Skip to content

The Test-Score-Raising Betterness of TFA and Other Alt-Cert Programs

On November 28, 2017, EdWeek produced an article entitled, “TFA, Alternative Programs Marginally Better Than Traditional Teacher Prep, Study Finds.”

The EdWeek title should read, “TFA, Alternative Programs Marginally Better Than Traditional Teacher Prep at Raising Test Scores, Study Finds.”

There is a difference.

The EdWeek piece is based on a November 2017 study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies (JCFS), “Traditional vs. Alternative Teacher Preparation Programs: A Meta-Analysis.”

The JCFS study is a technical read, and it is pretty well done, statistically speaking, though I take issue with promoting the use of student tests to measure teachers (see quote below). In the end, the researchers analyze the results of 12 other studies comparing traditional teacher prep programs to alternative teacher prep programs, with particular focus on Teach for America (TFA) as an alternative teacher prep program.

In general, the JCFS study finds slightly in favor of alt cert, and particularly TFA, as being associated with higher student test scores. What the study does not examine is the degree to which alt cert, including TFA, train their teachers to pursue the narrow focus of increased test scores, a goal that is not one and the same with providing a well-rounded, quality education.

Given America’s test score fixation, genuine learning has been accorded the role of wallflower.

I have had only a few interactions with former TFAers, and it strikes me how quickly gauging success as a teacher verbally morphs into comments about how high the test scores of their students were.

So, the fact that the JCFS meta-analysis finds that teachers trained via alt cert programs have students with slightly higher test scores than those trained in traditional teacher prep programs does not surprise me.

What does surprise me is that the JCFS researchers not only fail to question the validity of measuring teacher job performance using student tests; they promote the idea as a means to gather useful data.

It also surprises me that the JCFS researchers do not question the degree to which student test scores represent authentic learning. They do comment on “student achievement in the U.S.” as “still below average, in comparison to the rest of the world,” but they do not carry that thought further and question how it is that the US continues to be a major world power despite those “still below average” international test scores.

From the “limitations” section of the JCFS meta-analysis:

…Although this is a very important and controversial topic, to date there has been very limited literature empirically examining the effectiveness of TTP programs, particularly in comparison to ATP programs, in addition to a scarcity of studies that report key statistical information for comparison. A good faith effort was made to identify as many peer reviewed empirically-supported studies as possible, however, there has been even less research that addresses this topic by comparing teacher training program effectiveness with student achievement as an outcome variable. We unfortunately only identified 12 studies that met our inclusion criteria, and this small number of existing studies limit the power of the current research. It is plausible that different findings will be discovered once more research is conducted in this area. Certainly, the need for researchers to conduct more studies in this field that are empirical, high quality, and transparent in regards to the reporting of their data is critical. Indeed, given NCLB (No Child Left Behind) mandates in the past and federal state grants, states have developed accountability systems that allow linking teachers (and their preparation) to student performance. Examining these data on a large, national scale has the potential to provide insights on the effects of teacher preparation on student achievement.

There is a reason that no national testing company would dare include with its student achievement tests a statement supporting the usage of these tests to gauge teacher effectiveness:  Measuring teachers using student tests is not a valid use of such tests, and no testing company wants to be held liable for this invalid practice.

Certainly the pressure is on traditional teacher training programs to focus on the outcome of teachers-in-training “raising” student test scores and to use those test score outcomes as purported evidence that the teacher-in-training is “effective.” May they never reach the ultimate cheapening of pedagogy and reduce teacher education to nothing more that test-score-raising.

Are teacher alt cert programs little more that spindly, test-score-raising drive-thrus lacking in lasting pedagogical substance? There’s an issue worthy of research investigation.

What price will America pay for its shortsighted, shallow love of high test scores? Also worthy of investigation– more so than that of the ever-increasing test score.


getschooled test


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

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 two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

Betsy DeVos Wants Students to Borrow Money Using Their iPhones

On November 28, 2017, US ed sec Betsy DeVos spoke at a training conference for financial aid officers.

When it comes to students’ career paths, DeVos wants (wait for it…) choice.

When it comes to borrowing the money, though, DeVos throws choice out of the window because it’s too confusing, wasteful, ad complicated.

