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Yong Zhao’s NPE Speech, Transcribed– Part II

On Saturday, April 25, 2015, University of Oregon education professor Yong Zhao gave a keynote address at the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education (NPE). Zhao’s entire 55-minute speech can be found here.

This insightful and incredibly humorous speech should not be missed.

I was so impressed with Zhao’s words that I decided to transcribe his entire keynote in five segments of approximately 11 minutes each, or roughly 2,000 words per installment.

On May 2, 2015, I posted Part I, a hilarious segment in which Zhao speaks of “out-of-basement readiness” and the “race to the big” as the cause of extinction for the native people on Easter Island.

Below is my second transcribed segment. I overlap the text a bit with the previous post to preserve context.


…You may be ready for college, but college is not guarantee for “out of basement” readiness. You know, in the US today, we have over 50 percent of recent college graduates are back in their parents’ basement. We call that they are “unemployed” or “underemployed,” right? And they’re not only back in your basement; they owe some people money, right? [laughter] We have an average college debt of over twenty thousand dollars in the US. That’s scary. That’s very scary.

Remember, these children are not necessarily miseducated—are not necessarily poorly educated–  they’re miseducated—they’re educated with something that doesn’t exist. But let me go back to say, how were we, we’re so infatuated with test scores. But do test scores mean anything? You would say, “no.” But why don’t we believe this? So, you know, there’s several words I think this morning when Diane talked about Lakeoff’s [?] talking, there’s several phrases we should try to get out of our system. For example, it’s called, “underperforming.” What does it mean? You know, really? It’s based on test scores. Underperforming. We are an underperforming system, you know, so horrible. We use that to define. And other words, I hate these words: “evidence based.” What evidence? Whose evidence? What evidence? You know, we talk about this as though it’s good. “Data driven.” What data? Do you see? But sometimes we accept these words as if they are automatically great. You know, we think, “That’s it. That’s good.” You know, all these terms we use, and it’s very scary in many ways.

So, what we talk, when I was doing this research, trying to get my money back from George Bush, I was, and I was trying to understand this whole thing. So, what got sent America down this wrong path is precisely when they look at a number of the scores, either students, or individuals, or systems. [13:00]  And the scores, what made America, if you look at scores, I think this morning when Diane and I talked about America, if you look at test scores as [an] indicator, you know, American education is really unlike what the popular media says: “It’s in decline. It’s getting worse every day.” American education based on test scores is not getting worse, is not in decline. It has always been horrible. [laughter] Has always been, if you measure this thing. That is what Diane talked about this morning. If you look at some of these test scores, we have had horrible, horrible test scores for [a] long time: 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and, uh, this is the data. You can have an interesting look at this thing. You just track all these international test scores. They have never been good. There was never a “good old day” in American education in the past. Never.

But the question you want [to] ask: Why is America still here? (Question is projected on large screen.) [laughter and applause] This actually is a Canadian question. They are constantly, the want to know all the time, “Why are you guys, why are you still here?” [It] is that they are not only here; according to a list, Obama, we are actually doing pretty good. That’s the State of the Union address; Obama says, “America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world,” which is true. This is fact, more factual than some of Obama’s other facts. [laughter] But this is real. What happened there? How do you explain this? It doesn’t really matter, we look at gaps. The gaps are true, but they don’t really matter. And Eric Hanuskek, who admits Americans [are an] anomaly. He was trying to predict the reason PISA scores is [growth?] and development, he cannot in fact explain America. Anomaly. What happened there?

And then look at, many people admire China. Remember when we talk about China? China has been Number One, you know, ever since China participate[d] in testing. Well, China, by the way, until 2009, China did not really participate in international tests as a nation, not counting Taiwan or Hong Kong. They are politically part of China, at least the Chinese believe they are part of China, but anyway. So, this [is] the first time that they took this thing called the PISA. It scored Number One in all three categories in Shanghai. People try to dispute, “Oh, they lie, they [use] bad sampling.” Maybe all of this [is] true. But even if it is true, what does it mean? [16:00] And China has had a second round, really, that’s 2012, it’s the same thing that’s participate this year. Chinese always can do this well. I’ve been saying this thing: If you measure by test scores, America is always about China surpassing self. China surpassed America before there was an America. [laughter] You know, China’s been doing this tests, we’ve been doing this since, like 600. You know, just doing this a long time, long time ago.

So, when you look at, this kind of, this data, you want to say what matters. And, of course, after the data came out, our beloved, or, not-so-beloved Marc Tucker came out with this great book called, Surpassing Shanghai. Don’t ever buy it. It’s really a horrible book. [laughter] And, uh, they, uh, they, even the title is horrible. I mean, it’s like “surpassing Shanghai.” This is something I’ve always, is really bothered me a lot about, when I just happened [to] arrive here, you say “Shanghai is better,” you mean I should move back? [laughter] It’s a, that’s a personal struggle for me.

Most important, if you look at a lot of the response from the US has been amazing, amusing, and very astonishing, and actually, quite scary. Arne Duncan, reading this data coming out of China, said, “This is a” what? “this is, this is a wake-up call.” By the way, if you look at media, Arne Duncan has had many “wake-up calls.” [laughter] Is he awake? [laughter] No! You get a wake-up call, you don’t have to wake up. That’s the thing, It’s, uh, I love the politicians want to that say, “It’s another wake-up call.” Um. Like early morning, it’s the alarm clock [motioning arm like hitting snooze button] ah, I’m not going to wake up. I’m going to continue to do this thing. But, yet, you know.

