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NCTQ Letter Grades and the Reformer Agenda– Part IV

January 28, 2013

Allow me to present the next 4 of the 33 NCTQ Advisory Board members in review.  Each one endorses the reformer agenda, with some more entrenched than others; still, each arguably cannot offer an unslanted, unbiased assessment of those traditional teacher prep programs that NCTQ doesn’t endorse in the first place.

As was true in the last post, the italicized info introducing each board member is their own promotional material.  (The management assumes no responsibility for any misleading, self-serving, or truth-concealing content.)

I give you Cynthia Brown, David Chard, Andrew Chen, and Celine Coggins.

Cynthia G. Brown

Cynthia G. Brown is Director of Education Policy at the Center for American Progress and served as Director of the Renewing our Schools, Securing our Future National Task Force on Public Education, a joint initiative of the Center and the Institute for America’s Future. Ms. Brown has spent over 35 years working in a variety of professional positions addressing high-quality, equitable public education. In the late eighties, she served as Director of the Resource Center on Educational Equity of the Council of Chief State School Officers. She was appointed by President Carter as the first Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education. Prior to that position, she served with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s (HEW) Office for Civil Rights, the nonprofit Equality Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law, the Children’s Defense Fund. Ms. Brown serves on the on the Board of Directors of the American Youth Policy Forum and Hyde Leadership Public Charter School and on the Education Advisory Committee for Boys and Girls Clubs of America. She has a Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a B.A. from Oberlin College.

Ms. Brown sits on the NCTQ Advisory Board as a representative of the Center for American Progress (CAP), yet another “nonpartisan” institute that “develops bold new ideas.”  Under “educational issues,” CAP offers an article, “Using Multiple Evaluation Measures to Improve Teacher Effectiveness” and cites the report, “The Widget Effect,” a propaganda of TFA’s cousin, TNTP, as support for the “dynamic reforms effecting [in catalyzing change to] teacher evaluation” aimed at “developing a composite score of teacher effectiveness.” CAP lauds the use of “both student-achievement measures (measures of student learning at a specific point in time) and growth measures (changes in student learning over time), including value-added estimates based on state assessments when available, to capture measures of student success aligned with individual teachers or teams of teachers.” (Emphasis added.)

Though Ms. Brown has an extensive history in educational policy dating back to the Carter administration, she has no professional classroom experience. She does have a bent toward ‘reformerthink,” and for NCTQ, that appears to be the chief consideration for board inclusion.

David Chard

David Chard is dean of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University. He was a public school teacher in California and a Peace Corps educator in Africa. He also served on the faculties of Boston University and the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to arriving at SMU, Dr. Chard was associate dean for curriculum and academic programs in the College of Education at the University of Oregon. He specializes in reading and math strategies for the early grades, special education and instructional methods for students with disabilities. He has published more than 40 research articles and co-authored 12 books. A principal investigator for several federal research projects in reading and math curricula, Dr. Chard is also a member of the International Academy for Research on Learning Disabilities and a past president of the Division for Research at the Council for Exceptional Children. He holds a Ph.D. in special education from the University of Oregon.

Remember my first post of this series in which I highlighted to use of the op/ed to promote reformer ideology?

David Chard wrote an op/ed. It appeared in the September 2011 Dallas Morning News. I have bolded sections that demonstrate reformer language and ideology:

Since moving to Dallas four years ago, I have been concerned that the community doesn’t have high expectations or a vision of success for public schools. To be clear, low expectations are perhaps predictable because poor graduation rates signal that our public school system is failing students. When we look ahead, we see our society demanding more from us, relying on an electorate and workforce capable of attaining higher education. To map our future, we need to envision and demand successful schools. It goes without saying, Dallas schools need reform….In the 1980s, more significant efforts at reform were attempted in response to the landmark federal education report “A Nation at Risk.”[this study was the launch pad for NCLB] … Teaching requires courage and a sense of urgency….We need to attract candidates who are highly motivated to continuously learn. While promising models of recruitment, like UTeach and Teach for America, can attract knowledgeable teachers to the classroom, we need to determine how best to keep them there. DISD’s [Dallas Independent School District] recent partnership with TFA shows how conduits for strong recruitment may be opened.

Forget Rome. All roads lead to TFA. But there’s more:

More recently, however, significant reform efforts unfolded with No Child Left Behind, by building on state and national standards and employing standardized assessments to determine how well we meet our own expectations. Unfortunately, the answer is that our schools are performing poorly. Locally, as well as nationally, students are not meeting state expectations, even though the bar has been set remarkably low.

