
student assessments serving over 40
statewide K-12 testing programs."

It does not mention the terrible
mistakes, such as those in Minnesota
which prevented seniors who'd passed
the state from graduating but NCS had
flubbed the scoring.

** ETS
In a rather incredible statement on the
Educational Testing Service website,
ETS President and CEO Kurt M.
Landgraf explains how, through
testing, ETS is fighting terrorism.

NOTE: This article will appear in the
November 2002 Substance.
Get your subscription today.
$16 to: Substance, 5132 W. Berteau,
Chicago, IL 60641

Maura's note:  The founders of the
United States decided to allow
freedom of speech and thought.  
Was this done simply because it's
"good"?  No.  It was done because
it results in economic gains.

So why doesn't a First Amendment
speaker have a corporate or
government sponsor?

Because education is in almost
entirely in the hands of people who
don't care about the common good.  
Politicians, businessmen, and union
leaders are worried about their own
personal advancement, not the
advancement of our society.
March 3, 2008 email

I'm a blogger with far less recognition
than you (unless you count the
defamation suit against me by San
Diego school attorney firm
Shinoff & Holtz), but in my
small way I'm trying to make education
better.  I agree with just about
everything you say.  My main complaint
is that you ignore the problems of
teacher culture and teacher quality,
and the role that abusive lawyers play
in fostering problems of culture and
quality.  I worked many hours
yesterday creating a page about you
on my site
 I'd love to publish your response, if
you can find some time to contact me.

Your message is on its
way to Susan Ohanian
(who will reply as soon
as possible).
On October 8, 2002, a
press release from the U.
S. Conference of Mayors
and the Broad Foundation
announced the intention
of this new partnership to
publish joint reports on
“mayoral efforts to
improve public schools,
develop new ideas for
federal education
policymakers, and hold a
mayors’ education
summit”’ in 2003.

Eli Broad addressed the
conference, saying, “At
The Broad Foundation, we
recognize that leadership
— bold new leadership —
is critical if we are ever
going to see the dramatic
gains in student
achievement that children
across America deserve.
Schools that fail to teach
our children the skills
necessary to participate
and to succeed in our
changing economy are
infringing on each student’
s civil rights.”

There’s that emphasis on
schooling for the economy
again, as though schools
had any control over
minimum wage,
outsourcing jobs to Asia,
policies of the World Bank,
and so on. And by
conflating high test scores
with civil rights and co-
opting those who raise
alarms about the growing
segregation of U. S.
Schools, high standards
for all rhetoric hides the
fact that minority and poor
students are being
ghettoized into dead-end,
underfinanced, drill-and-
kill, low-performing
schools. Participants in
conferences like this
mayors conference
carefully avoid talking
about the crumbling
surrounding troubling
schools. Other
participants in this so-
called education summit
included Sandra Feldman,
president of the American
Federation of Teachers;
Michael Casserly,
executive director of the
Council of Great City
Schools; and Lisa Graham
Keegan, president of the
Education Leaders
Council; as well as other
education experts,
unnamed in press

Did you notice who’s
missing? The mayors
are there. School
boards aren’t. The
Broad website includes
a heroes page. Headed
by Rod Paige, it is a
high-stakes testing
crew par excellence.
Take a look at:

www.broad foundation.org/
heroes/venture -net.shtml

Here is a list of the
participants at the 2002
Broad Foundation
strategic planning retreat.
Look at the list and notice
that you can’t label this
group liberal or
Standardistas cross party

In the foundation’s words:
“The Foundation solicited
guidance on how best to
scale-up current
Foundation investments
and develop new high-
impact policy initiatives.
What fun: getting invited
to figure out how to spend
the foundation’s $400
It is difficult to present all this information in a
way that approaches comprehensibility. Keep
your eye on Broad and you’ll be watching a
sophisticated, many-faceted plan for
dismantling the local control of schools.

Worth an aside, perhaps, is another recipient of
Broad largesse: the Broad Foundation supports
coverage of leadership issues in Education
Week. One can wonder if “America’s online
newspaper of record” will ever bite the hand
that feeds it.

Note: This is excerpted from
Why Is Corporate
America Bashing Our Public Schools
Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian (Heinemann

Here’s what Jonathan Kozol says about this
book: “Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian have
written a magnificent, carefully documented,
and high-voltage manifesto to confront the
degradation of our nation’s schools by powerful
corporations whose self-serving motives and
assaultive tactics have developed into a
relentless and dehumanizing juggernaut. Steam
will be coming out of your ears by the time you
finish this extraordinary book. It should be a
wake-up call to all who care about the future of
our schools and all who truly value children.”
from Substance, the
newspaper of public
education in Chicago

Feb 2005  
[Maura's note:  Testing is not
stressful for students unless
teachers make it so.  I always
told my students to do their best
and not to worry about the
results.  My students knew that
standardized tests would not
affect their grades.  Of course,
they did their best.  Kids always
do their best unless they have
some emotional problem--such
as teachers getting all anxious
about test results and
transferring that anxiety to their
It's easier to fight against
something that someone else is
trying to change, than to fight
for change yourself.  It's easier
to destroy than to create.  
Teacher unions need to get in
the business of change, not just
fighting to keep the status quo.]
March 4, 2008

Still no response.

Maybe Susan is
checking with
CTA/NEA about what
to do.  Beverly
Tucker and Carolyn
Doggett will be happy
to give her

CTA Rules for

Rule #1:  Don't talk!