And, uh, and President Obama, of course, has said the Sputnik moment has arrived. Some of you [are] old enough. Remember Sputnik moment? [Audience answering.] The Soviet Union, right, yeah, okay? Good. The Soviet Union hovering over. Who were, by the way, making color TVs. It was much better than [their] satellite. But then it was, scared Americans. At that time (the time of Obama’s comment), 2008, 2009, China was really on the rise in the Olympic games, was, so many people were believing China had everything right. Even Thomas Friedman said, “Can we be China for a day?” Really. He wrote in the New York Times. He said, on NBC. He said the same thing. So, everyone was admiring China, and, not only us, many people. In Australia, the Au Gratis [?] did a report. I was actually helping them coordinate a summit with their, in Melbourne, and their producer report[ed], said that Chinese kids are two years ahead in math than Australian kids, which is true. By the way, a lot of data is true. But truth, what does it mean? That’s a different story. So, listen, it’s very scary.

Anyone here from Pennsylvania? [19:00] Remember your former governor, Ed Rendell, okay? Ed Rendell, from Pennsylvania. [In] 2009 or 2010, I think the Eagles had to postpone a game, right? Remember that? Okay. Remember that time, right? And you had to postpone a game. Snowstorm. Football, Eagles, Philadelphia, Rendell. Nothing to do with China. But purely because China’s kids score so well, it has everything to do with China now. So he went on radio, this governor, two-term governor went on radio [and] chastised all Pennsylvanians, and this is what he said. Actually, to not only Pennsylvanians but Americans. He said, “You know, we’ve become a nation of wusses. [laughter] The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything. If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? [continued laughter] People would have marched down to the stadium. They would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on their way.” [laughter] This is, uh, the infatuation is amazing. Remember, [simply ?] two test scores, or three test scores. That’s it. Really, this is fabulous.

And not only Pennsylvania. If you moved across [the] Atlantic, go to our mother country, England, they were as stupid as us. [laughter] But, uh, secretary of education Michael Gove visited China and Singapore, and he wrote in the Telegraph, “I’m happy to confess, I’d like for us to have a cultural revolution just like the one [had] in China.” [laughter and moans] He needs a history lesson, but (continuing quote) “Like Chairman Mao, we’ve embarked on a long [march ?] to reform our education system.” So, you guys say to this, “Why? Why?” And how did the Chinese react to this? Nothing. Nothing. The Chinese say, “We hate our system, and we don’t want the PISA,” and so, China never did have a big party to celebrate. [Slide on screen reads, “Why Didn’t China Have a Big Party?”] They did not say, “This is something that’s worth celebrating. No, we don’t…” And the Chinese know very well that their education system is not very good because they look at a different set of indicators. The former Chinese premier at the time, Wen Jiabao, said, “We want our Steve Jobs.”

Steve Jobs is not necessarily, you know, everybody loves him, not necessarily. But the idea is that we need entrepreneurial, creative people. So, China had a big argument, a national debate, almost, and said, nothing. There’s no real debate in China; that’s why “almost a debate.” [laughter] So, people asked the question: Why can’t China have a Steve Jobs?

Theoretically speaking, if smart, intelligent, or extremely exceptional people are born [22:00] randomly distributed in any population, China, with 1.3 billion people, should have four Steve Jobs born. [laughter] Four times the population of the US. What happened to the four Steve Jobs, the baby Steve Jobs? [laughter]

It was squeezed out. [22:22]

Stay tuned for more discourse on China’s “baby Steve Jobs” in Part III. However, know that you do not have to wait for my transcription. You are welcome to view Zhao’s entire keynote via the video linked here.

yong zhao 2


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover

My Position on the Senate ESEA Reauthorization Draft

I have read (and reread certain sections of) the entire 601-page Senate reauthorization draft of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), written by Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray and named the Every Child Achieves  Act of 2015.

I have also read the 29 amendments that were added to the Act as it gained approval from the Senate Ed Committee on April 16, 2015.

In an effort to offer my readers a digest of the massive Senate ESEA draft, I wrote a series of six posts that can be accessed here. I also did the same for the 29 amendments, which resulted in a series of three posts that can be accessed here.

During this massive undertaking, I have had individuals asking about my position on the Senate ESEA draft. Even though some of my posts include glimpses into my thoughts about the Alexander-Murray draft (and now, its included 29 amendments), I have not yet offered a summative word regarding my opinion of this proposed ESEA reauthorization.

I will do so now.

Until something happens, whether that “something” is a new version of ESEA or killing ESEA, school districts across America are stuck with George W. Bush’s infamously ridiculous and punitive version of ESEA known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). In short, NCLB told America that there would be “100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014″ or else teachers, administrators, schools, school districts, and states would pay. The premise of NCLB is that teachers and administrators could be scared into producing a never-before-known (in any country) level of test-centered “proficiency.” And states were set up to “prove” they were on the road to this perfection by setting up their own “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) toward this perfect goal, which was perched precariously on the test scores of at least 95 percent of a state’s students. Not achieving AYP could result in dire consequences, including the firing teachers and administration as part of school “restructuring.” (For an excellent summary of NCLB consequences, see Diane Ravitch’s Death and Life of the Great American School System, pgs. 97-98.)

As one might expect in such a ridiculous high-stakes situation, in an effort to avoid NCLB consequences, states gamed the system to create AYP goals that they could achieve.

An entire nation of school districts boasting “100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014″ was not to be, and any individual with a sliver of common sense knew it.

So, 2014 has come and gone, and states remain under NCLB until ESEA is either completely done away with or redrafted and reauthorized. And by “under NCLB,” that means states are subject to the likes of US Secretary Arne Duncan’s NCLB “waivers,” in which he has decided to leverage control over both state standards and teacher evaluation. Otherwise, without one of his “on my terms” NCLB waivers, Duncan can declare any state as having failed to meet that unrealistic NCLB goal of “100 percent proficiency in reading and math.”