Translation: Creating a crisis + enforcing test dependency + choking creativity = “setting the bar too low.”

Principals need the expertise to establish and lead a culture of high achievement for both students and teachers. The principal’s most critical role is developing effective teaching through interpreting student performance data…

Let that one sink in.

…and making difficult decisions based on the available data…. Principals must be bold and willing to take risks to benefit their students…. DISD, like many districts, struggles to identify, hire and retain strong school leaders, so it is looking at innovative ways to prepare school leaders. One step already being taken is joining forces with the Education Entrepreneur Center at SMU, a partnership with the Teaching Trust, to rigorously shape candidates aspiring to be principals.

On their website, Teaching Trust endorses TFA. Also, one can see this in the reformer language in Teaching Trust’s vision statement: “Teaching Trust envisions a community of leaders who have the character and competence to transform schools so that the achievement gap is eliminated and all students achieve at extraordinary levels.”

Assembling more of the puzzle: Chard endorses bringing in TFAers with minimal teaching experience and placing them in positions of school leadership in order to advance the reformer agenda.

Back to Chard’s opinion piece:

Teachers must be accountable for high-quality instruction that results in measurable outcomes. As in every other profession, educators must accept that student progress or lack thereof is a direct reflection on their performance…. That data will be worthless if we do nothing with it: When a teacher’s performance is inadequate, he or she must either undergo further professional development and coaching or face replacement.

Test, test, test. Control those scores or be fired. Meet the quota, just like in the business world.

School leaders must be held accountable for the effectiveness of their schools. They must be unapologetically focused on achievement, developing expertise in measurement, data analysis and instructional observations so that they are aware when students are not getting effective instruction. Their accountability extends to their budgets, too. In order to lead a school to excellence, the school leader must also control the budget, having the latitude to reward effectiveness, pay for outside expertise as needed and make tailored decisions that will meet the unique needs of their schools and communities. This is an area where districts often rely on formulaic decision making. Many principals are held accountable for student outcomes at their schools but do not control the staffing — which represents more than 80 percent of their operating budget. Even terminating ineffective teachers is difficult. All of these things are obstacles to effective reform.

Finally, communities and families must keep high expectations for schools. None of us should tolerate the damaging notion of expecting less from communities in low-income areas. Parents must expect that their children will work hard and that schools will work hard on their behalf.

This last paragraph puts me in mind of a recent post on Diane Ravitch’s blog,, “Chicago Charter Fines Mom $3000 for her Son’s Misbehavior”:

The Noble Network of charter schools in Chicago is proud of its high test scores. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says Noble has some “secret sauce” that produces great success. Could this be it? A Noble charter has fined the mother of a student $3,000 for his rule-breaking. The mother is unemployed. She can’t pay. She says she thought that public education was free. Noble has its high standards. It collected $190,000 in 2011. Pay or get out. Is that the secret sauce?
Translation: To be realistic and humane in dealing with the complexity of educating children = “expecting less”

Based upon the following statement near the closing of his op/ed, would Chard agree with this charter’s actions of “pay up or get out”?

Issues that have nothing to do with teaching or learning are too often a distraction. This is unacceptable.

Certainly Chard could argue that I have taken these two sentences out of context. What is much more difficult to argue is that the removal of one stripe erases the zebra.

Andrew Chen

Dr. Andrew Chen is the President of EduTron Corporation. Before founding EduTron he was a physics professor and a principal research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He currently serves on the Mathematics and Science Advisory Council for the Massachusetts Board of Education. Dr. Chen provides high quality professional development in mathematics and science to teachers at all levels in Intensive Immersion Institutes. He works with school districts and school administrators to increase their capacity to support excellent mathematics and science instruction. He also works with higher education institutions to develop rigorous and effective pre-service and in-service preparation in mathematics and science. He leads a group working closely with teachers and college professors to develop CLEAR Math, intelligent courseware now in use with very positive outcomes in more than 35 school districts in Massachusetts. Dr. Chen continues to teach and do research in physics, He received a BA in physics from National Taiwan University, and a PhD in physics from Columbia University.

Andrew Chen is president of EduTron, a company that sells a computer-based learning resource, CLEAR Math. Chen is a salesman. Like Michael Barber of Pearson, Andrew Chen stands to gain financially from his connection with NCTQ. (Remember, NCTQ might be “nonpartisan,” but it is not “neutral.”)