She uses the mortgage industry as a model (gulp)– because now, one can file for a mortgage using an iPhone. From her speech:

Well-established in her career, Lauren felt overwhelmed trying to navigate the disjointed maze of programs and plans. She found the aid process to be essentially another job. Worried she’d pick the wrong repayment plan, she defaulted to the standard one. It cost her hundreds of dollars more a month than she can afford.

This meant Lauren had little left for daily expenses, so she ran up even more credit card debt. For her, it has become a vicious cycle and a grand distraction at a time she should be focused on furthering her career.

We must simplify the process for students like Lauren. When barriers to entry are high, fewer students – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds – even attempt the journey, let alone succeed.

This need not be the case. And we’re working with our friends in Congress to accomplish the changes students deserve.

Simplification is possible — just look at what innovators are doing in the mortgage industry. With a few swipes and taps on a phone, the complex process behind securing a loan to own a home has suddenly become simpler for everyone.

Why can’t it be that way for students?  The answer is, it can!

Thus, Lauren and thousands like her can sink into student loan debt with greater speed using a hand-held device. And perhaps America can return to the subprime mortgage crisis (this time via student loans) notably faster than it took for the previous crisis to come to a head in 2008.

DeVos is not one for holding the lenders accountable. But she sure does like a good business metaphor.

Indeed, DeVos’ fondness for comparing education to business (i.e., Uber, food trucks) is well known. Now she wants to make the ease of filing for federal student aid on par with “the commonplace activity” of “finding a soulmate” using one’s phone:

As one student told us “the FAFSA is really complicated for an 18-year-old who has never done taxes or anything like that before.”

Just “figuring out the right number to call,” the student said, “is a nightmare.”

Another student told us that trying to use a servicer’s mobile site was “a tedious process, and I just gave up.”

These experiences are far from world-class and I think they are far from acceptable. You can order food, get a ride home, check your bank account, send money to a friend, or, as I’m told, even find your soulmate on your phone! The FAFSA should – at minimum — keep pace with these commonplace activities!

It is not that I disagree that the FAFSA process could run smoother. It’s just that fine print looks even finer on a small screen, which likely would not bode well for the one signing on the virtual, miniature dotted line.

Still, student loans and the iPhone are becoming acquainted as a market. In fact, I have my own student loan story that involves my phone.

When I completed my PhD, I took out student loans. About 14 years ago, I consolidated these loans by working directly with the lender (the loans had since then been sold to another lender, who honored the consolidation).

About the time that Betsy DeVos began to loosen controls over federal student loan servicers (August 2017), I began receiving solicitous text messages that read, “Your account is flagged for possible student loan forgiveness. Call 866-574-7210 or visit Reply STOP to cancel.”

I visited the website out of curiosity. The site is actually an unnecessary, leeching middle-man that calls itself a “professional student loan service” that will “help” me consolidate my student loans. No specific contacts are named on the site, and there is no physical address. There is also no disclosure of the cost of this “service.”

I texted “STOP” and received the reply, “You have been unsubscribed and will receive no more messages.”

In September 2017, I received another notification, presumably from another such “helpful” company: “Your account has been flagged for possible student loan forgiveness. Call 866-758-1116 for more information about the payment reduction programs. Reply Stop to Cancel.”

I replied, “Stop,” and received this response: “Trusted Leads Promo Alerts: You have been unsubscribed and will no longer receive messages 1-888-816-6931.” But I did receive yet a third contact, presumably from another loan consolidation company. That one I deleted, so I do not have the specifics.

Until August 2017, I had never received any solicitation regarding my student loans via text messages on my phone.

My loans had been consolidated for over a decade, and my payments have been on time.

I wonder how these companies learned that I had federal student loans.

The sales pitch is a good one. Anytime one reads, “your account is flagged,” one pays attention as though this might be some fraud alert (ironic, isn’t it?), and then one sees “loan forgiveness,” the timing of which coincided with the federal student loan forgiveness for public servants being up in the air under Trump/DeVos. Thus, the “loan forgiveness” puts one in mind that this text might somehow be connected to the US Department of Education (for better or worse). But it is not.

DeVos celebrates the ability to apply for loans via phone, but I do not, and I do not appreciate being solicited by student loan mongers via text messaging.

Loans via iPhone are a bad idea, period. Consider this 2013 NPR piece entitled, “I Applied for an Online Payday Loan. Here’s What Happened Next.” An excerpt:

Payday lenders made about $49 billion in high-interest loans last year. More than a third of those loans were made online. I wondered what happens when you apply for such a loan, so I decided to find out.