Rule #2: Don't say a

Rule #3: Pretend that
anyone who is
off-message doesn't
exist!  Leave it to us
to go after them.

Rule #4:  Don't even
consider the
possibility that we
might use illegal
methods to stay in
control of CTA/NEA!

Rule #5:  We're
teachers!  So  we
always behave in a
legal manner!  And
everyone knows that
teachers are always
nice to one another!

Rule #6:  Everything
will be fine as long as
us teachers are in
Maura and
Susan's email
San Diego School
Boards Conference

Dr. Charles Haynes is the one
speaker without a corporate
sponsor. Could it be because he is
from the First Amendment Center?
Why Is Corporate
America Bashing
Our Public

Maura's guess:  Because
our schools are doing an
inadequate job, and our
children are going down
the tubes.
For those who think any
involvement is a
conservative conspiracy,
take a look at former
California state senator
Jack O’Connell’s run for
state superintendent of
schools; he was backed
by the California
Teachers Association
and the California
Federation of Teachers,
who together gave him
more than $370,000.

Eli Broad kicked in
$100,000, and Reed
Hastings, the president of
the State Board of
Education, gave
$250,000. Both Broad and
Burkle are big contributors
to the Democratic Party,
spreading maximum
donations to senators
across the country.
Hastings gave $350,000
to Governor Gray Davis’
2002 reelection bid. In
summer 2003, Hastings
was listed as one of
Howard Dean’s
Not surprisingly, the
Broad Foundation is
enthusiastic about the
way Chicago runs its
Incumbent George
Kiriyama, a former teacher
and school principal who
was supported by the
teachers union, raised
$138,000 to fund his
campaign. The Riordan-
Broad Coalition for Kids
handed Kiriyama’s
opponent $771,000.

One incumbent called the
Riordan-Broad enterprise
a “naked power grab”; at a
news conference, Rev.
Robert Holt, chaplain for
the Black American
Political Association of
California, told the mayor,
“We object to your colonial
mentality and your
unmitigated gall in trying to
select our leader.”

It Isn’t a ‘Conservative
Susan's notes regarding this article:

"It takes a lot to stand up and be willing to have people
angry at you."
--Pat News

"What we need are teachers willing to take such a stand
for subjects like children's love of literature."

Evolution's Lonely Battle in a
Georgia Classroom
By Michael Winerip


OCCASIONALLY, an educational battle will dominate
national headlines. More commonly, the battling goes on
locally, behind closed doors, handled so discreetly that
even a teacher working a few classrooms away might
not know. This was the case for
Pat New, 62, a
respected, veteran middle school science
teacher, who, a year ago, quietly stood up for her
right to teach evolution in this rural northern
Georgia community, and prevailed.

She would not discuss the conflict while still teaching,
because Ms. New wouldn't let anything disrupt her
classroom. But she has decided to retire, a year earlier
than planned. "This evolution thing was a lot of stress,"
she said. And a few weeks ago, on the very last day of
her 29-year career, at 3:15, when Lumpkin County
Middle School had emptied for the summer, and she had
taken down her longest poster from Room D11A � the
15-billion-year timeline ranging from the Big Bang to the
evolution of man � she recounted one teacher's
discreet battle.

She isn't sure how many questioned her teaching of
evolution � perhaps a dozen parents, teachers and
administrators and several students in her seventh-
grade life science class. They sent e-mail messages and
letters, stopped her in the hall, called board members,
demanded meetings, requested copies of the PBS
videos that she showed in class.

One parent asked how money could be wasted on a
subject like evolution: "As budget cuts continuously chip
away at our children's future of a good, quality college-
ready education," she wrote, "I would think there would
be more educational, more worthwhile and certainly
more factual learning that could be taught." She
requested that her son be permitted to "bide his time
elsewhere" when evolution was taught.

Ms. New explained that evolution is so central to biology,
the boy would be biding elsewhere all year long.
Practically every chapter in her Prentice Hall textbooks  
"Bacteria to Plants," "Cells and Heredity," "Animals"  
used evolution to trace the development of life starting
with bacteria, green algae and gymnosperms.

The books were purchased by her district, and she sent
her supervisors copies, marking evolution references
with dozens of Post-its, but it didn't seem to register. On
April 25, 2005, during a meeting about parent
complaints with her principal, Rick Conner, she recalled:
"He took a Bible off the bookshelf behind him and said,
'Patty I believe in everything in this book, do you?' I told
him, 'I really feel uncomfortable about your asking that
question.' He wouldn't let it go.' " The next day, she said,
in the lunchroom, "he reached across the table, took my
hand and said: 'I accept evolution in most things but if
they ever say God wasn't involved I couldn't accept that.
I want you to say that, Pat.' "

Asked to comment during an interview here, Mr. Conner
would say only, "I don't want to talk about it."

Four days after her encounter with the principal, Ms.
New was summoned to a meeting with the
superintendent, Dewey Moye, as well as the principal
and two parents upset about her teaching evolution.
"We have to let parents ask questions," Mr. Moye told
her. "It's a public school. In a democracy people can ask

Ms. New said the parents, "badgered, got loud and
sarcastic and there was no support from administrators."

Babs Greene, another administrator, "asked if I was
almost finished teaching evolution," Ms. New recalled. "I
explained to her again that it is a unifying concept in life
science. It is in every unit I teach. There was a big sigh."

