Friday, December 31, 2010

Drafting new book

I am currently drafting a new book for Information Age Publishing (where I have a book on school choice):

Ignoring Poverty in the U.S.: The Corporate Takeover of Public Education

(An overview of the book from a draft of the Introduction)

In Chapter One, "Universal Public Education—'Two Possible—and Contradictory—Missions,'" I examine how many different stakeholders in public education view the purposes of education. Further, I consider here that we often fail to identify exactly what purposes we are addressing in the political and popular discourse about schools. The inherent contradictions in many of the purposes of schooling are exposed by identifying the contrast between "indoctrination" and "teaching," especially in the context of social inequities and the systemic stratification of children in formal schooling. The importance of critical pedagogy for the pursuit of human agency and empowerment is presented before moving to the next chapter.

Chapter Two, "The Politicians Who Cried 'Crisis'—Education Accountability as Prestidigitation," details the era of accountability that runs from 1983 with the publication of A Nation at Risk under President Ronald Reagan through the passing of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2001 and up to the consideration of reauthorizing NCLB under the Obama administration. Here, I detail the inherent flaws in high accountability reform measures based on high-stakes testing; labeling students, teachers, and schools; and corporate views of running and reforming public education. The political commitment to crisis discourse and Utopian goals represents the political manipulation of education as a avenue to insuring political success.

Politicians, however, are not alone in misrepresenting education. Chapter Three, "Legend of the Fall: Snapshots of What's Wrong in the Education Debate," examines the role of the media in promoting distorted political messages and speaking to social norms instead of exposing the complexity of education and education reform. The 2010 release of the documentary Waiting for Superman provides the basis for the discussion of the failures of media in education reform as well as confronting the failures of corporate and consumer America. The role of poverty in the media messages reveals the mixed messages of that media and the failure of the general public to look critically at media messages.

School choice, specifically in the form of vouchers, gained political momentum under President Reagan along with the genesis of the current accountability era. But for the past thirty years, school choice has floundered in many forms, never quite finding the widespread support that political and ideological supporters envisioned. Chapter Four, "The Great Charter Compromise: Masking Corporate Commitments in Educational Reform," presents the rise of charter schools as the newest version of school choice, buoyed by the endorsement of President Obama (along with Michele Obama). The political Right and Left appear poised to join forces behind the so-called "miracle" charter schools that target children living in poverty—specifically the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) and Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). Here, however, I expose the flaws in supporting charter schools (the research finds no difference for charters compared to traditional public schools) as well as detailing the ideological agendas of those seeking corporate schools to replace U.S. public education.

Along with President Obama endorsing charter schools, a unique attack on teacher quality (along with teachers unions) characterizes the U.S. Department of Education led by Secretary Duncan. Chapter Five, "The Teaching Profession as a Service Industry," challenges the claims that teachers are the most important element of student achievement since all evidence points overwhelmingly to out-of-school factors dwarfing both teacher and school quality. Despite the political and popular messages to the contrary, social inequity drives down student achievement, and while schools do not cause poverty (and cannot eradicate that poverty either), public education is guilty of perpetuating social stratification through teacher quality and teacher assignment—details omitted in the attacks on teacher quality coming from the White House.

Chapter Six, "'If Education Cannot Do Everything. . .'—Education as Praxis," builds an argument for what education can do—if the U.S. makes a renewed commitment to social justice. School reform, then, must occur within larger social reform. But there are many reforms public schools need and can achieve. Here, I present universal public education as Adrienne Rich (2001) explains—"the development of a literate, articulate, and well-informed citizenry so that the democratic process can continue to evolve and the promise of radical equality can be brought closer to realization" (p. 162).

The culture myth in the U.S. that honors the rugged individual fuels a distorted view of people who live in poverty—poverty is the result of laziness, a flaw inherent in the people who are poor. This deficit view of people living in poverty is perpetuated in the deficit views of poverty and learning dominant in our schools. Chapter Seven, "Confronting Poverty Again for the First Time—Rising above Deficit Perspectives," rejects deficit views of poverty as well as deficit practices in teaching and learning. This final chapter calls for a renewed and evidence-based understanding of poverty that honors the dignity of all people and doesn't blame people living in poverty for their circumstances. Here, I argue that seeking blame is nonproductive, but that social dynamics are often far more powerful in the lives of people who are poor or affluent than we are willing to acknowledge.

Misguided blame exposed

The Year They Began Calling Poverty and Homelessness an 'Excuse'

The last paragraph is spot on:

"The notion that rising unemployment, declining real wages, and a shocking increase in family poverty are mere 'excuses,' with little or no impact on student learning, is unworthy of our nation's top school leaders. It tells me that current school reform policies have little to do with sound social or educational research, but instead are ideologically or politically (in the worst sense) driven. In this political environment, Duncan's chants of "poverty is not destiny" sound downright pollyannish and even cruel in light of current conditions and his own policies"

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What we believe v. fact

The power of belief against fact may be at the root of why we are seemingly so careless and judgmental about people trapped in poverty:

How facts backfire

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What Matters

Thanks to Susan O for posting this on her blog; especially during the holidays, let's keep in mind what matters for children and commit to raising our voices and doing what matters throughout 2011:

Children of God

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No excuses!

