Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"PDE is considering eight new cyber charter school applications.... It should not approve a single one."

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Think we need more tests? More standards? More reforms?  Do yourself a favor – take five minutes and read Yong Zhao…..
“The U.S. ranked 1st in the number of patents filled or granted by major international patent offices in 2008, with 14,399 filings, compared to 473 filings from China[19], which supposedly has a superior education[20].
Obviously America’s poor education told by the numbers has not ruined its national security and economy. These numbers have failed to tell the story of the future.”
Numbers Can Lie: What TIMSS and PISA Truly Tell Us, if Anything?
Yong Zhao’s Blog 11 DECEMBER 2012
America’s Woeful Public Schools: TIMSS Sheds Light on the Need for Systemic Reform”[1]
“Competitors Still Beat U.S. in Tests”[2]
U.S. students continue to trail Asian students in math, reading, science”[3]
These are a few of the thousands of headlines generated by the release of the 2011 TIMSS and PIRLS results today. Although the results are hardly surprising or news worthy, judging from the headlines, we can expect another global wave of handwringing, soul searching, and calls for reform. But before we do, we should ask how meaningful these scores and rankings are.

Competitors Still Beat U.S. in Tests

Wall Street Journal By STEPHANIE BANCHERO December 11, 2012

American schoolchildren continue to lag behind those of major competitors in math and science exams given globally, despite progress on some of those tests, according to results from international achievement exams released Tuesday.  Students in Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Finland, among others nations, bested U.S. fourth- and eighth-grade students on the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, known as TIMSS.
The nation's fourth-graders made some progress on the math exam since it last was given in 2007, but U.S. scores on the other exams were statistically unchanged.
Despite that, U.S. students still outperformed the international averages and were among the top performers compared with the 60 countries and educational systems that administered the fourth-grade math and science tests and the 59 systems that gave the eighth-grade exams. U.S. students either placed in, or tied for, the top 13 spots on all those exams.

Now here’s the headline, based on the new TIMSS and PIRLS data, you didn’t see:

U.S. low-poverty schools do much better than high-poverty schools in international tests.”

In fact, that is true on all standardized tests. And that continues to be the real story in U.S. education, not how American students’ scores stack up against Singapore or the South Koreans.

What international test scores really mean

Here we go again. New international test scores were released today and their meaning is in the eye of the interpreter. Here are some headlines from different news sites with some different takes on the results:

Tweet from Pasi Sahlberg @pasi_sahlberg
Read all results and background data of TIMSS and PIRLS 2011 at

Lesson learned

POSTED: Tuesday, December 11, 2012, 3:01 AM Opinion By Rhonda Brownstein
Rhonda Brownstein is executive director of the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania. For more information, see
The Pennsylvania Department of Education is considering eight new cyber charter school applications, including four that would target Philadelphia-area students. It should not approve a single one.
The academic performance of the more than 32,000 students in the state's 16 existing cyber charter schools - the most in any state - raises serious questions about these primarily online schools, and it should give the Education Department great pause.
Moreover, state laws governing cyber charters require the department to review the schools every year, and to close them if they aren't meeting state standards. The department is in danger of violating the law if it continues to ignore the glaring problems of the existing cyber charters. Adding eight more cyber charters would further jeopardize its ability to uphold the law.

Why The Daily News is so wrong about Philly schools

CityPaper Naked City Blog by Daniel Denvir TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2012, 2:19 PM
Follow on Twitter @DanielDenvir
I greatly admire Philadelphia Daily News editorial writer Sandy Shea, read her pieces every weekday morning, and generally agree with them. But I believe Shea is profoundly wrong in her defense of the William Penn Foundation's funnelling of millions of dollars to pay for the Boston Consulting Group's proposal to radically restructure Philly public schools.
Friday's Daily News editorial criticizes groups that filed an ethics complaint against BCG and William Penn last week that accuses them of violating the new city lobbying code, telling the misfits to not "scare private money away from public schools" by asking too many questions. I disagree. Citizens, journalists very much included, should always ask tough, skeptical questions about how powerful private interests exercise influence over our government.