"I thought I was going crazy," said Ms. New, who has won
several outstanding teacher awards and is one of only
two teachers at her school with national board
certification. The other is her husband, Ward.

"It takes a lot to stand up and be willing to have people
angry at you," she said. But Ms. New did. She
repeatedly urged her supervisors to read Georgia's
science standards, particularly S7L5, which calls for
teaching evolution.

On May 5, 2005, she filled out a complaint to initiate a
grievance under state law, writing that she was being
"threatened and harassed" though "I am following
approved curriculum." She also wrote, "If we could get
together within 24 hours and settle this and I feel I have
support to teach the standards, then I would tear it up."

Suddenly the superintendent was focused on standards.
Mr. Moye called the state department's middle school
science supervisor and asked about evolution.
"Obviously the State Department of Education supports
evolution," Mr. Moye said in an interview.

Obviously? So why call? "I wanted to be sure," he said.
"Let's make sure what these standards are."

He added: "I feel strongly about the Georgia standards. I
think it's very important. Obviously we'll teach standards;
that's the law. We will do everything in accordance with
the Department of Education."

And parents' rights? "I explained to parents that we're
following the state standards," Mr. Moye said. "I said,
'You can believe what you want, but we have to teach
the standards.' If they're upset, they can take it up on
the state level."

The superintendent, principal and Ms. Greene all
praised Ms. New's ability. "The lady's an excellent
teacher," Mr. Moye said, adding, "Maybe she felt like the
school system didn't support her. We certainly support

Ms. New said that from then on, including the entire
2005-06 school year, she had no problem teaching
evolution. "What saved me, was I didn't have to argue
evolution with these people. All I had to say was, 'I'm
following state standards.'"

GERRY WHEELER, director of the National Science
Teachers Association, said membership surveys
indicated that a third of teachers were challenged on
evolution, mainly by parents and students. A survey of
state science standards by the Fordham Institute, a
conservative policy research organization that supports
teaching evolution, rated 20 states, including Georgia,
with "sound" evolution standards in 2005, down from 24
states in 2000.

The Georgia standards that saved Ms. New almost did
not happen. In January 2004, when they were about to
be adopted, Kathy Cox, Georgia's education
superintendent, announced that she would remove
evolution from the standards because it was too divisive
an issue. That set off a huge protest that included
former President Jimmy Carter and former Governor
Sonny Perdue, a Republican. Within days, Ms. Cox
reversed herself.

No one was more gratified than Dr. F. James Rutherford,
who worked as a consultant developing the Georgia
standards. In 1985, Dr. Rutherford, a Harvard-trained
science educator, began a project for the American
Association for the Advancement of Science, aimed at
laying out what every student should know about
science, grade by grade. That year Halley's Comet
appeared and he called the effort Project 2061, with
hopes that by the comet's next visit, in 2061, the
children of 1985 would have had a lifetime shaped by
superior science education.

It took longer than he thought, but Project 2061 became
the foundation for the Georgia standards adopted in
2004, and by many other states. Dr. Rutherford, now 82,
had not heard of Ms. New, but when told of her quiet
victory, he said: "Wonderful. That was the idea."

E-mail: edmike@nytimes.com

— Michael Winerip
New York Times
He Who Knows No

If Johnny Brown had a
"honeymoon" as DeKalb County's
new superintendent of schools, it
may be over...

...initiatives have been obscured
by controversies that have dogged
Brown almost since he officially
took office July 1, including
allegations of fiscal
mismanagement in Birmingham,
where he previously served as

Here, Brown has drawn fire over
his plan for a uniform-like student
dress code and an incident when
copies of a Chamblee High student
newspaper featuring articles critical
of Brown were confiscated.

...Narwanna el-Shabazz, a vice
president in the county's Council of
PTAs ...opposes Brown's Dress for
Success plan. "We're not talking
about education anymore; we're
haggling over colors of clothes."

Brown is the first black
superintendent of Georgia's third-
largest school system, nearly 80
percent of whose 98,000 students
are black. He describes himself as
a civil rights worker through

"Stronger requirements for
graduation, algebra for eighth-
graders, parental involvement ---
those are, frankly, the issues about
which we [system administrators]
spend our time," Brown said...

Ohanian Comment: Here's a guy
who has no shame. The
superintendent who presided over
the push-out of the Birmingham
522 moves to DeKalb County
Georgia and describes as "a civil
rights worker through education."

Read the entire article. It looks as
though the chickens may be
coming home to roost in Dekalb.

— Jen Sansbury
Atlanta Journal Constitution



Georgia Takes on 'Evolution'

ATLANTA, Jan. 29 � A proposed set of guidelines for
middle and high school science classes in Georgia has
caused a furor after state education officials removed
the word "evolution" and scaled back ideas about the
age of Earth and the natural selection of species.

Educators across the state said that the document,
which was released on the Internet this month, was a
veiled effort to bolster creationism and that it would
leave the state's public school graduates at a

"They've taken away a major component of biology and
acted as if it doesn't exist," said David Bechler, who
heads the biology department at Valdosta State
University. "By doing this, we're leaving the public
shortchanged of the knowledge they should have."

Although education officials said the final version would
not be binding on teachers, its contents will ultimately
help shape achievement exams. And in a state where
religion-based concepts of creation are widely held,
many teachers said a curriculum without mentioning
"evolution" would make it harder to broach the subject
in the classroom.