Stupid, I know. But that is where we are (and where we remain) until something happens to dismiss or replace the ESEA version known as NCLB.

Now, I mentioned that one option is to completely do away with ESEA. That is my preferred position, one that I wrote about on February 1, 2015. That post included an email I wrote to Alexander in which I suggested that ESEA be sunsetted in favor of separate block grants.

The reality is that ESEA will not be laid to rest. It will continue, and either Congress will fail in its efforts to reauthorize it and default for another seven years to NCLB (which means NCLB “waivers”)–or– Congress will reauthorize a new version of ESEA.

There are two versions currently in the running, one originating in the House (Kline’s HR 5, the Student Success Act) and the Senate (Alexander and Murray’s Every Child Achieves Act of 2015). Both bills propose to retain the mandatory annual state testing in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school in both English language arts (ELA) and math. Both bills encourage charter school growth and expansion. Both include language forbidding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as a federal mandate. HR 5 includes language to make Title I money “follow the student,” which would be an accounting and budgeting nightmare.

I think the Senate draft is the better of the two bills. It appears to be a true, Republican-Democratic negotiation that could garner the votes needed to rid America of NCLB (and Duncan’s waivers), and it does not include portability of Title I funding.

As for the charter love in the Senate ESEA draft, I do not support the encouragement of dual or competing schools or school systems (i.e., traditional public schools placed in the position to compete for funding and students). The draft does not tell states that they must allow charter schools. However, the presence of the Title V grant (for charters) is meant to entice states to consider allowing charters if they haven’t already and expanding the number of charters if they do.

The Senate ESEA draft language for Title V also has a couple of two-edged swords. First, like the draft in general, Title V attempts to remove the stigma of too much federal oversight by relying on the states to monitor their own “highly autonomous” charters. Also, Title V expects that charters will “leverage the maximum amount of private-sector financing capital” (Senate ESEA draft, pg.401). So, how well those “autonomous” charters are regulated (a contradiction on the surface) is left up to the state, for better or worse. Too, the public-private-funding hybridization makes charters that much more difficult to audit, for they can hide behind their “private entity” status if the state pushes for an accounting of public money.

I have no use for Title V, but like the annual testing, federal love for charters will not be going anywhere anytime soon– not so long as charter backers have the hefty cash to buy lobbyists.

And now, as to the testing:

I do not like the annual testing in either ESEA proposed reauthorization bill. America is over-tested, and all we have to show for it are thriving testing companies and education entities’ learning to either game the testing system or risk losing funding (or even going under altogether).

The manufactured panic that America must score well on standardized tests is ludicrous in the face of our continued presence as a thriving world power.

The idea that standardized testing is a necessary condition for equality in the classroom, that “kids who aren’t tested are kids who don’t count,” can only live if testing lives. If annual testing dies, then sorting students into “tested” and “untested” categories also dies.

My preference for the death of mandated testing noted, I realize that Congress wants the annual tests. I think a principal influence for retaining annual testing (and for not reducing the testing to randomly selected students even) is the influence of Kati Haycock and her Education Trust, which, along with others, including civil rights groups, petitioned Congress to keep the tests. (See here, as well.)

Throughout the Senate ESEA draft, the language clearly indicates Alexander’s and Murray’s intention to leave the details regarding the mandated tests up to the states. The language is also clear that there is no mandate for consortium-developed tests.

States might have to still give annual tests; however, in the Senate ESEA draft, these tests have no mandated length, and there is no requirement to tie test results to teacher evaluations. States can choose to evaluate teachers using student test scores, but the federal government wants to stay out of it. (See page 59 of the Senate ESEA draft.)

And the draft is clear that states do not need to submit their standards to the secretary “for review or approval” (Senate ESEA draft, pg. 33).

One of the ESEA amendments also addresses opting out of testing. (See Isakson’s amendment in this post.) In short, the federal government does not want for any state to say that its opt-out laws are the result of ESEA testing mandates. This means that a state must still plan to test 95 percent of its students; however, a state can also support parental opting out because the state is offering the testing opportunity in which the parent chooses to have the child participate or not participate.

What I appreciate most about the Senate ESEA draft is the clearly- and repeatedly-stated prohibitions on the US Secretary, including prohibitions on state test selection.

The clear, repeated, detailed, and undeniable limits on the authority of US secretary of education and the absence of any discussion of Title I funding portability are my chief reasons for supporting the Senate ESEA draft. And I think this bill could realistically garner enough votes in Congress to rid us once and for all of NCLB.

(I realize that some of my readers might want to have detailed exchanges with me in comments regarding what I have written. However, I need to manage my exhaustion in order to finish a school year. So, do feel free to comment, but I ask for your understanding if you do not hear from me. Thank you.)



Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover


Yong Zhao’s NPE Speech, Transcribed– Part I

On Saturday, April 25, 2015, University of Oregon education professor Yong Zhao gave a keynote address at the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education (NPE). Zhao’s entire 55-minute speech can be found here.

It is a fantastic speech– truthful, yet also incredibly funny, and encouraging.

I was so impressed with Zhao’s words that I decided to transcribe his entire keynote. I believe his sppech is valuable enough to be preserved as a text. I also realize that many may not be able to srt aside 55 minutes to watch a video might be more inclined to read his words in more manageable installments.

I will post the speech in a series of five parts, each approximately 11 minutes long and consisting of under 2,000 words. In my last post, I will include a link to Zhao’s transcribed keynote in its entirety.