In the course of reporting a story earlier this year, I logged on to a site called and filled out an application.

I asked for $500 and, to be safe, I made up an address, a name (Mary) and a Social Security number. The site asked for more sensitive stuff — a bank account number and a routing number — and I made that up, too.

In spite of the made-up information, in less than a minute, I got a response.

“Congratulations. Tremont Lending has been selected as your lender and you have been pre-approved for a loan up to $750.”

If I wanted to borrow $750 for a week, I would have had to pay $225 in interest. The site said that was an annual percentage rate of more than 1,300 percent.

I did not agree to take the loan. …

For months, I got dozens of calls. Many of the callers had strong foreign accents. One caller, who said his name was Kevin, told me that Mary had been approved for a loan of up to $5,000 — 10 times what I initially asked for.

Kevin said he was from a company called Cash 4 You, which was unconnected to By this point, I was wholly confused. ETaxLoan had said it was a secure site, but now, many different companies had my application — and, presumably, my personal information.

It turns out there’s a huge online bidding process for such loans.

Of course, the NPR article is about payday loans; however, it is not far-fetched to imagine that money-lending vultures cannot smell the same financially-strapped vulnerability in college students that the do in those desperate for payday loans.

And that there is someone marketing personal information in order to target those who might be prime marks for an unnecessary-yet-costly “student-loan-middleman.”

As for Betsy DeVos: Well, she wants to help vultures get at the students more efficiently via smart phone.

Not so smart. But expectedly Betsy.

betsy devos 12  Betsy DeVos


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

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 two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

New Orleans Schools’ 2017 District Grade: Big Flop.

For a full decade following Hurricane Katrina (2005-2015), those pushing state takeover and the resulting conversion of all state-run New Orleans schools into charters have been quick to promote the marvels of their miracle.

Twelve years later, in 2017, not so much, unless cornered for a sound byte.

Market-based school choicers have increasingly less to work with regarding the NOLA Charter Miracle sales pitch. Consider the 2016-17 district performance scores. Those New Orleans state-takeover (now) charter schools are no longer separated from the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), so now those “failing schools” that the state supposedly miracle-whipped are now part of a single district (let’s call it NOLA), with one single district performance score resulting in one single district letter grade– and that single performance score and resulting letter grade really took a dive in 2016-17, from 85 B (sort of) to 70.9 C.

That is the wrong direction for a state-contrived, mostly-charter miracle. But there’s more: According to the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) 2017 file comparing 2016 and 2017 district scores, NOLA had an 85 B in 2016. However, according to LDOE’s 2016 file of district scores, NOLA had a 84.9 C.

Below is the grading scale used. Note that 85 is the lowest B; 84.9 is the highest C, and 70.9 is pretty close to the lowest C:

Letter Grade School Performance Score
A 100-150
B 85-99.9
C 70-84.9
D 50-69.9
F 0-49.9

I wondered if other school district scores and resulting grades had dropped so drastically (in this case, ~14 points), or if such a drop were uncommon. Examination of the set of 2016-17 district scores shows that four other districts experienced such drastic drops from 2015-16 to 2016-17. These are bolded in the table below. (Source: Louisiana Department of Education 2016-17 District Performance Scores.)