Georgia's schools superintendent, Kathy Cox, held a
news conference near the Capitol on Thursday, a day
after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an
article about the proposed changes.

A handful of states already omit the word "evolution"
from their teaching guidelines, and Ms. Cox called it "a
buzz word that causes a lot of negative reaction." She
added that people often associate it with "that monkeys-
to-man sort of thing."

Still, Ms. Cox, who was elected to the post in 2002, said
the concept would be taught, as well as "emerging
models of change" that challenge Darwin's theories.
"Galileo was not considered reputable when he came
out with his theory," she said.

Much of the state's 800-page curriculum was adopted
verbatim from the "Standards for Excellence in
Education," an academic framework produced by the
Council for Basic Education, a nonprofit group. But
when it came to science, the Georgia Education
Department omitted large chunks of material, including
references to Earth's age and the concept that all
organisms on Earth are related through common
ancestry. "Evolution" was replaced with "changes over
time," and in another phrase that referred to the "long
history of the Earth," the authors removed the word
"long." Many proponents of creationism say Earth is at
most several thousand years old, based on a literal
reading of the Bible.

Sarah L. Pallas, an associate professor of biology at
Georgia State University, said, "The point of these
benchmarks is to prepare the American work force to
be scientifically competitive." She said, "By removing
the benchmarks that deal with evolutionary life, we
don't have a chance of catching up to the rest of the

The guidelines, which were adopted by a panel of 25
educators, will be officially adopted in 90 days, and Ms.
Cox said the public could still influence the final
document. "If the teachers and parents across the
state say this isn't what we want," she said, "then we'll
change it."

In the past, Ms. Cox, has not masked her feelings on
the matter of creationism versus evolution. During her
run for office, Ms. Cox congratulated parents who
wanted Christian notions of Earth and human creation
to be taught in schools.

"I'd leave the state out of it and would make sure
teachers were well prepared to deal with competing
theories," she said at a public debate.

Educators say the current curriculum is weak in
biology, leading to a high failure rate in the sciences
among high school students across the state. Even
those who do well in high school science are not
necessarily proficient in the fundamentals of biology,
astronomy and geology, say some educators.

David Jackson, an associate professor at the University
of Georgia who trains middle school science teachers,
said about half the students entering his class each
year had little knowledge of evolutionary theory.

"In many cases, they've never been exposed to the
basic facts about fossils and the universe," he said. "I
think there's already formal and informal
discouragements to teaching evolution in public

The statewide dispute here follows a similar battle two
years ago in Cobb County, a fast-growing suburb north
of Atlanta. In that case, the Cobb County school board
approved a policy to allow schools to teach "disputed
views" on the origins of man, referring to creationism,
although the decision was later softened by the
schools superintendent, who instructed teachers to
follow the state curriculum.

Eric Meikle of the National Center for Science
Education said several other states currently omit the
word "evolution" from their science standards. In
Alabama, the state board of education voted in 2001 to
place disclaimers on biology textbooks to describe
evolution as a controversial theory.

"This kind of thing is happening all the time, in all parts
of the country," Mr. Meikle said.

Dr. Francisco J. Ayala, the author of a 1999 report by
the National Academy of Sciences titled "Science and
Creationism," vehemently opposes including the
discussion of alternative ideas of species evolution.

"Creation is not science, so it should not be taught in
science class," said Dr. Ayala, a professor of genetics
at the University of California at Irvine. "We don't teach
astrology instead of astronomy or witchcraft practices
instead of medicine."

But Keith Delaplane, a professor of entomology at the
University of Georgia, says the wholesale rejection of
alternative theories of evolution is unscientific.

"My opinion is that the very nature of science is
openness to alternative explanations, even if those
explanations go against the current majority," said
Professor Delaplane, a proponent of intelligent-design
theory, which questions the primacy of evolution's role
in natural selection. "They deserve at least a fair
hearing in the classroom, and right now they're being
laughed out of the arena."

— Andrew Jacobs
New York Times
Georgia Takes on 'Evolution'


Evolution in Georgia
[Maura's note:  Susan clearly has the courage of her convictions
about teaching reading.  But she is very much a part of the
teacher culture that refuses to admit its own mistakes, and enjoys
using its clout to get what it wants.  She is unable to admit that
teachers must protest a whole lot more than textbooks.  In many
ways, Susan is one of those teachers who grouses about little
things, while silently allowing huge abuses.
[Maura's note:  It's bogus to blame the focus on test preparation for the
lack of instruction in thinking skills.  Teachers weren't teaching kids to
think before all the test-prep hoopla.  Actually, teaching thinking skills is
the best way to prepare kids for standardized tests.  Most teachers only
do it by rote because that's the way they do everything.
Part 2: Susan's achievements
Part 3: School Reform
I worked with students who
were so obnoxious they were
excluded from the regular
high school campus, and I
know that when a teacher
meets with such students in
a small enough setting and
they have no place to hide,
they can be brought into a
constructive, productive
course of study. It is a
course of study that is built
by teacher and student
together. It is not shipped
out from a state board of

What do you suggest
policy makers think about
when their inclination is
to endorse standards.
Increasingly, schools are becoming high-stress
skill zones.