And now, for Part I:

Good afternoon. It’s great… you know, these kinds of gatherings, most of us, you did this in China, in Asian countries, would end up in jail. [Audience laughter.] Seriously, seriously. We are deliberately challenging the government. This is very serious, so, guys, better watch out with the airport tomorrow, you better consider. But, as I was telling Diane, I came to this country, this is the hope of this country: the individuals who think they can do something about something they don’t like, their government. We need a lot more of this; it’s happening [but] not happening fast enough.

I was very surprised over the last many years. As an immigrant I had to do this myself. I thought you guys were taking care of this country for me [laughter] [so] I had to do it myself. I’ve gotta do something.

[Points to projector screen] This is, uh, you can download. Those are the slides I use. This website, if you feel like to Tweet or follow me on Twitter, that’s fine. I don’t really tweet anything controversial, nothing [laughter] but just follow me anyway. It’s good, it’s always good to have. And, if you are on something, you can email me.

This gathering this morning, I was hearing some of the comments about what we do, what kind of discourse we should have. But before that, I want [to] tell you that I have a personal problem with No Child Left Behind. I still think George Bush owes me money. [laughter] It’s a real story. It’s real. I have two children, and this is my daughter (shows slide of a girl blocking photo with her hand; no face visible) [laughter] And right now, she’s applying for college now. I have another child now who lives in Chicago. My son, he just, uh, this morning I heard someone, undergraduate from the University of Chicago. My son just graduated from Chicago, from University of Chicago and now is working in Chicago.

The story, I said Bush owed me money, is this: My son had been [in] public school in Michigan for a long time and was perfectly happy, and one morning, about eighth or ninth grade, I forgot, says, we went to the quintessential American restaurant, Cracker Barrel, [laughter] [to] have a great American breakfast, and we were talking about education, and he said, “Dad, I really know how to get the best scores.” Anyone from Michigan here? MEAP. We used to have the MEAP test. So, saying that, “O man, I know how to get [a] perfect score on the MEAP.” I said, “How do you do that?” He said, “Well, you just write one statement and the three supporting statements.” I said, “Man, they’re ruining your education.” I said, “We’ve got [to] get out of here.” [laughter] That is why, so I had to send him, honestly, to a private school [3:00] and that’s really why Bush owes me three years of tuition. [laughter] That’s how I [got] started with this whole thing.

And then, you know, right now in the US, what are we trying to do in education reform? The most popular phrase today in the US is called “readiness.” [laughter] Right? Readiness, readiness everything. Ready for college, ready for career, ready for kindergarten, I mean, really, every “ready” for something else, just not life. [laughter] Ready to die. It’s like a “ready” for death, you know. We have all these standards, there’s “readiness.” So, it’s been ready, a lot of us, so, what is the purpose of education? I think that’s what we want to talk about. What is the purpose of, is the purpose of education to always be ready for something you will never be? So, now, you know, everybody likes the Common Core. I’ve been going around debating with people. They love the Common Core [for] all kinds of reasons: Because it gets you ready for life and a career, college, right? So, I have a son who was ready for college. He went to college; he got into Chicago and was very good, competitive. But he was so ready that he got in, but he was not ready enough that he didn’t get any money. I had to pay for everything. [laughter] That’s, that’s another thing about life, life is really funny. As a professor, sure you know in education, we are, this is the worst part of living in America, when you are in the middle, right? We make enough money not to qualify for any assistance, right? And, but we don’t make enough not to care about the money. So, we, he graduated two years ago, and, by the way, in the middle, he was going to become, you know, like any Chinese kid would try to be, you know. You want to study economics. [laughter] So, that’s, uh, the kind of predetermined pathway for China so you can be ready for a banking job. [5:00] And so you can be ready to make some money.

I didn’t object to that. It’s fine. Go for it. But then he went to Chicago. He’s somewhere nearby. I hope he’s not here, but I will share his story, anyway. [laughter]  He said after two years, he said, “Dad, I’m not going to study economics anymore.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Well, there are too many darn Chinese there, and, uh…” [laughter] “and, uh, they all are better at, you know, than me in math.” I said, “Okay, fine. Okay.” And, I said, “What are you gonna do?” He said, “I’m going to start something else.” I said, “What are you going to study?” He said, “I’m going to study, uh, uh, um, art.”

You know, that’s a very alien concept for a Chinese, but, [laughter] and so, I said, “What kind of art?” He said, “I’m going to do art history.” I said, “Why not? Why not?” I said, “Why not?” Right? I said, “Why not? No problem at all.” And, that’s, that’s, that’s fine.

He graduated two years ago with honors. He really was passionate about that, but, uh, so, we were talking about this graduation, and he said, “Dad, I kind of feel sorry for you.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Well, how are you going to explain to your parents that I majored in art?” I said, “Your friends…”… because that’s considered a Chinese family shame. [laughter] Because, they only believe… well, you cannot do anything else [so] you majored in art. They wouldn’t believe anyone would choose to do something like that. I said, “Don’t worry. You know, that’s fine.” He said [I] must feel like such a failure as a Chinese person. And I said, “No. You live in America, and a failed Chinese might be a successful American.” [laughter and applause] That might work. And, uh, I also told him that if you look at me, I was born and raised in a Chinese village, I’m the most unsuccessful Chinese peasant. I’m a failed Chinese peasant. I said it didn’t work out for me because…. And so, the whole thing, but, I said, one condition, I said, “Whatever you do, it doesn’t matter. Now, you’ve done everything everybody else asked you to do. You were college-ready; we paid for you, and you were ready to graduate with honors. Just can you do one thing: Not return to my basement?” [laughter]

So, that’s what I call the “readiness”: Out-of-basement readiness is the best kind of readiness for education. [laughter and applause]