District 2017 Annual DPS Letter Grade 2017 Annual District Performance Score 2016 Annual DPS Letter Grade 2016 Annual District Performance Score
Acadia Parish B 90 B 97.3
Allen Parish A 102.5 A 104.2
Ascension Parish A 110.4 A 109.3
Assumption Parish B 95 B 93.3
Avoyelles Parish C 71.5 C 73.6
Beauregard Parish B 89.3 B 89
Bienville Parish B 93.4 B 86.6
Bossier Parish A 101.1 B 91.7
Caddo Parish C 78 C 74.4
Calcasieu Parish C 84.8 B 86.4
Caldwell Parish B 95.7 B 90.9
Cameron Parish A 102.9 A 100.6
Catahoula Parish B 87 B 87
Claiborne Parish C 78.1 D 67.1
Concordia Parish C 77.3 C 77.9
DeSoto Parish A 103.1 A 101.9
East Baton Rouge Parish C 73.5 C 73.5
East Carroll Parish D 68.8 B 90.4
East Feliciana Parish C 83.5 C 79.5
Evangeline Parish B 92.5 B 95.8
Franklin Parish D 68.8 C 80.5
Grant Parish B 86.5 B 96.3
Iberia Parish B 94.8 B 94.1
Iberville Parish C 81.5 C 82.6
Jackson Parish B 88.7 B 90.4
Jefferson Parish C 78.9 C 79.4
Jefferson Davis Parish A 100.6 B 90.6
Lafayette Parish B 93.8 B 96.3
Lafourche Parish A 102.3 A 102.2
LaSalle Parish A 105.1 A 104.6
Lincoln Parish A 100.4 B 96
Madison Parish D 56.7 C 70
Morehouse Parish D 61.4 D 59.7
Natchitoches Parish B 88.8 B 88.2
Orleans All (Orleans Parish + RSD NO Schools) C 70.8 B 85
Ouachita Parish B 99.2 A 100.2
Plaquemines Parish A 110.7 A 108.6
Pointe Coupee Parish C 78.9 D 66.5
Rapides Parish B 91.6 B 92
Red River Parish D 62 C 78.3
Richland Parish C 70.8 C 70.9
Sabine Parish B 98.4 C 82.7
St. Bernard Parish B 98.3 B 94.1
St. Charles Parish A 100 A 109.3
St. Helena Parish D 61.7 D 61.2
St. James Parish B 97.1 B 88.9
St. John the Baptist Parish C 83.8 B 85.2
St. Landry Parish C 71.7 C 73.1
St. Martin Parish B 88.5 B 89.3
St. Mary Parish B 99.7 B 99.2
St. Tammany Parish A 104.1 A 107
Tangipahoa Parish C 81.2 C 83.4
Tensas Parish D 62.9 D 62.8
Terrebonne Parish B 98.2 B 95.1
Union Parish C 82.6 C 82.9
Vermilion Parish A 106.3 A 106.8
Vernon Parish A 107.9 A 109
Washington Parish B 88.9 C 80.2
Webster Parish C 74.1 C 79.9
West Baton Rouge Parish B 93.3 B 95.9
West Carroll Parish B 85.3 B 95.5
West Feliciana Parish A 102 A 108.8
Winn Parish C 83.8 C 80.5
City of Monroe School District C 75.6 C 73.8
City of Bogalusa School District D 56.5 D 59.1
Zachary Community School District A 115.6 A 116.2
City of Baker School District D 56.5 D 65.7
Central Community School District A 110.5 A 111.2
Recovery School District – Baton Rouge D 58.7 D 57.2
Recovery School District – Louisiana F 47 F 45.4
Louisiana State B 86.8 C 83

Beginning in 2012-13, LDOE has played the game of combining its state-run, Recovery School District (RSD) scores with the remaining (and much higher-scoring) OPSB schools. The benefit of that combined result was that it helped mask the poor performance of the state-run RSD. By 2016, LDOE only offered the combined district score for all NOLA schools.

Also in 2013, LDOE switched from a 200-point school and district grading scale to a 150-point grading scale. Notice that the change artificially elevated state-run RSD from a D to a C:

2013 new 150 pt system old 200 pt system
OPSB only A 108.2 A 132.2
RSD only C 71.9 D 80.9
OPSB and RSD C 83.4 C 96.3
OPSB only A 109.2
RSD only C 71.2
OPSB and RSD C 83.4
OPSB only A 109.6
RSD only C 70.8
OPSB and RSD C 83.4
NOLA All (OPSB + RSD) C 84.9
NOLA All (OPSB +RSD) C 70.8

(Scores used in the table above can be found here.)

However, by 2017, LDOE’s efforts to mask the failure of its state-run, convert-all-those-schools-to charters experiment had reached its limit; from 2016 to 2017, NOLA schools’ single district score/grade dropped over 14 points to that less-than-marketable 70.9 C.

In the previous years (2013 to 2015), OPSB’s score rose slightly and RSD’s score dropped slightly, which had the combined score appearing stationary at 83.4– a C.

In 2016, that combined score rose slightly to 84.9– still a C. And recall the 2013 score conversion that artificially boosted RSD from a D to a C. So, part of this OPSB-RSD (now NOLA) combined C for the years following 2013 has retained the inflation boost from the 2013 grading-scale conversion.