Parents need to realize that their children who do badly in
such skill zones might function well in a less stressful
environment. They need to insist on less stress rather
than pills. Parents would not accept the judgments of
education terminologists who talk about raising the bar of
education standards. Their children are to steeplechase
horses or pole-vaulters. Parents need to realize that it
doesn't matter whether the students in Alaska are ahead
or behind those of Maine in apostrophe acquisition.

How can creative, thoughtful teachers survive the
We must not think in terms of survival but in terms of
triumph. We teachers need to tell our stories, and in
telling our stories we will be speaking out for students. It
is particularly important to tell the stories of the oddball
students, the students who don’t easily fit the norm.
These stories will counter the hallucinatory, deceptive
rhetoric of the Standardistos.

Dr. Benjamin Spock told parents in his best-selling
book, 'You know more than you think." I would tell
teachers, "You know more than they think."
Standardistos attempt to strip teachers of their
knowledge, their intuition, their pragmatic
saviness, their flexibility, and their very hearts.

Teachers must remind themselves every day: "We
know more than they think. We know more than
they think."
Teachers need to check the facts Standardistos spread
about so casually. Beware of cooked data. Gerald
Bracey's reports to Phi Delta Kappan offer useful

Don't blame the victims. One in four of our students
come to us from poverty and the correlation between
lower test scores and the percentage of children living
in poverty is .99.
The average after-school program
costs $3,000 per child. Each new juvenile
correction facility costs around $102,000 per bed
to build.
It is our strength as teachers that we are
empathetic people. We try to walk in the shoes of our
students. We must nurture this empathetic quality, not
deny it in the name of standards. We must remember
the great words of teaching: read, write, teach, learn,
work, skill, care, help, hope, trust, faith, love. When
necessary, teachers need to choose passion over
pedagogy. Teachers need to join with administrators
and parents and say, "We're as mad as hell. Our
students already take 4-6 standardized tests a year.
We don't need any more."

What should kids do?
What can an eight-year-old do? Even high schoolers
are pretty much at the mercy of their teachers and their

What troubles you about the emerging reading and
language arts standards?
The standards are intent on turning children into
literary pedants, technicians who can identify plot and
setting but who are never asked about how literature
makes them feel, no mention of the emotional impact of
reading, no mention that in books human beings feel
more connected to one another. This approach to
literature is numbing and nonsensical. Literary
technicians testified to techniques of teaching
systematic decoding. Nobody was asked to testify for
the love of reading.

What are your primary criticisms of the new California
math standards?
The verbs deleted by the California State Board of
Education from the math standards reveal a lot.
They deleted verbs like "model, understand,
estimate, interpret, classify, explain, create." The
word most commonly substituted in place of
these verbs is "compute."

The California standards turn their back on the work of
the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics,
insisting instead on a narrow definition of math as

I’m sure you have lots of favorites. Can you share with
us a couple examples of ridiculous standards.
My two favorite ridiculous standards are both in the
California history standards. First graders are ordered
to "know and understand" such documents as the
Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Seventh graders are required to analyze the
geographic, political, economic, religious, and social
structures of the civilizations of Islam in the middle
ages, of China in the middle ages, of the Sub-Saharan
civilizations, of Japan in the middle ages, of Europe in
the middle ages, of Nesoamerican and Andean
civilizations. This is one of eleven history standards for
seventh graders. Anybody who has ever taught 7th
graders is left speechless.

Surely, reasonable people may disagree about the
need for educational standards, but how do you explain
the mean-spirited attitude exhibited by the proponents
of standards?
Two forces seem to prevent any fruitful discussion
about the standards.

The people in power, the members of state
boards of education, for example, exclude
dissenting voices. They even forbid the
appearance of dissenting voices on materials
used in the inservice training of teachers.

[Maura's note: Why does Susan leave out the
teacher unions here?]

The media, operating on the supposition that
everything has two sides, puts everybody in one of two
camps: if you're not for excellence, then you must be
against it. Of course there aren't two sides to the
standards issue. The last time I looked there were 123

Any time people pass a rule about education,
responsible teachers will say, "Yes, but. . . " Any savvy
teacher knows that every classroom has oddball
exceptions, kids who need alternatives. As a longtime
teacher in urban schools I am dismayed that people
sitting in state departments of education insist they can
come up with one standard mold of excellence--and
that they are willing to throw away children who do not
fit into that mold of a uniform curriculum.

Although there may be an occasional exception, I'd also
advise that parents never allow a child to be held back in
school. In 20 years of teaching, I never saw retention
help a child.

Social promotion gets a bad press these days.

Parents should realize that social promotion is at
the core of the Japanese educational system. The
children who start together stay together until they
finish sixth grade.

This social bond is deemed essential by the people
who run the Japanese school system. Imagine that:
a social bond being more important than discrete
academic skills.
What should concerned
parents do?
Parents need to support
their children. They
need to make sure their
parents are in the care
of teachers who like
them. Parents need to
talk to their children;
they need to listen to
The Education
Wars--How come
the winners are
never the kids?

Policy makers need to
remember that we are a
nation that celebrates
diversity. Policy makers
should also realize that there
is no magic bullet, no quick
fix. We need to take the long
view, realizing that it is more
important that kids read a lot,
and read for pleasure,
choosing books that interest
them, than they read on
grade level by third grade. If
a child learns to read for
pleasure by the time he is in
third grade, reading on grade
level will come.