Now, what does that mean? What does that mean? That means something actually fairly simple: Every individual be, develop the capacity to live independently, as a contributing member of a society. Financial independence, psychological independence, and social independence. That you are actually a member of a society. I don’t care what you do, to do something. By the way, he is happily out of my basement now. He is in here (Chicago) working in the Arts Club of Chicago. Visit him, you can see, over there, and you will find out there are not many Chinese working there. [8:00][laughter]

But, uh, now, with that, so actually, so I want to come back to talk about outcomes. Why I titled this, called, “America’s Suicidal Quest to Outcome.” As you know, historians will tell you that– I think Diane is a great historian [who] will tell you—civilizations really do not die from murder, not this invasion or got killed by others, it is really we die by suicide. We kill ourselves. And this is a perfect example of a, some kind of a suicidal mission. Many of you may have seen these stone statues. [Easter Island slide on screen]

easter island

This is from the Easter Islands. Many stories [of] what happened there. One of the stories is about, it was a thriving civilization two thousand years ago, before the Europeans arrived. It was really good, but on the island, the tribes there got into this thing called Race to the Top. [laughter] And they all, or Race, Race to the Big. They had somehow believed, whoever can build a bigger, more gigantic, more significant, more magnificent stone head, it shows how well the tribe is doing. But, more importantly, it’s going to invite gods to deliver them future prosperity. That’s how they believed it.

And, so, then every tribe got into this. They abandon everything, all focus their resources on building the best, the most magnificent stone head. As you can imagine, they abandoned agriculture, farming; They focus all their resources, and they build this thing. [pointing to slide] So, they neglect everything else. In the end, it caused deforestation, desertification, [unintelligible], and, mostly, it destroyed trees because they have to cut down trees to transport these big stones, erect the big kind of statue. That’show it happened.

American education has done this since 1983, A Nation at Risk. I can go back [to the] 1950s. We’ve been going after the wrong goal. We’ve been building these gigantic statues, which is called “test scores.” Can you imagine making our school system today, we have [been] basically trying to say, “Whoever can produce the best test score is the better teacher, the better system, and whoever has the better score is the better student. But that’s what we’re talking about. I think that [in] our discourse this morning, we talk about, the discourse that got us on the wrong path is the narrow definition, the mistaken definition of what educational outcomes should be. I think that my “out of the basement” readiness is much better than career and college readiness [applause and laughter] because [11:00] you may be ready for college, but college is not guarantee for “out of basement” readiness. You know, in the US today, we have over 50 percent of recent college graduates are back in their parents’ basement. We call that they are “unemployed” or “underemployed,” right? And they’re not only back in your basement; they owe some people money, right? [laughter] We have an average college debt of over twenty thousand dollars in the US. That’s scary. That’s very scary. [11:35]

I hope to transcribe Part II this weekend. Stay tuned.

For those who are hooked and do not wish to wait for my transcription, you are welcome to view Zhao’s entire keynote via the video linked here.

A truly incredible speech.

yong zhao


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover








Senate ESEA Draft: Review of Approved Amendments– Part III (All Done)

On April 16, 2015, the Senate education committee approved the Alexander-Murray draft of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), a 601-page document entitled, The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.

The draft approval was accompanied by 29 amendments, which can be found on this Senate ed page.

I reviewed the entire original 601-page Alexander-Murray draft in a series of six posts that can be accessed here.

I have already reviewed 20 of the 29 amendments. My review of the first 10 can be accessed here, and the second 10 can be accessed here.

In this post, I conclude my review of the 29 amendments with the last nine.

Let’s jump right in.


This nine-page amendment adds to Title VII (“Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education”) grants for Native American and Alaska Native Immersion schools and programs. That is, these grants promote the usage of Native American and Alaska native languages as the primary languages of instruction. Of course, given this is ESEA in 2015, one goal is “to improve student outcomes within Native American and Alaska native communities,” which means test scores, but it also includes, “if appropriate, rates of high school graduation, career readiness, and enrollment in postsecondary education or job training programs” (pg. 6).

An interesting limitation to the US secretary of education is that he/she is not allowed “to give a priority in awarding grants…  based on the information described in paragraph (1)(E)” (pg. 6)– which means that the secretary cannot use this grant cannot to give priority to Native American and Alaskan native charter schools or private schools over local education agencies or tribal education agencies.

The terms of reporting the usages of the grant to the secretary is loosely defined in this grant: “Each eligible entity that receives a grant under this part shall provide an annual report to the Secretary in such form and manner as the Secretary may require” (pg. 9).


This single-page amendment to Title I clarifies that the stipulations of states’ implementing assessments that are the same for all students (except for those students “with the most significant cognitive disabilities” {pg. 41}) is not to be confused with the federal government determining state or local law regarding opting children out of such state assessments:

RULE OF CONSTRUCTION ON PARENT AND GUARDIAN RIGHTS–Nothing in this part shall be construed as preempting a State or local law regarding the decision of a parent or guardian’s child participate in the statewide academic assessments under this paragraph.

In other words, the federal government wants to stay out of state and local decisions regarding parental opt-out laws. In order for such to be true, it must be the case that the federal government honors a state’s good-faith “implementation” of testing in accordance with the requirements for Title I funding and holds the state implementation as separate from student completion of the state-implemented tests when issues of parental rights enter the picture.

Mikulski_Title II_Amendment#1:

This nine-page amendment to Title II (“High Quality Teachers, Principals, and Other School Leaders”) adds grants for “supporting high-ability learners and learning.” This part is also given the name, “Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act of 2015.” As the name states, this amendment is “to build and enhance the ability of elementary schools and secondary schools nationwide to meet the special education needs of gifted and talented students” (pg. 2). At the center of this amendment is the goal of meeting those “challenging State academic standards.”