Here is excellent evidence about the folly of international comparisons (and please note how this comments on the call for "no excuses" ideologies in the corporate charter school movement). . .

The TRUTH about China's test scores

Monday, December 13, 2010

Let's be like Finland?

Interesting how political and corporate leaders cry out for Finland. . .to bash schools. . .but what do they say when we call them on it?

From truthout. . .let's be like Finland (healthcare)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Potential Op-Ed rebuttal posted at Schools Matter

Krashen posted an Op-Ed submission of mine at Schools Matter. . .Will let you know of its status, but here it is until then (and a few edits are needed, BTW):

Simplistic manipulation of data

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pedagogy of Freedom, Paulo Freire

"[T]he school, which is the space in which both teachers and students are the subjects of education, cannot abstract itself from the sociocultural and economic conditions of its students, their families, and their communities" (Freire, 1998, p. 62).

Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Trans. P. Clarke. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Making the misguided credible. . .

This New York Times piece is disturbing:

'Culture of poverty' makes a comeback

The assumptions and distortions at the heart of this discussion is why the work of Ruby Payne and the support of "no excuses" charter schools are flourishing within our classist/racist views of people who happen to live in poverty. . .

This comment from John Fullinwider on the NYT article is more credible than the article or the scholars examined in the article:

"What would make for some interesting sociology is a study of the 'culture of wealth.' Why do rich people remain so willfully blind to the injustice that benefits them? Why do landlords who defer apartment maintenance pretend that it's the tenants who "don't care"? Why do cops haul poor black men out of their cars during a minor traffic stop, but give prosperous-looking whites a pass? Why are there a thousand studies about unwed teenage mothers who are poor and zero about the disposition of unwanted pregnancies among Ivy League co-eds? Why don't the sociologists at Harvard study the moral failings of their largest donors? Why doesn't Professor Sampson study his own amoral 'culture of well-funded curiosity' as he drops fake letters on the sidewalk of destitute, devastated neighborhoods to see which poor people care enough to return his mail? Why not study residents of the wealthiest census tracts in Chicago to learn why they don't care enough to end the devastation? Instead of studying the disadvantaged, why not study the ones who put so many at a disadvantage?"

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Review of Obama's "Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students"

The Obama administration's educational policies are being revealed time and again as more ideology than evidence-based initiatives. . .See this review of neighborhood :

Review of Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students


The research summary "Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students" presents the research background for the Obama administration’s proposals for comprehensive, community-wide services in high-poverty neighborhoods, extended learning time, family engagement and safe schools. While these policies have broad and common-sense appeal, the research supporting the particular policies proposed by the administration is weak and poorly presented in the research summary. As promising as community-wide services may be, a broad research base does not yet exist concerning how to make them successful. The research on extended learning time is also inconclusive. Family involvement is crucial to education, but the evidence for a causal link between student achievement and the type of parent involvement discussed is ambiguous and suspect. The proposals for safe schools boil down to increased local flexibility and increased gathering of survey data, neither of which can be expected to improve outcomes. Together, the administration’s proposals would require an extensive financial commitment in order to be fully implemented, but the scope and source of these funds is not explained. Overall, the evidence provided is not sufficiently strong to justify the programs they champion. While the research summary adequately documents problems, a wiser course for public policy would be a carefully structured set of pilot studies to sharply and accurately identify solutions.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Leave it to comics: Where our commitments lie. . .

While we choose as a society to ignore disproportionate poverty among children compared to affluent countries throughout the world, our political leaders never forget to help those who are already winning the (fixed) game:

No More Corruption (from Married to the Sea)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Excellent interview at Truthout

See this interview and note the well explained assault on teachers and willingness to ignore the impact of poverty; from Truthout:

Back to School: An Interview With Bill Ayers

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Poorest states. . .

We fail and fail and fail to acknowledge that demonizing schools and teachers is a convenient mask for acknowledging POVERTY. . .

Poorest states outlined @ Huffington Post

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Berliner on the achievement gap

From The Washington Post:

New analysis of achievement gap: ½ x ½ = 1½

Ignroing poverty from the top. . .

See this excellent article at The Washington Post:

The elephant that Obama and Lauer ignored: Poverty and student achievement

Misinformation: Masking the problems caused by poverty

The season for bashing teachers and schools is also the season for masking the impact of poverty on the lives of children and their families. . .

The jewel in the crown of this bashing is the misinformation-documentary "Waiting for Superman."

See a well supported refuting of the doc HERE.

28 September 2010 Op-Ed in OpEdNews

The great charter compromise: Masking corporate commitments in educational reform

Monday, September 20, 2010

Poverty and education, international report

See Report: Poor Countries Face Education Crisis at EdWeek. . .

[I wish, as a side note, we could stop using "crisis" with every comment on education. . .]

Capitalism. . .

See "Poverty and Economic Crisis" at Truthout

The Angry Rich, Paul Krugman

Krugman puts the poverty debate in perspective:

The Angry Rich

Letter from Krashen

Blame students or blame poverty?
**Sent to The New York Times, Sept 13, 2010**

**Thomas Friedman ("We’re No. 1(1)!,"9/11) asserts that American
education has declined, our test scores are low, and that we must
therefore demand more of our students.**

This is all wrong. American students from well-funded schools who come
from high-income families outscore nearly all other countries on
international tests. Only our children in high-poverty schools score
below the international average. Our scores look low because the US
has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all
industrialized countries (25%, compared to Denmark's 3%). American
education has been successful; the problem is poverty.