In contrast, the children
are doomed to recurring
instructional crises, when
there's never any time in
the school day for them to
know the joys of
literature, it is doubtful
they will ever be
An Interview with
Susan Ohanian

Published in the April 1999 issue of
Curriculum Administrator
By Gary S. Stager

Susan Ohanian, a long-time
teacher, is now a freelance writer
and editor. Her books include, the
award-winning "Garbage-Pizza
Patchwork Quilts and Math Magic,"
"Who’s in Charge? A Teacher
Speaks Her Mind," "Math: A Way of
Knowing" and "Ask Ms. Class."
Curriculum Administrator
Contributing Editor, Gary Stager
recently chatted with Susan about
her provocative and timely new
book, "One Size Fits Few – The
Folly of Educational Standards."
Susan Ohanian lives in Vermont
with a husband and three strongly
opinionated cats.

How can anyone be against
educational standards?
These days it is not fashionable to
admit that some students can learn
trigonometric function and some
can't. But knowledge is never pure,
never unrelated to the knowledge
seeker. Rather than arguing about
whom will and who won't take
calculus and read Hamlet, I'd like
people to consider the terrible cost
that comes from telling kids if they
don't go to college they are

Standards makers commit a crime
in offering a curriculum without
regard to the students who are
supposed to learn it. Standardistos
who focus on the military-industrial-
infotainment agenda care about
how kids in Grosse Pointe measure
up against kids in Larchmont and
how both compare with the
Japanese. I am worried about the
kids in the South Bronx, in Chicago,
in Los Angeles. The truth of the
matter is that there is no better
predictor of a child's success in
school than the level of schooling
attained by his parents. That
counts more than who his teacher

Instead of spending hundreds
of millions of dollars on new
tests to prove new standards,
why don't we buy library books
for the ghetto schools whose
need is so great?

contd. below

New book:

Why Is Corporate
America Bashing
Our Public

by Kathy Emery (Author),
Susan Ohanian (Author)...

An invaluable combo of
information and fiery
inspiration, this book equips us
to resist the business powers
that be coiling themselves
around public schools to
squeeze out all respectful,
individual teaching.

Carol Bly,
Author of Changing the Bully
Who Rules the World

Kathy Emery and Susan
Ohanian shout Jaccuse! to the
Business Roundtable, the
Education Trust, politicians,
and the rest who are selling
out America's children in the
name of high standards. A
must read for all citizens, not
just parents and educators.

Gerald L. Bracey,
Author of On the Death of
Childhood and the Destruction
of Public Schools

Kathy Emery and Susan
Ohanian have written a
magnificent, carefully
documented, and high-voltage
manifesto to confront the
degradation of our nation's
schools by powerful
corporations whose
self-serving motives and
assaultive tactics have
developed into a relentless and
dehumanizing juggernaut.
Steam will be coming out of
your ears by the time you
finish this extraordinary book.
It should be a wake-up call to
all who care about the future
of our schools and all who truly
value children.

Jonathan Kozol,
Author of Savage Inequalities:
Children in America's Schools

Q: How many
businessmen does it take
to screw up American

A: Only 13, the number of
members of the Business
Roundtable assigned to the
Business Coalition for
Education Reform! Emery and
Ohanian explain why this joke
isn't funny, asking readers to
raise their consciousness and
their voices to take back public

Patrick Shannon, Pennsylvania
State University,
author of Becoming Political,

b) California is a textbook
adoption state, meaning that
the Board of Education has
the final say on which
textbooks get on the
approved-for- purchase list,
so California Standardistos
end up deciding what children
in the other 49 states will

We also pay attention to
California because it is such
a large, noisy state. But the
truth of the matter is that the
Standardisto mindset that has
infected California politicians
sits comfortably in just about
every state house in the land.
This is the "Get ready"
insanity, telling teachers they
must "deliver" students to the
next grade ready to continue
with the next, sequenced set
of expectations.
Standardistos see knowledge
as a continuous stream of
information that students as
an undifferentiated mass into
which this information can be
We should be wary
of pointing the finger at
California. Standardistos.
Most of the 50 states are
on skills amphetamines,
engaged in what amounts
to a standards arms race.

Isn’t the latest clamor for
standards just an example of
the educational pendulum
Educational pendulum swings
are exaggerated. The truth of
the matter is that over time
most teachers stick to pretty
much of a middle-of-the-road
approach. Although the whole
language movement, for
example, has been influential,
no more than 10% of the
teaching population were
whole-hearted adherents.
Most teachers offer an
eclectic approach, taking bits
and pieces from various
philosophies and pedagogies.

The Standardisto drive is
different in that it is using the
imposition of tests to force
teachers to radically change
their curriculum. Tests will
force teachers to treat
children like sardines,
shoving everybody into the
same small academic tin.

Who would you identify as
allies on the side of
children in the skirmish
against standards?

I am reluctant to put words
into the mouths of other

Ted Sizer and Deborah Meier
hands-on truth-in-action for a
nonstandard academic rigor
that arises from local needs.

Patrick Shannon offers
historical perspective as well
as contemporary insight on
why the Standardistos are

Gerald Bracey writes
persuasive, date-filled articles
in Phi Delta Kappan,
demonstrating that one need
not assume school failure in
order to propose school

Howard Gardner speaks to
the diversity of children's
needs, the diversity of their
talents, and why and how we
must offer different curricula
to different children.
Jonathan Kozol has
provided searing
indictment of the lack of
equal educational
opportunity in the
schooling we offer
Nel Noddings reminds us of
the humanistic needs missing
from Standardisto documents.