Even so, it isn’t good press to report that the state took over most of New Orleans’ schools, converted all of the state-controlled schools into privately-managed charters, and managed to hover at a C and nothing higher even as the years continued to pass.

It is even worse press to note that 12 years after that post-Katrina, state-yanking of schools, those schools have returned to OPSB (sort of– all-charter RSD schools are still under charter management orgs), and the entire district has fallen to a D in 2017, a year when most Louisiana districts either retained the letter grade they had in 2016 or even increased the letter grade from 2016 to 2017.

The more the years pass since Katrina, the more obvious it becomes that state takeover of most of New Orleans’ public schools for the purposes of handing over those schools to convert them into charters operated by charter management orgs is a colossal bomb.

On November 22, 2017, the New Orleans Tribune published a detailed article on the NOLA schools experiment flop and the fact that charter orgs vying for approval overshot their goals; in an October 2017 Hechinger Report article, New Orleans ed reform pusher Leslie Jacobs blamed issues related to opening schools immediately after Katrina– 12 years ago. (Keep in mind that it has been too many years for Jacobs to successfully pull this stunt; children who started kindergarten post-Katrina, in 2006-07, would have been sophomores in 2016-17, which makes the overwhelming majority of NOLA students the product of the post-Katrina ed system Jacobs championed. And it is in 2017 that the all-NOLA-schools district score bombed.)

It is worthy to note that Jacobs, who used to play offense in promoting RSD success propaganda, announced her retirement in September 2017. The timing was convenient; since RSD schools are returning to OPSB, she is able to exit and let the all-charter-RSD, flunky experiment slip quietly away…

…except that people keep writing about how awful that experiment is based upon the ed reform, ultimately-preferred measure for attacking traditional public school systems: student test scores crunched into school and district grading systems.

Interestingly, the charters that were supposed to show up those failing traditional public schools by boosting test scores are shifting the narrative to, “there’s more to education than test scores,” which is true– but it completely undermines the failing-school narrative that corporate reformers leverage in order to close traditional schools and open the charter schools that replace them. Consider this excerpt from the October 2017 Hechinger Report article, “Charter Schools Aren’t Measuring Up to Their Promises”:

…To fully explain the gap between projections and test scores at Arise [Academy, a New Orleans charter school], he (charter-school leader Andrew Shahan) said, requires a broad understanding of its students. “There are other challenges, such as poverty, trauma, drugs, and mental and pre-natal care, that go into what our number (promised percentage of students proficient on state tests) was. It doesn’t say what their school experience was like. It doesn’t show that our kids get music, karate, and all the sports. It doesn’t show the other ways that we are helping our children grow.”

In 2016, Arise Academy school performance score/letter grade was 43.4 F. In 2017, it rose slightly, but enough to cross a letter-grade threshold: 45.9 D.

The corporate reformers set the rules for grading schools based on test scores. These same reformers use those rules to damn community public schools and replace them with corporate-reformer-preferred, charter-management-operated schools. So don’t even think that charter school operators get to excuse themselves from living up to the very same test-score-centered system that birthed them.

The Orleans Parish School Board is in a position to close charter schools that do not live up to their application hype and systematically restore community schools in New Orleans. Of course, such a decision is on the wrong side of the corporate reform purse that pumps funds into the election campaigns of those who would cement even a failing charter school presence in New Orleans.

But for all of their attempts to purchase a charter school presence in Louisiana, billionaire market-based ed reformers cannot purchase Louisiana charter school success.

As for Louisiana’s most vocal charter-pushing voices, well, most of the helium has leaked out of the balloon called These Schools Were Really Failing Pre-Katrina, and it is eerily floating only a few feet above the floor in a room in which the NOLA Miracle party came to an awkward end.

helium balloon 2


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

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 two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

A Terrible Car Crash That Did Not Happen

On Monday, I was driving back to Louisiana from a weekend visit to see my aunt and uncle in Texas.

My sister and nephew were also in the car with me.

At around 5:30 p.m., we reached our interstate exit, which put us only three miles from my house. The exit is a two-lane road with no median. The speed limit is 55 mph. I was traveling southbound, and the traffic in my lane was light. However, traffic was backed up in the northbound lane.

I had almost reached 55 mph when I saw a van exit a subdivsion located on my side of the road. The van was perhaps 100 yards in front of me, and instead of merging into the northbound line of traffic (which is what I expected it to do), the van came to a complete stop perpendicular to the flow of traffic, the result being that this van now blocked my right of way.