Entities eligible for grants under this amendment include state and local education agencies; higher ed institutions, “other public agencies, and other private agencies and organizations to assist such agencies…” (pg. 3); so, it seems that any “agency” or “institution” is eligible to apply.

The secretary is also supposed to consult with “experts in the field of the education of gifted and talented students” in order “to establish a national Research Center for the Education of Gifted and Talented Children and Youth. A private entity may not lead this research center; only a state ed agency, or higher ed institution, or a “consortium” of state ed, higher ed, and “other public of private agencies or organizations” (pg. 5).


This 30-page amendment is to Title IV (“Safe and Healthy Students”) and is for “21st Century Community Learning Centers.” The amendment is to provide “tutoring… youth development activities, service learning, nutrition and health education, violence prevention programs, counseling programs, art, music, physival fitness and wellness programs, technology education programs, financial literacy programs, math, science, career and technical programs, internship or apprenticeship programs…” (pg. 2).

The program is also supposed to “promote [familial] meaningful engagement in the education of their children” (pg. 3) and gives priority to schools “in need of intervention” and serving “at risk for academic failure, dropping out of school, involvement in criminal or delinquent activities, or lack strong positive role models” and their families (pg. 24).

A priority of this amendment is meeting the “challenging State academic standards.” However, grants can be awarded for other purposes, including but not limited to “programs that support a healthy, active lifestyle,” “cultural programs,” or “expanded library service hours” (pgs. 26-27).

It is the state that first applies for funds under this section, and the state is the entity that distributes funding to “eligible entities.” (See pg. 10). Unless the secretary contacts the state within 120 days to communicate otherwise, a state application is assumed to be approved (see pg. 15). Disapproved states have the right to a hearing (see pgs. 17).

Entities eligible for to receive this grant money from the state include both public and private organizations. The application process is supposed to be “peer reviewed” (pgs. 5-6).

State assessment results must be included in the evaluation of any state-approved program under this grant (see pg. 14). Program outcomes must be made available to the public (see pg. 15).

In disbursing funds under this grant, the secretary cannot show bias toward states or entities that intend to use this money “to extend the regular school day” (pg. 17)– a characteristic of many charter schools. States are also prohibited from preferentially funding eligible entities proposing to use the grant money to extend the school day (see pg. 25).

Murphy_Title I_Amendment#3:

This one-and-a half-page amendment to Title I adds language that requires a state applying for Title I funding to address in its state plan how it protects students from “physical and mental abuse, aversive behavioral interventions that compromise student health and safety, or any physical restraint or seclusion imposed solely for purposes of discipline or convenience….”

In addition to the general topic of physical and mental abuse, this amendment appears to be aiming at some so-called “no excuses” discipline practices, which one could well argue do indeed cross the line of “physical and mental abuse.”


This two-page amendment adds to the state report card requirements the inclusion that states report counts of the number of military-connected students (i.e., those whose parents or guardians serve in the military) as well as information on the academic achievement of these students. An interesting limitation is that “such information shall not be used for school or local education agency accountability purposes.”


This single-page amendment to Title IV formula grants to states adds funding necessary for the Project School Emergency Response to Violence program (also called Project SERV), “which is authorized to provide education-related services to local education agencies and institutions of higher education in which the learning environment has been disrupted due to violent or traumatic crisis….”


This 19-page amendment to Title V (“Empowering Parents and Expanding Opportunity Through Innovation,” popularly known as the title for charter schools) expands “parental choice” to early childhood education programs.

Under this amendment, the secretary is to give priority to states focused on programs for three- and four-year-olds whose family incomes do not exceed 130 percent of the poverty line (see pg. 6).

A state may receive a grant under this section only once unless the state is seeking the funds to serve children in rural areas, or if there is extra money left after all eligible first-time grant-seeking states have received funding (see pgs. 6-7).

Grant recipients need to coordinate with other federal programs, including Head Start, Individuals with Disabilities Act, and programs for foster children and child care funded via state offices of veterans affairs (see pgs. 9-10).

This amendment includes no prescribed state audit procedures for the funding. However, the US secretary “may reasonably require” an annual report (pg. 16); also, every two years, the US secretary must prepare a report for Congress regarding information on grant usage in each grantee state.

The end of the amendment includes the following “limitations on federal interference” section:

Limitations on Federal Interference–

Nothing in this part shall be construed to authorize the Secretary to establish any criterion that specifies, defines, or prescribes early learning and development guidelines, standards, or specific assessments; specific measures or indicators of quality early learning and care, including the systems that States use to assess the quality of early childhood education programs and providers, school readiness, and achievement; and the term “high quality” early learning or care; early learning or preschool curriculum, program of instruction, or instructional content; teacher and staff qualifications and salaries; class sizes and child-to-instructional staff ratios; and any aspect or parameter of teacher, principal, other school leader, or staff evaluation system within a State or local education agency. (Pgs. 18-19)

And now, for the last of the 29 approved amendments to the Senate ESEA draft:


This final amendment (a four-page one) is also for Title V (charters) “to promote literacy and arts education” via such actions as promoting parents’ reading to children “starting in infancy” (pg. 3) and including funding for “programs that provide high-quality books on a regular basis to children and adolescents from disadvantaged communities” (pg. 3). Also included in this grant are funds for professional development for arts educators and “development and dissemination of instructional materials and arts-based educational programming” (pg. 2).

And I am done.

I will ask readers to excuse my not reflecting more on the content of the amendments (and of the Senate ESEA draft in general). I am sleep-deprived more so than usual, so I must put this post and myself to rest for now.



Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover



PARCC Changes Info on Its “States” Page to Encourage Other “Assessment Solutions”

It seems that the PARCC consortium website has undergone a subtle change at some point between April 6, 2015, and April 15, 2015.