Here’s one difference between democratically run public schools and publicly-funded charter schools –
“In January 2009, Brown sued six Agora parents who had asked questions about the school's finances and its relationship with a company of Brown's that owned the school's building and that collected management fees from the school.”  Her suit alleges the parents and the Agora Parent Organization defamed her and her management firm.
The complaint filed in Montgomery County said the parents had made statements "that give the clear but false impression that Dr. Brown is corrupt, incompetent, and possibly criminal."

Agora charter-school founder Brown seeks to delay defamation suit until aftercriminal trial

Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: Wednesday, December 12, 2012, 3:01 AM
Attorneys who represent charter school founder Dorothy June Brown in a 2009 defamation suit she filed against parents have asked a judge to place the case on hold until her federal criminal trial is over.
…In July, a federal grand jury indicted Brown for defrauding four charter schools she founded of more than $6.5 million. The 62-count indictment alleges that Brown and four administrators engaged in wire fraud, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and witness tampering. All pleaded not guilty.  The case is scheduled for trial Oct. 21 in U.S. District Court.
A former Philadelphia School District principal, Brown founded three Philadelphia charter schools: Laboratory, which has campuses in Northern Liberties, Overbrook, and Wynnefield; Ad Prima in Overbrook and Frankford; and Planet Abacus in Tacony.
She also helped create the Agora Cyber Charter School, which provides online in-home instruction to students from across the state.

Montgomery County MD schools chief calls for three-year moratorium on standardized testing

Montgomery County Superintendent Joshua Starr said Monday that the country needs a three-year moratorium on standardized testing and needs to “stop the insanity” of  evaluating teachers according to student test scores because it is based on “bad science.” He also said that the best education reform the country has had is actually health-care reform.

Just in the last year…
•  $ 771,000,000.00 of our hard earned tax dollars were taken from our public schools and given to for profit charters in the name of “the money follows the child.”
The “return” on Ohio’s investment?:
•  77% of Public Schools were rated Excellent with Distinction, Achieving or Effective
•  23% of Charters were rated Effective/Achieving, none were rated Excellent with Distinction
•  And the bottom 111 performing schools in Ohio last year?
All were charter schools.

Ohio: Students First spends three hours in Opposite Day

Plunderbund Blog by Guest Post on December 8, 2012 
By Maureen Reedy
As a veteran 29-year elementary school teacher, I am giving the name of “Opposite Day” to what occurred last Wednesday morning in Room 313 at the Ohio Statehouse.  Teachers and parents both know that young children look forward to a special school day when they can do the opposite of what they are supposed to do; wear their shirt inside out, pants backwards, chew gum… some grown ups today may remember their Opposite Day tradition in school long ago.
On November 5th, in the name of “Education Reform,” Michelle Rhee’s “dream team” of Students First spent three hours in “Opposite Day” mode, describing their corporate, profit-driven vision for “transforming our public schools” to the Ohio House Finance Committee and its audience members.

Cliff chaos: Hundreds of billions apart
Politico By JAKE SHERMAN and JOHN BRESNAHAN | 12/11/12 6:32 PM EST 
The bellowing on Capitol Hill about which side has offered more “specifics” to resolve the fiscal cliff showdown masks a larger problem for Washington: The two sides are still hundreds of billions of dollars apart on revenue and entitlement cuts.  Not to mention, Republicans and Democrats are also light-years apart on policy details that back up those budget targets.
That’s why there’s increasing skepticism in Washington that a deal actually can be reached before Jan. 1, and the country will go over the fiscal cliff.

Lessons Gleaned From the Louisiana School Voucher Ruling

 Learning First Alliance   | 1 Comment
By C. Ed Massey, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and Member of the Boone County (KY) Schools Board of Education
A Louisiana circuit court judge recently ruled that the diversion of public tax dollars dedicated for public education to private school vouchers is unconstitutional. While this particular battle is far from over — Gov. Bobby Jindal and State Superintendent John White have vowed to appeal — this decision is a major victory for all school boards and public education advocates across the United States.

Who Gates is funding — the latest education grants

What/who in education has captured the interest of the powerful  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation these days? The following list of education-related grants — all awarded in November 2012 — show that MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are big with the foundation, and, of course, the foundation continues to pour millions into its initiative around teacher evaluation based in part on student standardized test scores. Here’s the list,  assembled from the organization’s website:

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