Alfie Kohn is launching a
nationwide movement, asking
people to reject the knee-jerk
rhetoric of Standardistos. He
challenges us all to think
about how our actions affect

If you are against standards,
what would you propose as
Plenty of experts have shown
us that we need small
schools, schools capable of
responding to the individual
needs of students. The most
important alternative to
standards is an unwillingness
to discard any student
because of his score on a
standardized test.
The Resistance: Casting a
Broad Net of Influence
Susan Ohanian
contd. from above
I admit that as a teacher of more
than 20 years experience I resent
the implication that my colleagues
and I didn't have standards until
political functionaries put their
stamp of approval on a discrete list
of information. Piling the required
standards higher and higher runs
contrary to what thoughtful
educators advise--digging deeper
for real understanding. If people
are worried about standards, why
don't they worry about the fact that
the city of Berlin spends more on
the arts than does the U.S.
government? France devotes vast
expenditures on the arts, not to
improve their GNP but because the
French believe the arts are critical
to peoples' well being.

contd. below
We might consider another
point about parents'
According to a
national survey, in 1997,
parents talked to their
children 38.5 minutes a
These same children
watched TV 1,680 minutes a

Who profits from the
standards crescendo?
Politicians profit because
their touting of standards
offers proof that they care
about education. You don't
have to know anything to be
in favor of standards.
Publishers profit because
districts won't dare not to
order the new books based
on the new standards, books
that promise to deliver the
skills tested on the new tests.
Test makers profit
because they are grinding
out the new tests that
promise to show how
students measure up.

Who loses? Clearly, students
lose. If, by grade four, after
four years of standards, e.g.,
intensive direct, explicit, and
systematic instruction in
phonics, a student does not
exhibit mastery of fourth
grade skills, then
Standardistos say he must
loop back through the same
skills sequence.
Standardistos offer no
hint that if four years of
this lock-step instruction
doesn't work, then it might
be a good idea to try
something else.
For the
sake of the students, we
must shout, "Stop the
conveyor belt and let the kids
get off!"

You spend a portion of
your book discussing the
educational climate in
California What's going
In the name of standards,
California standards are not
allowed to be exposed to the
ideas of educational leaders
of national repute who don't
kowtow to the idiosyncrasies
of members of the State
Board of Education. Anyone
who wants to be approved to
teach in-service courses in
California must sign a
curriculum loyalty oath
devised by the Board of
Education. This loyalty oath
actually forbids showing
teachers how to help children
use context clues when
reading unfamiliar material.

The rest of the country
must care about California
for two reasons:

a) When California teachers
and children bleed from the
outrageous practices of the
state board of education, the
rest of the nation must care.
When freedom of speech
is curtailed in any state,
the freedom of residents
of every other state is
Parents aren't prepared for
their children to be served
with an academic death
penalty in the name of
contd. from above

What does the title of your
book refer to?

My book title refers to the fact that
a "one size fits all" curriculum
meets the needs of few students.
This mantra of everybody needing
to learn the same thing is
particularly offensive in the face of
the gross inequality of educational
opportunity in this country. Fully
one third of our students attend
schools in inadequate buildings.
The buildings are crumbling; they
are understaffed, overcrowded,
and don't contain even minimal

Who is the audience for your
controversial new book?

This book is written for every
teacher, administrator, and parent
who knows that children are
unique, that they do not come to
us from some mold marked: first
graders, second graders, third
graders, and so on. This book is
for people who think third graders
are more uniquely wonderful in
their variety than they are same in
their uniformity.

In "One Size Fits Few," you
demonize the Standardistos. What
is a Standardistos?
Standardistos are a band of
academic pillagers roaming the
land, burning their particular skill
brand onto children's diversity.
They look neither to the left nor
the right, talking with neither
teachers nor principals nor
students. They keep their eye only
on the government pot of
government Goals 2000 gold.
Standardistos’ mission is to keep
the populace alarmed with tales of
teacher malfeasance and student
Contd. below
A year later, I answered a New
York Times ad announcing that
New York City's Board of
Education was issuing
emergency credentials to
people willing to teach high
school English. They sent me to
a school larger than my
hometown. Feeling completely
inadequate to the job, I went
home and cried every night. But
by year's end, the department
chairman's evaluation stated
that I had a good heart and
would learn the technical skills
necessary to good teaching. I
was very impressed to hear that
New York City put such stock in
a good heart...

contd. from above

Standardistos promise that if
every kid takes algebra he'll
get a good high tech job.
use such promises of "21st
Century skills" to divert the public
from thinking about the real issues
of equity and justice. At best,
Standardistos litter the land with
documents that are irrelevant to
the lives of children. At worst, they
offer obscenity, poisoning public
perception of what schools need to

Rush Limbaugh is a typical
, telling his radio
audience that "Diversity has
nothing to do with the greatness of
America." For Standardistos,
"diverse standards" are an
oxymoron. For me, standard
standards are both an insult and
an impossibility.

