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Introducing Bill Honig’s Challenge to “Test and Punish”:

August 6, 2016

This post features the education website,, which is the creation of California teacher/administrator, Bill Honig.

bill honig  Bill Honig

Bill Honig has been a practicing educator for more than 45 years. Originally trained as an attorney, he discovered his true passion was in elementary education. Honig has taught in the inner-city schools of San Francisco, served as a local superintendent in Marin County, and was appointed to the State Board of Education by California governor Jerry Brown during his first term.

In 1983, Honig was elected California state superintendent of public instruction, a position he held for 10 years. In 1995, he jointly founded the Consortium on Reaching Excellence (CORE), which has worked with teachers and coaches in reading and math nationwide for the past 20 years.

Currently, Honig serves as Vice-Chair of the California Instructional Quality Commission, which develops curricular frameworks and reviews educational resources for the State Board of Education. He continues to collaborate with researchers, thought leaders, and practitioners to implement evidence-based approaches that offer an alternative to conventional educational reform.

I asked Honig to introduce his website to my readers. Here is his response:

A great debate has been raging in this country about the best way to improve our schools. As each state and district grapples with the polemics of school reform, this is the opportune time to engage in a thoughtful discussion focused on successful practices and empirical evidence.

I recently created a website,, designed to present the research and experience supporting the “build and support” approach, gathered from our best researchers, bloggers, and practitioners, and show why the more extreme measures of the “test and punish” strategies haven’t worked. It has 16 short articles (for a list see below) about the major issues in the debate including a piece about our experience in California and is designed for educational and political policy makers and members of the media.

My goal is to help educators and parents understand how a build-and-support approach enables schools, districts, states, and nations to achieve extraordinary results. I especially want to assist governors, mayors, legislators, and their staffs who wish to resist or reverse the disappointing results of conventional school reform by arming them with facts, arguments, and the unassailable research that points the way to lasting success.

The 16 articles (with an additional one about how the reading wars got resolved in California) each contain supporting links to research and evidence. The first articles provide a summary of the current school improvement debate and the educational goals we should want for our children, then the articles address whether conventional school reforms such as high-stakes testing or large-scale expansion of charter schools has worked, and, finally, examine what top performers do to improve results. You can read the articles linked below either sequentially or individually:

I hope this site helps add a useful voice to those attempting to advance a reasoned discussion about improving our schools.

As a bonus, Honig offers a smidge from the first article listed above, “The School Improvement Debate,” which he notes “gives a flavor of the context in the remaining articles”:

In late 2015, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces the Bush-sponsored No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the Obama administration’s Race to the Top, and other reform efforts. The new bill greatly diminishes the federal role in education and, for the most part, shifts the responsibility for devising policies that will improve educational performance to states and local districts. We find ourselves presented with two main options—a Test-and-Punish approach or a Build-and-Support approach.

The former, which until recently has been widely accepted as the conventional wisdom, is supported by those who believe in the power of radical structural change and incentives. These self-designated “reformers” advocate test-based evaluations of teachers and schools and onerous consequences tied to those test scores. Their policies are driven by a belief in market-based competition, in which low-performing public schools are systematically replaced through charter school expansion or vouchers. An integral part of their strategy is the elimination of teacher protections.

The latter, more positive Build-and-Support approach has been used by our most successful districts and states. It places instruction at the center of improvement efforts; aims to engage all educators, students, and parents; and builds support structures to create effective school teams and continuous improvement.

There you have it, public education supporters and advocates: The build-and-support education website, Honig’s

Be sure to check it out.



Just Released– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Guest Posts

  1. As a kindergarten teacher, I was really excited to learn from How the Reading Wars Got Solved. But I have no idea what is been said in that article. It is wildly confusing, very roundabout and maybe a little too personal. I was hoping for some effective strategies to implement in my classroom. All I can really discern is that the author is completely against whole language and advocates teaching phonics. I was pretty much already there in how I teach reading. In addition, I encourage and work hard to grow a deep love for books- Dr. Seuss, Mem Fox, Mercer Mayer, Mo Willems, etc. So, I guess I shall sally forth…

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    My safari will not open the website or links. Trying to find the cause.

  3. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    I am experiencing the same problem as Laura – site cannot be reached.

  4. Honig’s admiration of CA CORE districts & LBU is concerning, especially considering that Gates poured $10 million into LB in 2013 and more into a few other CORE districts. CORE is a private organization largely funded by Gates and other philanthropic foundations, which has essentially turned CA’s most urban districts into charters.

    Before believing CORE isn’t another test and punish system, take a look at the 750 page waiver between ED and CORE. Also of concern is Fullan’s involvement (his work is written into the waiver). After Katrina, Fullan helped in New Orleans, and we all know how that turned out. While Honig may be a fan of what’s happening in CA, many fighting for public education out here think otherwise.

    On his blog, he holds up Massachusetts as another model to follow. MA has a collaborative that happens to be very similar to CORE. In fact, both states conducted the same SEL pilot run by Transforming Ed. And Gates has been funding the reform efforts in MA as well as several others, intending to create public private charters.

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