In his shaky report on the “demonstrated effectiveness of CLEAR math,” Chen vacillates as he notes the “effective-yes-wait-not exclusively” of CLEAR Math. In the title, Chen is sure it’s the CLEAR Math:

“Effectiveness of CLEAR Math Demonstrated in Two Massachusetts Schools”

Soon, he writes, in multiple-choice-test format, with commentary:

Although teachers told us CLEAR Math is doing wonders, scientifically, based on this data alone, we cannot attribute the improvement solely to CLEAR Math. There are other possible causes:

A. Better teaching by the same teachers in 1999 than in 1998 (Teachers agreed with a smile.)
B. Better students in 1999 sample than in the 1998 sample (Teachers dismissed this possibility.)
C. 1999 students better trained in test-taking than their 1998 counterparts (If so, it should show up in all groups.)

Then, “No, wait, it must be the CLEAR Math”:

Interestingly, one does not see a corresponding improvement in other classes in the SAME schools.

Back to, “We can’t be sure…”:

The data on student performance and the opinions of teachers suggest that a combination of the use of CLEAR Math and better teaching (A) is responsible for increasing the MCAS pass rate in the groups that used CLEAR Math. … This examination of the data and the opinions of teachers is not a scientific study.

Finally, Chen and his associates settle on, “Well, we think it worked”:

However, the CLEAR Math Team believes that CLEAR Math played a major role in the observed improvement in student performance. The subjective “confidence level” that the Team attaches to this conclusion is 85%.


Celine Coggins

Celine Coggins is the founder and CEO of Teach Plus. Coggins is a former teacher and current Mind Trust Education Entrepreneur Fellow. She has a background that includes research, policy and K-12 teaching. She originally launched Teach Plus in 2007 as a subsidiary of the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy in Cambridge, MA and incorporated it as an independent 501c3 in 2009. She has been a labor-management consultant in Providence, RI as well as Worcester and Springfield, MA and was formerly special assistant to the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education on teacher quality. She is the author of more than two dozen reports and journal articles and the editor of two books. She earned her Ph.D. in Education Policy Analysis from Stanford University.

According to Source Watch, Teach Plus is “heavily funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. What does the Gates Foundation want by way of education? The same as Eli an Edythe Broad, with whom Gates works—to end unionization of teachers, to promote testing, to promote TFA, to promote corporate takeover of public education. (All of those TFAers who are suddenly “qualified” to assume education administration positions—and the associated higher salaries– “graduate” from the Broad Superintendents Academy.)

Teach Plus’s National Director of Programs Heather Peske is a former TFAer.

I have copied most of a blog entry written by Celine Coggins. Note the language. I could exchange Coggin’s name for Louisiana’s John White, given their similar (reformer-canned?) writing style. I have bolded reformer-esque phrasing and concepts:

This piece was submitted by Celine Coggins, CEO of Teach Plus, a Boston-based non-profit organization with a mission to improve outcomes for urban children by ensuring that a greater proportion of students have access to effective, experienced teachers.

At Teach Plus, we are working with several states on the roll out of reforms similar to those in Colorado’s SB 10-191, the educator effectiveness law. It is complicated work with a number of interesting puzzles that are destined to make or break the impact of the legislation. In my view, there’s passing laws and there’s actually helping kids. The two are completely different things—although the law is the necessary pre-condition for changing the way schools operate. Here are three puzzles I’m currently wrestling with that are likely challenging folks in Colorado as well.

What are the real roots of resistance?

If you listen to the media, one would come to believe that all teachers are against any form of testing and/or accountability. In my work with teachers across five states and across charter and regular district contexts, I hear something very different.

Teachers are eager for meaningful data on the progress their students are making. Too often, the assessments their district or school currently uses do not fit that bill. They are jealous when they hear of teachers who have access to assessments that are aligned to their curriculum, given several times a year, and in which results are fed back to teachers and students immediately.

About Teach Plus

At Teach Plus we work to break down the barriers that separate teachers and policymakers. We run two programs designed to give teachers greater input into the decisions that affect their classrooms. Our Teaching Policy Fellows program is a selective training program in policy and advocacy for classroom teachers in years 3-10 of their careers. It spans two school years. Our T+ Network, is a broad-based community for over 5,000 progressive teachers seeking a voice in education reform. At both in-person and online events, we use real-time polling to get feedback directly from teachers to policy leaders.

The teachers with whom we work feel responsible for whether and to what degree their students are learning—but they want assessments that will allow them to learn and modify practice, not just “be held accountable”.