Lou Gerstner, IBM's 91.5 million
a year CEO, is a Standardisto.
He advocates teachers don the
pinstriped, avaricious attitude
of Wall Street, not the
conscience or social activism
of a Dorothy Day, a Mother
Jones, a Ralph Nader.
Standardistos keep the
populace alarmed. They rush
to get every kid into algebra
class in the name of skills
needed for 21st century
employment. The algebra
hobgoblin keeps the public
from thinking about the fact
that one- fourth of our
children live in poverty,
lacking the minimum
standards of food, shelter,
and health care.

Isn’t this an elitist view?
Shouldn’t we do everything
possible to ensure that all
kids can succeed in subjects
like algebra?
If teachers can encourage
more kids to take algebra,
then God bless all of them,
the teachers and the kids.
But it is dangerous and
dishonest to posit
algebra--or any other
subject--as the key to
economic success in the
twenty-first century.
Algebra has become the
snake oil nostrum of the
90ies. The fact that a large
portion of today's
workforce has not
mastered quadratic
equations is not the
reason U.S. industries are
downsizing, not the
reason so many of the
goods in our stores are
made in China.

I want to speak out for the
weird kids, the obnoxious
kids, the kids who, for
whatever reason, are not
successful in school. I know
that when these kids are
offered alternatives they can
make a turn-around. But
whether or not they master
algebra need not and should
not be the proof they and
their teachers have
standards. We must offer
alternate education and
career choices for students
who can't or won't master
quadratic equations. Or read
Hamlet. I also find it offensive
that mathematics is being
sold solely on the basis of
utility, telling students to
study math for a paycheck.
Where's the talk of the
beauty of mathematics, the
idea of studying math for
math's sake?
President Clinton is a
insisting that
what the children removed
from the welfare safety net
need is a national test.
With throwaway lines
about U. S.
schoolchildren being “at
the back of the pack of
industrialized nations,”
the demands of
globalization and free
trade, and what “our
21st Century information
economy requires,”
Broad hammers home
the point that our “public
education system is not
providing our young
people with the
knowledge and skills
necessary to become
future knowledge
workers.” Future
knowledge workers. It is
a phrase that reeks of
Business Roundtable
hypocrisy. Why are so
many college graduate
knowledge workers out
of work?

[Maura to Susan: Are
you kidding?  Are you
really arguing that
education doesn't
need to be improved,
or that it's not linked
to better jobs?]
< < <
The participants

Not-So-Strange Bedfellows

On August 7, 2003, the Broad Foundation
announced a first-of-its-kind residency program to
recruit young business leaders for intensive
management training and placement in urban
school districts across the country. The program
“seeks to attract talented young MBAs. . . and
train them for managerial positions in the central
operations of urban school districts.” Broad will
pay 75 per cent of their $80,000 residency salary,
with local districts picking up the rest. The plan is
that “the residents will receive mentoring from
district superintendents as well as hands-on
experience in transforming a large public
institution into a high-performing organization
focused on raising student achievement.”
Resident will be placed in senior-level positions in
Chicago, Oakland, Philadelphia, New York City,
and San Diego public school districts. Eli Broad
said, “I am thrilled to see so many dedicated
young leaders eager to use their leadership and
management skills to remedy the inequities in
urban education.” Funny thing: Broad isn’t
shipping any Harvard MBAs to Houston, winner of
the 2002 Broad prize for best urban district in the

In Better Leaders for America’s Schools: A
Manifesto (May 2003), the Broad Foundation and
the Thomas B. Fordham Institute jointly
proclaimed: “It is no more essential for every
education leader to be a teacher than for the CEO
of Bristol-Meyers Squibb to be a chemist. In any
organization, the similarities between technical
and leadership roles and skills are incidental and
the differences fundamental.”

Singled out by Broad and Fordham as exemplary
in this model are:

Joel Klein, Office of White House Council during
the Clinton administration; superintendent of New
York City

Roy Romer, chair of the Education Commission of
the States; chair of the national Democratic Party;
Colorado governor; superintendent of Los Angeles

John Fryer, major general U. S. Air Force;
commandant of the National War College; interim
president of the National Defense University;
superintendent of Duval County, Jacksonville

Paul Vallas, policy adviser, Illinois state senate;
Chicago city budget director; unsuccessful
Democratic candidate for Illinois governor in 2002;
superintendent of Chicago and Philadelphia

Alan Bersin, federal prosecutor; superintendent
of San Diego

Paula Dawning, sales vice president of AT&T;
superintendent of Benton Harbor, Michigan
On September 9, 2003, President Bush
announced a partnership between the Broad
Foundation and the U. S. Department of
Education,” To improve our country’s public
education system.” They call it an unprecedented
public-private collaboration. The third partner is
Just for the Kids. They’re combining “$4.7 million
of federal funds with $50.9 million in private
philanthropy to effectively lower the cost barriers
associated with the data collection, analysis, and
reporting mandates of NCLB.” Standard and Poor’
s is lending a hand. The deal is that the partners
offer a website “that transforms disaggregated
student achievement data into useful decision-
making information.” It will be free for two years.
They call it private philanthropy. McGraw-Hill,
owner of Standard and Poor’s, Open Court, and
Direct Instruction, not to mention one of the top
producers of standardized tests, as a leader in
philanthropy for the good of children?
Chicago’s School Reform
SD Education Rpt BLOG
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[Maura's note:  Susan says, "We must acknowledge and honor
."  But she's only talking about resisters who agree with her.  Susan
refuses to acknowledge those who resist illegal tactics of the teachers union.]
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