My sister called out to me that the van was not moving. However, I was watching the van in disbelief.

It just sat there, and I knew that I did not have time to stop without hitting it. I had only a few seconds to react, and I had just spent one full second stunned that this driver would put me in what seemed the inevitable position to t-bone this vehicle.

But that did not happen.

As I was within a couple of yards of the van, I cut a sharp right into the entrance of the subdivision. I was pumping the brakes and trying to maintain control of my car. I did not flip the car. I did not sideswipe the van, which I expected to do as it remained stationary in my right of way. I came within a couple of feet of the van but did not hit it.

When my car came to a complete stop, the nose of my car was behind the van in question and in front of another vehicle that was behind the van waiting to exit the same subdivision.

I did not hit either vehicle, and I did not slam into the median at the entrance of the subdivision.

After my car was completely stopped, my first words were, “The airbags did not go off.”

Northbound traffic had cleared by this time, and the van sped away.

I was in shock, but thank God I had the presence of mind to know I was in shock and to look and see if any other vehicles were coming before I reentered that southbound lane. One was, and after it passed, I resumed driving home.

All that I could think about was the great gift I had just been given.

No injuries. No deaths. No holiday season marred by vehicular tragedy.

It was as if I had been granted a fantastic “if only”– “if only such-and-such, then this awful accident would not have happened.”

In those critical seconds, God gave me that “if only.”

I am so, so grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.


Hanna Skandera Resurfaces

As of June 20, 2017, controversial ed reformer and unannounced former PARCC chair, Hanna Skandera, officially exited the office of New Mexico’s commissioner of education.

hanna skandera  Hanna Skandera

Then, she just disappeared. Even her Twitter account is frozen in time, with the last posts dated June 27, 2017.

Fellow ed reformer Rick Hess interviewed Skandera and published the interview on the morning of June 20, 2017, the date of Skandera’s NM Dept. of Ed. departure; however, in a glaring interview omission, Hess asks Skandera nothing about her future professional plans.

Another interview, this one for The 74 and dated June 19, 2017, simply notes, “Skandera declined to share her future plans.”

I occasionally search online for her to see where she might resurface. Today, I found some info.

It seems that following her NM exit, Skandera is not formally employed. Still, she has been busy.

On August 03, 2017, Skandera started a GoFundMe campaign, Hope4Hope, to help her sister, Hope, with expenses related to Hope’s fighting breast cancer. Here is Skandera’s Hope4Hope opening message:

So, I’m telling this story for my sister, Hope…

She is 39 and has been diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer that has now spread to her lymph nodes. She started chemo last week. If things go as planned, she will do chemo for 4.5 months, then radiation daily and then an intensive drug program for 6 months.

Hope and Josh have 3 kiddos–Asher (8), Kiran (6) and Clara (5). Josh is a teacher and Hope works three jobs. To date, she has been teaching Spanish and music part- time and waitressing. Due to her treatment regimen for the next year, the doctor does not recommend or think she will be able to continue working.

Thankfully Hope and Josh’s local community is helping with prayers, kids, some meals and housing for our family who is staying across the street with neighbors. I am also blessed to have just stepped down from my job, so I will be spending more time with her and my mom will be spending more time in Colorado as well. However, I wanted to post this GoFundMe “Hope4Hope” page to ask for help in filling the gap in support over the next year.

My commitment is to give $500 per month ($6,000) and the rest of my family is funding her nutrient/supplement restoration plan.


Currently, Hope contributes approximately $1,500 per month to their family income. Unfortunately, their expenses are going up due to additional travel for treatments and a new deductible of $3,000 each year.

Hope’s lost income for 1 year:
$1,500 x 12 months = $18,000

Gas to travel to and from doctor visits:
$100 x 12 months = $1,200

Total Need: $19,200

The campaign is still active, with $37,127 raised as of this writing.

Skandera posted the most recent Hope4Hope update on November 16, 2017:

Dear Friends,

What can I say?! So much love, support and encouragement have been freely given to Hope, Josh and their kiddos! Thank you!!!

After nearly four months, yesterday was Hope’s last day of chemo! While the road ahead will be a journey, your thoughts, prayers and generosity are what continue to give her the strength, grace and courage to persevere and remain full of hope. She and Josh could not have done it without you! They were daily blessed by support, notes of encouragement and a community who made meals, did carpools, cleaned their house… They had a need and you all filled the gap!