The change I noticed is to the PARCC consortium website page entitled, “PARCC States.”

Here is how the page used to read (April 6, 2015, archive):

PARCC: A State Look

Active PARCC Governing Board states* collectively educate more than 12 million public K-12 students. The PARCC states include some of the highest performing states in the nation, and many are on the leading edge of education reform – including a number of winning Race to the Top states.

Our Goal

These states came together through a shared commitment to develop a new way of testing – far more rigorous than in the past, far more engaging for students and far better suited to measuring student understanding, reasoning and ability to apply concepts.

By working together, the PARCC states can collectively design a more high-quality assessment that builds a pathway to college and career readiness by the end of high school, mark students’ progress toward this goal from third grade up, and provide teachers with timely information to inform instruction and provide student support.

 *In addition to the active governing board states, Pennsylvania is a “participating” state, which means that it is interested in the consortium’s activities, but has made no decision about using the PARCC assessments.

Find your state in the list to the left of this page to see the latest on your state.

Now, compare the above language to the “PARCC States makeover” that happened at some point between April 6 and April 15:

PARCC States

A hallmark of the PARCC consortium is state involvement. PARCC states make policy and test design decisions and are in control of their assessment. Classroom teachers, principals, curriculum directors and other educators, as well as experts and state education agency staff from PARCC states have actively participated in developing and implementing the PARCC assessments. Students in 13 states are participating in the 2014-2015 administration of the PARCC tests: Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts,Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

PARCC states and Parcc Inc., the nonprofit project manager for the PARCC states, works with test vendors, states and other education entities interested in offering assessment solutions that include PARCC content.

Note: New York did not administer PARCC tests in 2015, and Louisiana has no 2015 contract for Pearson-vended PARCC.

Some interesting lingo here, though. Looks like PARCC governing board chair Mitchell Chester and his PARCC consortium are trying to convince the public that “PARCC states”– not official PARCC vendor, Pearson– held the dominant role in PARCC item construction.

That line of thinking only works if one does not investigate the PARCC consortium contractual arrangements for item development– or if one does not read the PARCC website archives.

Let’s start with the PARCC contract arrangements:

In this December 2014 post, I detail the PARCC item development history, beginning with former PARCC fiscal agent, Florida, and its December 2011 Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) PARCC item development.  Initially, both ETS and Pearson were vying for the PARCC contract (with both ETS and Pearson developing items). In May 2014, Pearson won the contract. The Pearson contract directly states that “contractor develops items” and “committees review” the items “to ensure they meet the requirements detailed in the PARCC quality guidelines.” The contract also states that Pearson holds the item bank.

And now, for a PARCC website archive excerpt dated April 30, 2013. This excerpt makes issues of PARCC “development” clearer:

Classroom teachers, state-level content experts, higher education faculty, PARCC staff members and consultants and ETS and Pearson staff conducted several rounds of review over the past year and a half to discuss and make revisions to the documents to ensure they reflected the highest quality alignment to the Common Core State Standards and the vision of the next-generation PARCC assessment system. [Emphasis added.]

Notice that the “new,” PARCC States webpage omits the presence of “ETS and Pearson staff” in that PARCC item review. It is not convenient to include testing company staff among the stakeholder reviewers, so let’s just not mention that part.

Indeed, it looks like the PARCC consortium is trying to distance itself from Pearson (ETS has long been out of the official-PARCC-vending picture). The “new” PARCC States page alludes to “testing vendors” (plural) and “solutions including PARCC content,” which also reads like an attempt to legitimize Louisiana’s shaky “PARCC” arrangement. (In Louisiana in 2015, Data Recognition Corp (DRC) is serving as a shady middleman to somehow connect the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) with Pearson, a testing company with which LDOE has no legitimate contract for PARCC.)

An attempt to reshape the PARCC image: It’s not a set of assessments; no, no, and certainly not obligated to be tied to increasingly-unpopular Pearson. PARCC is now “content” that the states can include in their own tests created by any testing company the state chooses.

Those “consortium developed tests” are being whittled down to a token set of shared items that the PARCC states might somehow compare, a watery means of holding onto “consortium” while being able to not call it as much if need be.

Even though Pearson might not be popular, don’t think that there is no possibility for Pearson to benefit from this new, a-la-carte item arrangement.

If those now-PARCC-encouraged, state-selected testing companies are to be able to utilize the items that Pearson developed as part of a PARCC-consortium contract that extends to 2017-18, then those testing companies would have to enter into some formal contract with Pearson. (This is what the public was told happened regarding Louisiana “PARCC” in 2015. DRC and Pearson made some sort of arrangement. However, the public has yet to learn of the details.)

Via this new arrangement in which states select their own testing vendors and include Pearson-PARCC items, both the PARCC consortium and Pearson might be hoping to drum up some more state business. As it is, PARCC attrition is pretty embarrassing– and costly.

And embarrassing.

“Next generation” embarrassing.

PARCC buttons


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover






Chester Finn Worries that “College Ready” Is Damaging “College Educated”

Fordham Institute former president Chester Finn is concerned about the “cheapening” of the meaning of “college educated.”

Here is some of Finn’s April 25, 2015, lament:

A vast amount of contemporary education policy attention and education reform energy has been lavished on the task of defining and gauging “college readiness” and then taking steps to align K–12 outcomes more closely with it. …

The entire Common Core edifice—and the assessments, cut scores, and accountability arrangements built atop it—presupposes that “college-ready” has the same definition that it has long enjoyed…

The idea of graduating more “college-ready” kids from high school is intended to lighten the remediation burden…

But what if “college-ready” no longer means that you actually have to be prepared to succeed in credit-bearing college courses? Or if “credit-bearing courses” are diluted such that more people appear “prepared” to succeed in them, even though such success means less than it once did? …

Note that Finn writes of lots of “attention,” “presupposition,” “energy,” “intention,” and “ideas”– but no field testing.