How do you build a powerful coalition of the willing?

From the outside, one of the most important achievements of SB 10-191, was the broad-based coalition that was built around the need to get an effective teacher in front of every child in the state. On the path to real reform, there was space for many voices to shape the legislation. Implementation is typically a time when coalitions dissipate, but it needs to be a time of continuing to push the message out and cultivating a growing group of supporters for the message—this time, primarily within the teaching ranks.

I’d suggest three key pieces of coalition-building: 1. We need top state leaders regularly meeting with teachers in communicating why changes are happening. [Top-down approach.] Too few teachers understand the research that confirms differences in teacher effectiveness and their significant consequences for kids. 2. We need teachers who are trained as ambassadors to communicate with their peers in the classroom and answer their questions. And 3. We need platforms, like the one we offer at Teach Plus, for teachers to offer constructive ideas to leaders and get their voices heard.

Are there ways to mitigate unintended consequences?

Like all laws affecting large swaths of the population, sweeping teacher quality legislation is bound to have a few unintended consequences. We recently worked with the state of Illinois to get opinions from more than 2,000 teachers on how to implement changes to their evaluation system.

One question state leaders were wrestling with was: Should performance expectations for novice teachers be different from their more experienced peers? One would expect that experienced teachers would be of the opinion that they are part of a profession where complex skills are developed over time. Thus, they would vote that their newer colleagues could not possibly be held to the same high standards as someone who had been in the classroom for several years.

Surprise! They voted just the opposite way. The majority argued that all teachers needed to be held to the same standard, whether they had been in the classroom for a few dozen days or a few dozen years. Why? Another new piece of legislation in that state mandates that layoffs must be based more on performance than seniority. Allowing newer teachers a lower standard, they argued, might be their passport to unemployment.

Ugh! What should we do with this? Certainly we shouldn’t turn back from the premise that performance matters. But we cannot allow senior teachers to cannibalize those who will be the future of the profession because public policy has taken away the security that has long been a hallmark of their job. [I just needed to highlight this for its ugly portrayal of seasoned—no doubt, traditionally trained—teachers.]

I am eager to dig deeper into these puzzles with many of you later today in Denver. [I’ll bet.]

Not only do Coggins and White share a writing style; they also both call themselves “teachers” but do not reveal how many years they were actually in the classroom. In both Coggins’ and White’s bios, they simply gloss over their years in the classroom. The most definite information I found on Coggins’ classroom experience is that she “taught middle school in Worchester, Massachusetts.” That’s it. No years taught. No specific school, even. At least White named a school.

Both Coggins and White are quick to detain what they did following their “teaching.” Both were propelled to higher-profile postions in the reformer –ed world.

So there you have it—more “reformerspeak”—and “think”—and “fund”—on the NCTQ Advisory Board.

Has no one on NCTQ but Mr. McKinley Broome completely sold out on the traditionally trained educator?


Previous posts in this series:

Part I: NCTQ 2012 Letter Grades and Louisiana; reformer use of the op/ed

Part II:  NCTQ Alternative Certification publication

Part III:  NCTQ Adivisory Board members Steven Adamowski, Michael Barber, Roy Barnes, and McKinley Broome

From → Charters, NCTQ, TFA

  1. Michael Fiorillo permalink


    Surely, that’s from The Onion? Or a cheesy sci-fi movie?(“Puny Earthlings, you cannot resist the data-driven might of Edutron!”)

    On a more serious note, thanks for your efforts to expose these interlocking directorates of fraudsters and looters.

  2. Yes, Edutron. I wondered if it was self-parody myself. It might be an unintentional parody of the ed reform industry, because Chen still has a Taiwanese sensibility toward intellectual activity, and might have just tried too hard to accommodate his edubusiness colleagues’ execrable tastes. You know, like the way the Japanese decorate hotel lobbies in deliberately deplorable Roccoco style for European guests?

    I haven’t seen their actual math program in action, but I know Andrew Chen, from the term I served on the state Math and Science Advisory Council. I was glad to see that Mercedes was able to give him a marginally passing grade. I can’t help liking him, and I feel he would still have something to contribute, whether he was a CEO or not.

    Andrew also did a professional development inservice at my high school, which I enjoyed enormously. The thing is, he’s really, really smart. And then, he actually applies his reasoning and knowledge base to the problem in front of him. And he’s funny. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and I’ve seen him skewer major reform power honchos without their even realizing it, because they’re too dumb to think it through.

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