From all that we have been told, Hope is on a path to recovery. Tomorrow Hope and I will meet with the radiologist. She will find out her radiation plan. Based on what he has shared so far, we are anticipating six weeks of daily radiation. Other than energy drain, our hope is that the radiation will have minimal impact on Hope’s overall health. After radiation, she will have approximately nine months of drugs injected via IV every 3 weeks– that supposedly have far fewer side effects than the chemo. Please keep Hope and Josh and the kids in your thoughts and prayers. Specifically, pray for strength, less nausea, swelling in her arm and legs to go down and finger nails to grow back.

From all appearances, the toughest part is over. Thank God! And, Hope has truly persevered and remained radiant and hopeful because of so many of you.

As her sister, I can’t even begin to express my gratitude. Please know I and my family are forever grateful!

With love and appreciation,

I have no use for Skandera’s ed reform push, which is little more than trying to bring Jeb Bush’s failed Florida ed reforms to New Mexico under the direction of NM Governor Susana Martinez. (For a succinct dose of Skandera’s awful impact on NM education, see this Santa Fe Ne Mexican article and its comments.)  However, I applaud her efforts to help her sister through a profound personal crisis, and I encourage those who are so inclined to donate to Hope Skandera Kurz.


Hope Skandera Kurz

Hope Skandera Kurz


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

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 two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

Report: Examining Louisiana Discipline Disparities by Race and Income

On November 20, 2017, the Educational Research Alliance of New Orleans (ERA) released this policy brief and corresponding technical report examining school discipline disparities by student race and income in Louisiana.

ERA received its data from the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) for K12, publicly-funded schools for years spanning the 2000-01 to 2013-14 school years. Presumably, LDOE received its data from schools as the schools submitted to the state the results of individual disciplinary reports completed by teachers, admin, or other school staff for the years in question.

Based upon analyzing this data, ERA conclusions include the following:

  • Black students, on average, receive suspensions that are 0.10 days longer than the suspensions given to white students written up for the same type of infraction in the same school, grade, and year.
  • The same is true when the focus of analysis is on low-income vs. non-low-income students in the same school, grade, and year, with low-income students receiving suspensions that are 0.10 days longer than the suspensions given to non-low-income students written up for the same type of infraction.

ERA researchers offer the following caution regarding interpreting the above as indisputable evidence of discrimination:

The previous section showed differences in how students of different races and family income are punished for the same types of infractions. While perhaps suggestive of a form of discriminatory punishment, our inability to observe students’ actual behaviors creates too much uncertainty to conclude that this is evidence of discrimination.

The above limitation to the ERA study is noteworthy; the data upon which the study rests derives from reports that include descriptions of student behavior that the researchers are unable to verify as accurate and complete. In my role as a Louisiana public school teacher, I complete these reports, and I often must complete them in a rush. Too, the space is limited for describing an incident, and sometimes, the student behavior continues beyond the time of the drafting of the behavior report. Third, multiple individuals contribute to the completion of the report, including the initial reporter, the admin delivering the disciplinary consequence, and the staff inputting the contents of the written, paper report into the state’s data system. Finally, different reporters could categorize behaviors differently, or include greater or lesser detail, and the administrators may or may not include additional information related to a situation that continues beyond the writing of the initial report on the report.

In sum, the ERA report on discipline disparities is constructed using data that is arguably shaky at its foundation because the researchers are unable to assess the degree to which the data are clouded by the disciplinary infraction reporting that produced the data set.

It is not that there is not some disparity in the meting out of discipline by race or income level; it is just that one should not take the results of the ERA report and publicize them as irrefutable proof of discrimination.

It seems that the cleanest version of the data would be within-school data since a greater consistency in completing discipline reports is likely within the same school as compared to across schools or across school districts. (This is my assumption. Note that the ERA researchers were not able to assess the accuracy even of within-school data.)

Concerning within-school disciplinary disparities, the researchers include the following result:

…We examine suspensions resulting from fights between one black student and one white student or between one low-income student and one non-low-income student. In these analyses, we control for students’ prior discipline records and other background characteristics to account for the possibility that schools might punish students differently if, for example, they are first-time fighters, academically successful, or designated for special education services.