The solution is not to blame students for being lazy (our elders said
this about us). The solution is to protect children from the damaging
effects of poverty: better nutrition (Susan Ohanian suggests the motto
"No Child Left Unfed"), excellent health care for all children, and
universal access to reading material.

Stephen Krashen

Friedman article at:

Recommended: Walt Gardner's blog at EdWeek

Poverty Rate and the Achievement Gap

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Social Inequality. . .

As I maintain often, our schools reflect and too often exacerbate the inequities found in our society. . .Read this series at Slate:

The United State of Inequality

See links to parts 2 and 3

"Evening with. . ." Mere Christianity Forum 8 September 2010

See an Op-Ed of mine about how we view childhood poverty:

Test scores aren't the most serious problem (Greenville News, 19 June 2010)

Consider the resources below:

Adamson, P., Brown, G., Micklewright, J., Schnepf, S., Waldmann, R., & Wright, A. (2002, November). A league table of educational disadvantage in rich nations. Innocenti Report Card (4). United Nations Children’s Fund Innocenti Research Centre. Florence, Italy. Retrieved 27 December 2007 from

Adamson, P. (2006). Child poverty in rich countries 2005. Innocenti Report Card (6). United Nations Children's Fund Innocenti Research Centre. Florence, Italy

Adamson, P. (2007). Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries. Innocenti Report Card (7). United Nations Children's Fund Innocenti Research Centre. Florence, Italy.

Barton, P. E., & Coley, R. J. (2007, September). The family: America’s smallest school. Educational Testing Service. Policy Information Center. Princeton, NJ. Retrieved 27 December 2007, from

Barton, P. E., & Coley, R. J. (2009). Parsing the achievement gap II. Educational Testing Service. Policy Information Center. Princeton, NJ. Retrieved 8 May 2009, from

Barton, P. E., & Coley, R. J. (2010, July). The black-white achievement gap: When progress stopped. Educational Testing Service. Policy Information Center. Princeton, NJ. Retrieved 30 August 2010 from

Berliner, D. C. (2009). Poverty and potential: Out-of-school factors and school success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved 25 August 2009 from

Bomer, R., Dworin, J. E., May, L., & Semingson, P. (2008). Miseducating teachers about the poor: A critical analysis of Ruby Payne's claims about poverty. Teachers College Record, 110(11).

Bomer, R., Dworin, J. E., May, L., & Semingson, P. (2009, June 3). What’s wrong with a deficit perspective? Teachers College Record. Retrieved 12 June 2009 from

Cavanagh, S. (2007, December 7). Poverty’s effect on U.S. scores greater than for other nations. Education Week, 27(15), 1, 13.

Dudley-Marling, C. (2007). Return of the deficit. Journal of Educational Controversy, 2(1). Retrieved 29 June 2009 from

Dudley-Marling, C., & Lucas, K. (2009, May). Pathologizing the language and culture of poor children. Language Arts, 86(5), 362-370.

Dworin, J. E., & Bomer, R. (2008, January). What we all (supposedly) know about the poor: A critical discourse analysis of Ruby Payne’s “Framework.” English Education, 40(2), 101-121.

Ellison, R. (2003). What these children are like. In J. F. Callahan (Ed.), The collected essays of Ralph Ellison (pp. 546-555). New York: The Modern Library. Retrieved 27 December 2007 from

Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Trans. P. Clarke. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

———. (1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

——— . (2005). Teachers as cultural workers: Letters to those who dare to teach. Trans. D. Macedo, D., Koike, & A., Oliveira. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Gorski, P. (2006a, February 9). The Classist underpinnings of Ruby Payne’s Framework. Teachers College Record. Retrieved 24 June 2007 from

———. (2006b, July 19). Responding to Payne’s Response. Teachers College Record. Retrieved 12 June 2009 from

———. (2008, April). The myth of the “Culture of Poverty.” Educational Leadership, 65(7), 32-36.

Hirsch, D. (2007, September). Experiences of poverty and educational disadvantage. Joseph Rowntree Foundation. York, North Yorkshire, UK. Retrieved 27 December 2007 from

Kincheloe, J. L., & Steinberg, S. R. (2007). Cutting class: Socioeconomic status and education. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Marklein, M. B. (2009, August 25). SAT scores show disparities by race, gender, family income. USA Today. Retrieved 27 August 2009 from

Ng, J. C., & Rury, J. L. (2006, July 18). Poverty and education: A critical analysis of the Ruby Payne phenomenon. Teachers College Record. Retrieved 24 June 2007 from

Peske, H. G., & Haycock, K. (2006, June). Teaching inequality: How poor and minority students are shortchanged on teacher quality. Washington DC: The Education Trust, Inc. Retrieved 7 September 2009 from

Sato, M., & Lensmire, T. J. (2009, January). Poverty and Payne: Supporting teachers to work with children of poverty. Phi Delta Kappan, 9(5), 365-370.