Hold that thought.

Finn closes his post with the following concern for “reform efforts”:

The last thing American education needs—and a potentially mortal wound to other reform efforts—is to further cheapen the meaning of “college-educated.” Which cannot be severed entirely from the meaning of “college-ready.”

The concept, “college educated,” cannot be entirely divorced from a term Finn helped to promote–“college ready”– a term undeniably associated with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

In July 2010, in, the Fordham Institute produced a report in which it graded all state standards and DC; graded the then-month-old CCSS, and shaped the language in the report so that CCSS was always photographed through beauty-enhancing gauze filters when compared to state standards.

In the years that followed, Fordham Institute then-executive-VP/now-president Michael Petrilli traveled the country to rescue CCSS from possible repeal in legislative sessions nationwide– even if Fordham Institute itself rated the former state standards as equal to or better than the CCSS it had been paid to promote.

And now comes Finn with worries about a higher-ed dumb-down.

Ain’t that something.

Not once have I heard or read any inking from Fordham Institute that CCSS, with its “college and career ready” jingle, should have been field tested before it was actively and forcefully marketed to the public as that which would “ensure all students are ready for success after high school.”

For example, what if the idea of “college and career readiness” is more complex than test-score-driven “reformers” once thought? What if the rushed, so-called solutions of simply having states nix the remedial courses offered at four-year institutions of higher education and selling states on “common standards and assessments” only complicates the issue?

And what of unanticipated “market forces” kicking in at colleges and universities– such as creative adjustments to boost enrollments? What of colleges’ attempts to counter the loss of students once enrolled in those remedial courses and who, for whatever reason, have not attained that CCSS-ensured “readiness”?

These are questions that should have been investigated at least by 2008– the year that billionaire Bill Gates– with his love of those “powerful market forces”— was asked to pay for CCSS.

Not to worry, though. The failure of CCSS promoters to research the ramifications of their “college ready” love will not harm the CCSS owners.

Yep. The license holders of CCSS, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) are covered from being held liable if CCSS does not deliver on the “college and career readiness” that CCSS supposedly “ensures” according to its website.

When it comes to CCSS ownership liability, one can never be too careful, for one never knows exactly how those powerful market forces might shift–

–especially if one never bothers to research such matters in the first place.

As for Finn: His next post should be entitled, “How My Actions Contributed to the Cheapening of ‘College Educated.'”

Such a post is long overdue.



Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover






Randi, Lily, and Their Common Core Fidelity

I was in Chicago this past weekend for the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education (NPE).

(A number of videos of conference sessions will be available here. In the first video, the session to which I refer in this post is around 2:10:00.)

One of the sessions I attended was the Sunday morning keynote (April 26, 2015) in which education historian and NPE founding president Diane Ravitch interviewed both National Education Association (NEA) president Lily Eskelsen Garcia and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten.

Both Garcia and Weingarten support the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which seems to be (now) chiefly embraced by Democrats (see here, and here, and here)… and by Republican Jeb Bush.

During the Sunday NPE interview, Ravitch asked both Garcia and Weingarten to state their positions on CCSS.

Weingarten went first. She stated that she did not support a “federal” CCSS.

Word games.

As it stands, only two days after her statement above, on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, Weingarten is the opening speaker for the very-pro-CCSS Center for American Progress (CAP) “revealing” report entitled, “How Teachers Are Leading the Way to Successful Common Core Implementation.”

The idea of CCSS’ merely suffering from “poor implementation” is an idea near to Weingarten’s heart for years now. So, if America could just experience a handful of teachers “successfully implementing” CCSS, that would prove that CCSS homogenization of American education is the way to go.

CAP president Carmel Martin will also be participating in this CCSS implementation yard sale, even though in September 2014, she defended CCSS with astounding cluelessness in this Intelligence Squared debate in New York City.

Indeed, this is not the first Martin-Weingarten summit. The two came together to negotiate a position on “testing and accountability” in the initial Senate-proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) in January 2015. An outcome of this January 2015 meeting is the Weingarten shuffle to support the annual testing she previously opposed.

In the NPE event moderated by Ravitch, Weingarten was quick to point out her years ago pressing for a moratorium around CCSS testing. However, a moratorium is only a delay. Thus, from Weingarten, expect continued CCSS and CCSS-assessment support couched in politically-lubricated language.

And there is plenty of CCSS lube available for Garcia, as well.

Sure, Garcia has taken a stronger stance against the annual testing than has Weingarten, but in her response to Ravitch’s question about her position on CCSS, Garcia clearly chose to answer the unasked question, “What are some of your favorite CCSS standards, Lily?”

Yep. Garcia offered the NPE audience a soft-sell, Helen Steiner Rice moment regarding a few “favorite” standards, emphasizing that these CCSS faves could not be adequately assessed using bubble tests. So, since she found three standards that she “favors,” Garcia hopes to cement in the NPE audience psyche the idea that all of the K12 CCSS math and ELA standards are fine, and that they are fine as a set for all classrooms nationwide.

Garcia offered no word on her least-liked CCSS standards. To do so would have been to criticize the CCSS that she clearly supports in its entirety. Garcia’s allowing any semblance of truly critical thought to enter her CCSS sell would have killed the figurative, tender-moment music and sent Helen Steiner Rice packing.

And so, there we have it in brief, my readers.

Two union leaders; one beloved CCSS.

lily randi


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover



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