Observing only fights that result in suspensions, we analyze differences in the length of suspensions between students from different subgroups. We find that black students are suspended longer than their white counterparts in these interracial fights. The difference is about 0.05 days on average, meaning every 20 interracial
fights yields one extra day of suspension for black students. …

We also examined specific fights that included one low-income student and one non-low-income student, but we did not see consistent evidence of differing punishments between students from these subgroups.

Among their conclusions, the ERA researchers offer the following:

The reality that gaps could arise within schools, across schools within districts, or across districts complicates the analysis, as does the lack of available data on the true behaviors.

Indeed, it would be difficult if not impossible to arrive at a verified, clean data set on the disciplinary practices for K12, publicly-funded schools for an entire state and across several years. Such does not render the ERA report as without value. However, such reports tend to become sensationalized in the media because the researcher’s findings are seldom accompanied by the limitations of the study, which the ERA researchers are careful to include multiple times as part of their written reporting.

One positive outcome from the ERA report is that it draws attention to the possibility of disparities in discipline and can certainly raise awareness among Louisiana lawmakers and school administrators regarding discipline outcomes. As the ERA policy brief offers in conclusion:

The way in which students are disciplined is a difficult issue that affects many students—and perhaps some groups of students more than others. Policymakers must take great care in crafting sensible discipline policies, and school leaders must be attentive to and thoughtful about how they discipline students. We hope this
study contributes to a richer understanding of student discipline disparities and that our forthcoming studies will contribute to better policy and practice in this area.



Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

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 two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

DeVos Won’t Publicize a School Voucher Downside, But It’s Leaking Out Anyway

US ed sec Betsy DeVos is willing to exploit individual stories to promote school choice. She wants to sell school choice no matter what, and she conceals any downside to that choice.

Consider this story from Chalkbeat. It concerns a couple whose son DeVos used as an example of the wonders of school choice for students with special needs. In this case, the parents of a special needs student sued the school district regarding the rights of students with disabilities.

It turns out that the parents did not appreciate DeVos using their son’s situation as a school voucher sales moment.

I invite readers to read the entire article. However, in this post, I want to offer two critical issues noted by the parents in this particular case.

First of all, DeVos asked to meet with the parents, and in that meeting, the parents asked DeVos about the “free and appropriate education” under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) follows the special needs student from the public- to the private-school classroom.

From Chalkbeat:

There’s another key issue at stake in the conversation about vouchers for students with disabilities — one Jennifer and Joe asked DeVos about during their private conversation.

Do students with disabilities lose their rights to a fair and appropriate education — a guarantee under the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act — if they use vouchers to attend private schools?

Yes, DeVos said.

“She answered point blank,” Joe said.

While Joe and Jennifer say they were talking about the issue in the context of Florida’s voucher program, experts say the loss of rights occurs in a number of states and oftentimes parents are in the dark.

It is the private school that exercises the greater choice, not the special needs child. There are nuances to the situation of private schools serving special needs students, including the possibility of the private school coordinating with the public school for special education services. However, the bottom line is that private schools have the power to say no to vouchers, and they have the power to say that they are not equipped to serve special needs students.

No private school can be forced to accept voucher students, period.

A second issue is the cost. No state or federal voucher program will come close to paying full tuition for attendance at a top-shelf private school. DeVos features the parents in the above story as examples of the triumph of school voucher choice.

What she fails to mention is that the family she showcases receives a voucher worth 7 percent of the annual cost of the child’s private school tuition, an amount that his mother says “doesn’t do anything.” The parents’ health insurance pays 50 percent, and the parents apparently can afford the remaining 43 percent.

Finally, the parents acknowledge that since their child is attending a private school that is not in their neighborhood, the child is “missing out on all those years of friendship and growth with all of his peers in his neighborhood.”

In other words, community bonds matter, and an integral part of community bonding involves the community school.

School voucher choice disregards the value of community bonds.

Betsy DeVos does not caution against potential loss of “free and appropriate public education” rights for special needs students using vouchers.

She does not mention the fact that voucher money does not even come close to covering tuition costs for elite private schools.

And she places no value on the community components attendant with promoting healthy community schools.

Indeed, DeVos is quick to use a special needs student and his family to serve her needs for a convenient voucher commercial. And they are going public to set the record straight.

betsy devos 4  Betsy DeVos


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

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 two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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