Thomas, P. L. (2009b). Shifting from deficit to generative practices: Addressing impoverished and all students. Teaching Children of Poverty, 1(1). Retrieved 13 September 2009 from

Wenglinsky, H. (2007, October). Are private high schools better academically than public high schools? Retrieved 28 December 2008 from the Center for Education Policy Web site:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Two important blog postings

See HERE for a detailed discussion of the problems with KIPP and "no excuses" schools.

And HERE for Krashen's charge that the next move after common core standards, MORE TESTS, is a serious mistake.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New from Barton and Coley

The Black-White Achievement Gap: When Progress Stopped

And as with recent revelations by Diane Ravitch and the Fordham Foundation, George Will is acknowledging what many of us have been arguing for years. . .

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

EdWeek blog from Walt Gardner

Role of Research in School Reform

Walt Gardner addresses how we approach school reform and cites one of my pieces on the Harlem Children's Zone.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

21 August 2010 Op-Ed The Greenville News

Change the real "status quo" hurting education

The National Opportunity to Learn (OTL) Campaign, by a coalition of organizations committed to civil rights, represents a growing voice of criticism leveled at the Obama administration's education policy headed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The OTL released a framework for educational reform as a challenge to Obama/Duncan's Race to the Top, NCLB reauthorization, and other policies and agendas. The framework

"offer[s] critiques of federal efforts that would: distribute resources by competition in the midst of a severe recession; advance experimental proposals dwarfed by the scope of the challenges in low-income communities; and promote ineffective approaches for turning around low-performing schools and education systems."

To those critics, Obama sent this message on 29 July 2010: "... But I know there's also been some controversy about the initiative [Race to the Top]. Part of it, I believe, reflects a general resistance to change; a comfort with the status quo. But there have also been criticisms, including from some folks in the civil rights community, about particular elements of Race to the Top."

Just two days before, Secretary Duncan offered a similar refrain: "We have to challenge the status quo—because the status quo in public education is not nearly good enough—not with a quarter of all students and, almost half, 50% of African-American and Latino young men and women dropping out of high school."

The rising and new tension between a Democratic administration and liberal organizations provides an ideal opportunity to step back from the educational debate and reassess what we are arguing, what the evidence shows, and how we can move forward. Since the two sides above are disagreeing within the same ideology, we can conclude that this is not simple partisan bickering.

A key element of the debate involves the use of the term "status quo." The Obama/Duncan charge that people disagreeing with the administration are somehow for the status quo of schools and society is condescending and misleading. But it does expose the clear ideological foundation from which Obama/Duncan are working.

In their blueprint for educational reform, the Obama administration makes an erroneous claim: "Of all the work that occurs at every level of our education system, the interaction between teacher and student is the primary determinant of student success." This is a compelling and idealistic assertion, but untrue. While teacher and school quality matter, the conditions of students' lives outside of school account for about 67% to 86% of student achievement.

While the OTL is justified in criticizing the Obama administration for focusing on schools without acknowledging the context within which schools function, the misguided work of Obama and Duncan do not absolve us of the need to reform schools.

Education must be reformed. But we must seek reform within the context of addressing the causes of high drop-out rates and low student achievement.

And we do need to change the status quo. Ironically, however, the Obama/Duncan plan maintains the status quo instead of challenging it.

For example, William Mathis has released a look at the potential for National Standards, supported by Obama/Duncan, to help address the failures of schools, and he concludes: "Without addressing both the in-school and out-of-school influences on test scores, common core standards are not likely to improve the quality and equity of America's public schools."

We have been lamenting drop-out rates and our schools' inability to serve well marginalized children (children living in poverty, children of color, children speaking home languages other than English) for over a century, and each time we do, we call the conditions crises and offer the same solution of raising standards and increasing accountability.

And it never works. And it never will.

Like the OTL, I am in fact against the status quo—the status quo of childhood poverty exceeding 1 in 5 children; the status quo of children most in need being assigned to the least experienced and un-/under-qualified teachers; the status quo of spending millions of dollars on standards, tests, and accountability; the status quo of blaming teachers and schools for conditions beyond their control; the status quo of using our schools as political footballs.

We need political leadership brave enough to acknowledge and confront the whole picture of failures that exist in our society and then are reflected in social structures, such as our schools.

In a post on an EdWeek blog, Stephen Krashen expresses well what that leadership could be: "Improving education is not the path to eliminating poverty. Eliminating poverty is the path to better school achievement. All the money going to new standards, new tests, and of course new textbooks, should be spent on protecting children from the effects of poverty: Proper nutrition (no child left unfed), health care, and access to books."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

17 August 2010 Op-Ed at OEN

Reconsider Education "Miracles"


[1] Brooks, D, (2009, May 7). The Harlem miracle. The New York Times, A31.

[2] Dobbie, W., & Fryer, R. G., Jr. (2009), Are high-quality schools enough to close the achievement gap? Evidence from a bold social experiment in Harlem. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Retrieved June 5, 2009, from

[3] Shulman, R. (2009, August 2). Harlem program singled out as model. The Washington Post.

[4] Molnar, A. (2001, April 11). The media and educational research: What we know vs. what the public hears. Milwaukee, WI: Center for Education Research, Analysis, and Innovation. Retrieved 18 July 2009 from

[5] Yettick, H. (2009). The research that reaches the public: Who produces the educational research mentioned in the news media? Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved 5 August 2009 from

[6] Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Trans. P. Clarke. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., p.110.

[7] Pallas, A. (2009). Just how gullible is David Brooks? New York: Gotham Schools. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from

[8] See

[9] Whitman, D. (2008, Fall). An appeal to authority. Education Next, 8(4). Retrieved 29 June 2009 from ; Landsberg, M. (2009, May 31). Spitting in the eye of mainstream education. Los Angeles Times online. Retrieved 29 June 2009 from,0,6482403.story

[10] Ravitch, D. (2009, May 12). What the “Harlem Miracle” really teaches. Bridging Differences blog. Education Week. Retrieved 27 December 2009 from

[11] Dobbie & Fryer.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

11 August 2010 Op-Ed at EdWeek

Why common standards won't work

In 2010, with the blessing and encouragement of the nation’s president and secretary of education, we are establishing “common-core standards” to address the historical claim that our public schools are failures. In the 1890s, a similar lament was voiced by the group known as the Committee of Ten:

“When college professors endeavor to teach chemistry, physics, botany, zoology, meteorology, or geology to persons of 18 or 20 years of age, they discover that in most instances new habits of observing, reflecting, and recording have to be painfully acquired by the students—habits which they should have acquired in early childhood.”

Their solution? Almost exactly what the current common-standards pursuit offers us. In fact, the bureaucratic approach to schools—establish content, prescribe content, and measure student acquisition of that content—has been visited and revisited decade after decade for more than a century now. It has always failed, and always will.

This time around, we must use the creation of and debate about national standards to reject a failed solution for the ignored problems facing our schools—and our society.

Today’s attempt at national standards, the recently released work of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in English language arts and mathematics that is being adopted separately by states, fails first because the standards are based on two flawed assumptions: that we somehow, in 2010, don’t already know what to teach (we do and have for decades); and that somehow a standard body of learning matches what humans need and what a democracy that values human freedom wants (it doesn’t match either).

Next, the standards further deprofessionalize teaching at the K-12 level. Chemistry professors in college do not need a set of standards to teach chemistry; part of the appropriate expectations for their job is to be scholars of their field and adept at teaching that body of knowledge. (In fact, a central problem we could address is that, at the K-12 level, we trivialize the need for teachers to be knowledgeable, and at the college level, we trivialize a professor’s need to be skilled at teaching. Educators need both.)

To standardize and prescribe expectations is, in fact, to lower them.
Common standards also devolve into asking less, not more, of students, since they are invariably tied to the narrowest possible types of assessment. Some clichés have become clichés because they are true. The truism “Give a man a fish and he eats for the day; teach a man to fish and he eats forever” captures perfectly the flaw with a standards approach to education: Prescribed standards of learning are giving children fish, not teaching them to fish.

Standards-driven education removes decisions from teachers and students and renders classrooms lifeless and functional, devoid of the pleasure and personal value of learning, discovering, and coming to be.

Common standards also begin by assuming that the content is all that matters in learning. To create a standard body of knowledge is to codify that the students themselves do not matter—at least in any humane way. The standards movement envisions children as empty vessels to be filled by the prescribed knowledge chosen for them—certainly a counterproductive view of humans in a free society.

A call for “higher standards” speaks to our human quest for improvement, but that call conflates “standard” with “expectation,” and the two terms are not synonymous in the way we need for improving education. Yes, we should have high expectations for teachers and students, but those expectations can never be and will never be any more “standard” than one human to the next. To standardize and prescribe expectations is, in fact, to lower them.

Offering some type of national standards as a solution for the failure of public education implies that a lack of standards exists, and that the supposed lack is somehow the cause of our educational problems.
And that central flaw is at the heart of what is most wrong about the new common-core standards, because the creation of those standards is drawing our attention away from the actual causes of educational problems.

A call for national standards ensures that we continue doing what is most wrong with our bureaucratic schools (establish-prescribe-measure) and that we persist in looking away from the largest cause of low student achievement: childhood poverty.

A call for national standards is a political veneer, a tragic waste of time and energy that would be better spent addressing real needs in the lives of children—safe homes, adequate and plentiful food, essential health care, and neighborhood schools that are not reflections of the neighborhoods where children live through no choice of their own.

Education is in no way short of a knowledge base. And even if it were, tinkering (yet again) at a standard core of knowledge while ignoring the dehumanizing practices in our schools, and the oppressive impact of poverty on the lives of children, is simply more fiddling while the futures of our children smolder over our shoulders and we look the other way.

Vol. 29, Issue 37, Pages 33-34

Friday, August 6, 2010

Our message on poverty and education. . .

Krashen again makes a hard but accurate point that is worth repeating. . .here and often by all of us who are concerned about poverty and education:

"Improving education is not the path to eliminating poverty. Eliminating poverty is the path to better school achievement. All the money going to new standards, new tests, and of course new textbooks, should be spent on protecting children from the effects of poverty: Proper nutrition (no child left unfed), health care, and access to books."

See his full comments on an EdWeek blog.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New post from Krashen

We must be vigilant with the facts. . .and stand against the misrepresentations of school quality. . .and continue to clarify where the true problems lie. . .

Poverty in the lives of children. . .a social failure, not an educational failure. . .

See this POST from Krashen at Schools Matter. . .

Friday, July 30, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More from Krashen

Hustlers and High Rollers: Not Just Wall Street

Sent to the NY Times, July 12, 2010

Bob Herbert ("Outside the Casino," 7/12) notes that Wall Street
"hustlers and high rollers" are doing well, while schools are cutting
services, including libraries.

Federal education policy will have the same effect: Education
Secretary Duncan plans to spend billions on new standards and tests,
increasing testing far beyond the currently unreasonable levels. There
is no scientific evidence that this will help students, but it will
help the "hustlers and high rollers" in the publishing industry: Along
with new standards and tests come new textbooks linked to tests.

In contrast, there is substantial evidence showing that programs that
have been weakened were effective: For example, studies show that
library quality and staffing is related to literacy development.

Libraries are especially important for children of poverty, who have
few other sources of books. Investing in libraries, however, does not
result in quick profits for the hustlers and high rollers in

Stephen Krashen

July 12, 2010

**Outside the Casino**

**New York Times**


Monday, July 12, 2010

At the heart of deficit views of the poor. . .

Without a critical perspective (in other words, when any of us become blinded by our own assumptions), we fail the potential offered by being educated. . .

Disturbing news about what we accept when faced with evidence:

How facts backfire

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Schools matter, but. . .

This is promising:

"Supt. Tom Brady puts it this way: Teachers can’t do it alone. Unless community organizations begin to address some of the myriad social issues affecting a child’s academic progress, urban schools in particular will never fulfill their promise."

Read the article HERE.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Excellent piece about flaws of national standards

Krashen has shared this excellent Op-Ed:

Core Standards: More drill and kill

Published June 21, Atlanta Journal Constitution

By Cindy Lutenbacher

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Op-Ed Greenville News 19 June 2010

Test scores aren't the most serious problem

From Krashen

**Why kindergarten children are studying engineering "before they can spell it"**

Sent to the NY Times, June 14
**Kindergarten children are "Studying Engineering Before They Can Spell It," (June 14) because the US Dept of Education thinks we are behind in science and engineering. Not true. **

American students from well-funded schools and higher-income families outscore nearly every country in the world in science and math. Only our children in high-poverty schools score below the international average. Our average scores are low because we have the highest percentage of poverty of all industrialized countries: 25%, compared to Denmark's 3%. The real problem is poverty.

According to the World Economic Federation, the US is doing well in engineering and science, ranking fifth out of 133 countries in "availability of scientists & engineers," second in "quality of scientific research institutions," and third in the number of patents for new inventions per capita.

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no shortage of technology-trained professionals in the US. There is a surplus.

Stephen Krashen

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Report on Low Income Students

See the new report from Institute for Higher Education Policy:

A Portrait of Low-Income Young Adults in Education

Do as I say, not as I do. . .

Krashen has shared a perceptive insight from Susan Ohanian that reflects the incredible hypocrisy and senselessness of political approaches to educational commentary and reform (the patsed information below is provided directly from Krashen's emailing):

A Violation of the Common Core Standards

Sent to the NY Times.

**In a press release announcing the launching of The Common Core State
Standards ("States Receive a Reading List: New Standards for
Education," June 2), former Colorado Governor Roy Romer is quoted as
saying: "Common standards ensure that every child across the country
is getting the best possible education, no matter where a child lives
or what their background is."**

Clearly, neither Gov. Romer nor any of those who reviewed the press
release have mastered Standard L.3.1f: "Ensure subject-verb and
pronoun antecedent agreement;" (grades 3-12) and Standard L.6. 1e:
"Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in pronoun number and
person." (grades 6-12) (page 56 of the Common Core State Standards).

We are told that adoption of the Standards will ensure that Americans
will be able to compete in the 21st century global economy. How can we
hope to do this if we continue to make and allow inappropriate shifts
in pronoun number?

Susan Ohanian

Stephen Krashen

Additional information:

Gov. Romer also served as superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School

Press release, US Department of Education, "National Governors
Association and State Education Chiefs Launch Common State Academic

More Giroux, brilliant as ever

Read the latest from Henry Giroux in truthout. . .

A key section:

"Public schools are under attack not because they are failing or are inefficient, but because they are public, an unwanted reminder of a public sphere and set of institutions whose purpose is to serve the common good and promote democratic ends, values and social relations. The forces poised to destroy public schools are ideologically motivated to destroy all vestiges of the common good, just as they are enraptured economically by the possibility of reaping big profits through an ongoing campaign aimed at promoting vouchers, privatization and charters, all of which are intended to slowly and successfully convince the public to disinvest in public schooling and transform it into a private rather than public good."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Defining poverty?

We must stay vigilant against attitudes that continue to trivialize poverty by suggesting poverty is somehow the fault of those living in that poverty.

This Op-Ed is a sad example of flawed ideologies about poverty—but ones that resonate with an American public enamored with the rugged individual myth. . .

Friday, May 28, 2010

New report, worse news about high-poverty schools

The Condition of Education 2010 report is now out.

From the highlights of the report:

The school poverty findings include:

  • In 2007-08, about 20 percent of all public elementary schools and 9 percent of public secondary schools were considered high-poverty schools, compared with 15 percent and 5 percent respectively in 1999-2000.
  • The reading achievement gap between 8th-grade students in low-poverty vs. high-poverty schools was 34 points, on a 500 point scale, in 2009, and the mathematics achievement gap was 38 points.
  • In 2007-08, according to school administrators, about 28 percent of high school graduates from high-poverty schools attended 4-year colleges after graduation, compared with 52 percent of high school graduates from low-poverty schools.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Failure of "Closing the Achievement Gap"

This blog from Walt Gardner raises a needed red flag about calls to close the achievement gap.

The Politics of Education

Rare in the discourse about education do political leaders and candidates seeking political office acknowledge the power of social forces. . .here is a refreshing quest for support that challenges misinformation and asks us to look more broadly at the struggle to create schools children deserve:

Let's light more candles in public education

Sunday, May 2, 2010

New Book on Think-Tank Research

This is an excellent book that confronts the negative impact of think-tank reports on education policy:

From EPIC:

"Think Tank Research Quality: Lessons for Policy Makers, the Media, and the Public (Information Age Publishing) demonstrates the importance of independent expert reviews. Taken together, the reviews reveal that think tank publications have clear patterns of misleading, flawed, and even deceptive research practices. Yet this think tank research often serves as the foundation for federal and programs. As the nation moves forward with Race to the Top, as well as the current effort to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind law also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, this book provides a cautionary tale. Meeting a critical need, Think Tank Research Quality provides policy makers and the public valuable insight into the quality of the research used to support these and other reform initiatives."

The book is available HERE.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Recommended New Title


And a companion article on a related topic: "Ill Fares the Land"

From the publisher's web site:

About This Book

Additional resources for Injustice:

Few would dispute that we live in an unequal and unjust world, but what causes this inequality to persist? Leading social commentator and academic Danny Dorling claims in this timely book that, as the five social evils identified by Beveridge are gradually being eradicated, they are being replaced by five new tenets of injustice, viz:

  • elitism is efficient;
  • exclusion is necessary;
  • prejudice is natural;
  • greed is good; and
  • despair is inevitable.

In an informal yet authoritative style, Dorling examines who is most harmed by these injustices and why, and what happens to those who most benefit. Hard-hitting and uncompromising in its call to action, this is essential reading for everyone concerned with social justice.

"His attack on elitism and despair is impressive, his factual evidence undeniable." Rt Hon David Blunkett MP

Scoppe Op-Ed in The State

No Magic Wand

Friday, April 23, 2010

Environment, biology, and teacher quality?

Many debate and examine what aspects of a child's life impacts gaining literacy. . .

This study seems to suggest that genetics is powerful in learning to read but that teacher quality can have a positive impact.

Now, what we really learn is HOW research is reported, and how we fail to question that source of the evidence. . .Just what sort of test decides what "reading" is?

Here is one reply that certainly puts a different spin on things:

Submitted to Science

Taylor et. al. (Science vol 328, April 23) compared identical twins in different classes in grades 1 and 2. The twin in a class that made better gains on a reading test made better gains than the co-twin in the other class. This shows, the researchers claim, that instruction is a stronger force than genetics for learning to read.

The reading test asked children to pronounce texts rapidly and accurately, without necessarily understanding them. Reading is about comprehension, not pronunciation. Prof. Elaine Garan (2001, Phi Delta Kappan 82(7), 500-506) has shown that the kind of reading instruction that is aimed at improving pronunciation without understanding does not help children much on tests in which they have to understand what they read.

Reading is about understanding, not pronouncing. The Taylor et. al. study does not tell us much about reading.

Stephen Krashen

See Krashen's work at his web page; and note this excellent discussion of the reality about the impact of poverty: Remarks of Race to the Top (RTTT)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Piece accepted for Souls

I have been devoting a good bit of time to confronting deficit perspectives in education and am excited about a new acceptance of an article to appear in Souls:

Thomas, P. L. (2010, July/September). The Payne of addressing race and poverty in public education: Utopian accountability and deficit assumptions of middle class America. Souls, 12(3). TBD.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Accountability, Health, Poverty, and Achievement

The growing call to close the achievement gap and to link teacher pay with student achievement is often blind to the reality of the many powerful influences on the lives of children, including how they perform in school.

See this important study:
Basch, C.E. (2010). Healthier Students Are Better Learners: A Missing Link in Efforts to Close the Achievement Gap. Equity Matters: Research Review No. 6. New York: The Campaign for Educational Equity.

Historical Perspectives and Addressing Poverty and Racism

Americans are harsh and idealistic. . .prone to crisis rhetoric and nostalgia. . .

And these weaknesses, I believe, disproportionately impact negatively our poor in this country. . .especially the children who are both poor and voiceless in a democracy (republic). . .

While we rant and slander Obama. . .what was it like in those golden days of yore. . .The Reagan Years. . .

Toward the end of Reagan's second term, his approval rating was 35%. . .And the graph of Reagan's approval ratings looks similar to Clinton's. . .

In 1986, a poll revealed that 56% of African-Americans believed Reagan to be a racist. . .

No one, especially the poor and disenfranchised/marginalized in our society, benefits from partisan rhetoric aimed at gaining political ground. . .

Whether it is health care or the terribly flawed education agenda under Obama, we need to set aside our patterns of discourse and seek action that matches the needs of those who need action the most. . .

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Call for Choice to Support Equity Unsupported

Scott, J. (2010). Review of "Expanding Choice in Elementary and Secondary Education: A Report on Rethinking the Federal Role in Education," Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved [date] from

Friday, February 12, 2010

Teacher Pay, Board Certification, and the Unspoken Impact on High-Poverty Schools

A new Op-Ed in The State calls for retaining the stipend SC pays for National Board Certification. While I concur with the need to pay teachers well, and to recognize excellence in teaching, I find the constant misrepresentation of board certification research trouble, and I find the silence over the negative impact of board certification on high-poverty schools unacceptable.

Originally published as:

Thomas, P. L. (2008, June 30). Teaching credential hasn't been shown to be cost-effective education investment. The Greenville News.

See my original Op-Ed included below:

Headlines and lead paragraphs heralding a new study on the effectiveness of National Board certified teachers appear to vindicate SC’s financial and pedagogical commitment to the process.

“Board-certified teachers boost student scores” headlines this lead from USA Today: “Schools looking to hire teachers should keep an eye out for those with national board certification.”

And “National-Board Teachers Found to Be Effective” draws the readers of Education Week to this: “Teachers who earn advanced certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards are more effective than teachers without that credential, but there’s little evidence to show the program has transformed the field in the broader ways its founders envisioned, a long-awaited report released today by a national scientific panel finds.”

Welcomed news for SC where we have committed large yearly stipends and resources to support teachers applying to the board certification process, right?

Not quite. The first problem related to this study is the careless reporting of the conclusions. Read further in both of the stories above and discover that the research, in fact, does not conclude what the headlines and lead paragraphs suggest.

In the forth paragraph of the USA Today piece we discover: “It is not clear from the research whether the process of getting certified by the national board makes teachers better or if those who get certified were already top performers, according to the report. More research is needed to try to determine that, Hakel said.”

Education Week discredits its own claims in the third paragraph: “In the new report, however, a 17-member panel of the National Research Council says it’s still unclear whether the process itself leads to better-quality teaching, because too few studies have examined that issue.”

In SC, we must look carefully at the report because we committed to board certification without any evidence that the investment actually addresses educational needs in SC.

The National Research Council report offers these tentative implications:

• While the report claims higher standardized test scores for students taught by board certified teachers, when compared to non-board certified, it also admits that this study in no way can be viewed as generalizable since the data come from only two states and one city, and draw on just reading and math scores for 3rd and 5th graders.

• Most important is this key statement from the report itself: “There are no studies that collected baseline data about teachers before going through the process, making it impossible to attribute any findings to the process itself.” This study suggests some very narrow correlations about board certification and test scores, but it does not show that board certification causes anything—at all. It is possible that students would have scored higher in the board certified teachers’ classrooms before those teachers became board certified—or for a number of other reasons the study never addresses.

• Also key for us in SC is that the report reveals absolutely no conclusions about the cost effectiveness of board certification. This report does not clarify if the money invested in board certification produces student achievement equal to or greater than the money spent. Now, we are left wondering if the significant financial cost to SC is producing what we need.

• Board certified teachers are more likely to change schools or positions than non-board certified teachers, and those moves tend to be to schools that already include higher student achievement and lower poverty. Board certification contributes to teacher flight from the schools that need high-quality teachers and to schools that are already successful and include students experiencing fewer life challenges.

• Teachers from affluent schools tend to apply for board certification at higher rates than teachers from high-poverty schools.

• While African-American teachers apply at the same rates as whites, African-American teachers are under-represented in those who complete certification.

With our commitment to board certification, SC made a leap of faith when we should have been making evidence-based decisions.

Let’s not make a mistake again by jumping to distorted conclusions, as the media appears to be doing, about this single study from the National Research Council.

Issues of poverty, equity, and funding are plaguing our teaching workforce and our schools. This report does not show board certification as an appropriate solution to those problems. In fact, the report suggests that board certification could be working against our overcoming these difficult obstacles.

Do teachers in SC who pursue professional growth deserve our support? Of course.

The key question we must ask: Is board certification the appropriate mechanism for better compensating teachers and raising student achievement? The answer appears to be we have no clear evidence to say “yes,” but now have some signs that the answer may be “no.”

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Choice and Charters, not all that is claimed (especially for the poor)

How School Choice Can Create Jobs for South Carolina, authored by Sven Larson, has been advocated by the South Carolina Policy Council Education Foundation, claiming that choice in the low country of SC produced jobs for the area.

But, a review for the Think Tank Review Project by Joydeep Roy of Georgetown University and the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., found that the claims are flawed and the report is more advocacy than research.

Further, a new study on the impact of charter schools, "Schools Without Diversity: Education Management Organizations, Charter Schools, and the Demographic Stratification of the American School System," reveals that, "as compared with the public school district in which the charter school resided, the charter schools were substantially more segregated by race, wealth, disabling condition, and language. While charter schools have rapidly grown, the strong segregative pattern found in 2001 is virtually unchanged through 2007."

These findings, I regret, will likely stay below the radar of mainstream media and most people and continue the patterns found by Molnar and Yettick regarding the reporting of credible research v. advocacy reports—advocacy receiving a disproportionate amount of coverage leading to more misinformation about schools (and choice) than credible information.