I Am Not Hostile To Change

Curmudgucation, Peter Greene, Feb. 15, 2017

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke today to a gathering of Magnet School folks, and opened up by suggesting that "some people" are "hostile" to change.

I just want to be clear. I am not hostile to change. In fact, there are some changes that I would love to see.

I would love to see a change in the rhetoric about failing schools. Instead of declaring that we will "rescue" students from failing schools and offering lifeboats for a handful of students, I'd like to change to a declaration that where we find struggling and failing schools, we will get them the support and resources that they need to become great.

I would love to see a change in how we approach the communities where those schools are located. Instead of pushing local leaders aside so that outsiders who "know what's best" for them can swoop in and impose decisions for them instead of letting them have control of their own community.

I would love to see a change in how teachers are treated. Instead of trying to bust their unions, smother their pay, ignore their voices , and treat them as easily-replaced widgets, I would like to see teacher voices elevated, listened to, respected, and given the support and resources that would lift them up. I would like to see them treated as part of the solution instead of the source of all problems.

I would love to see a change in how we discuss race and poverty, treating them as neither destiny nor unimportant nothings.

I would love to see a change in how we treat public education. I would love to see public education treated like a sacred trust and not a business opportunity. I would love to see us pursue a promise to educate all children-- not just the few that we deem worthy or profitable or best reached by a sensible business plan. Every child.

I would love to see a change in the status quo. Because at this point, the status quo is a public education system that is being smothered and dismantled by people who lack expertise in education and belief in the promise of public education. The education "establishment" has been pushed out and replaced by well-meaning amateurs, profiteers, scam artists, and people who have no desire to maintain the institution that has been the foundation of a robust and vibrant democracy. Reformsters are the status quo, and that is a status quo I would love to change, because they have had their shot, and all of their promises have proven to be at best empty and at worst toxic.

I would love to see us change from test-centered schools, data-centered schools, and revenue-centered schools to schools that are student-centered, that steer by the children at their center.

And all of that is because I welcome the change that I have always welcomed, built for, worked for-- which is the change of young humans into grown, fully-realized, awesome, grown, valuable, living, breathing, completely individual and fully capable adults, the change of each child from an unsure rough draft into the version of their own best self.

No, Secretary. I am not hostile to change at all. I embrace it, welcome it, hope for it and work for it every day. There are many of us out here, and if you imagine we are hostile to change, that is one more thing about public education that you do not understand.

Study Finds School Improvement Grant Program Had No Impact on Student Achievement

Report Examines the Program’s Implementation and Effectiveness

Jan 18, 2017

Schools that received School Improvement Grants (SIG) to implement school intervention models used more of the practices promoted by these models than schools that did not receive grants. However, the SIG-funded models had no effect on student achievement, according to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Education. Through $3.5 billion dollars in grants in 2010, the SIG program aimed to improve student achievement in the nation’s lowest-performing schools. This is the final report from the multiyear SIG evaluation led and conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, with partners American Institutes for Research and Social Policy Research Associates, for the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.


school improvement grants  

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Petition to Give Brookline Paraprofessionals a Fair Contract

Click this link to go to the petition to give Brookline public school paraprofessionals a fair contract.



  1. increase in hourly wages (to a livable wage!)
  2. more hours
  3. job security

No one who works in Brookline schools full time should be expected to live in poverty!


We urge Brookline parents and community members to stand with us.

  • Share this petition with Brookline community members/parents
  • Attend a school committee meeting.  Sign up to speak to express your support for Brookline educators.  Calendar of meetings: http://www.brooklinema.gov/calendar.aspx?CID=110,&Keywords=&startDate=&enddate=&
  • Call and email school committee members:susan_ditkoff@psbma.org, david_pollak@psbma.org, ben_chang@psbma.org, helen_charlupski@psbma.org, michael_glover@psbma.org, lisa_jackson@psbma.org, barbara_scotto@psbma.org, beth_stram@psbma.org
  • Write a letter to the Brookline Tab expressing your support for all Brookline educators.
  • Attend a community forum on February 9: a chance to envision our values and the school system our children deserve. All Saint's Church, 6-8:30pm
  • To volunteer in other ways, contact the beu at beu-mta@hotmail.com or 617-277-0251


Has Trump Outsourced the Department of Education to Jeb Bush?

The U.S. Department of Education, in the Trump regime, is starting to look like a Jeb Bush sweep.

Betsy DeVos was on the board of Jeb’s Foundation for Education Excellence, which is noted for its advocacy for vouchers, charter schools, digital learning, and high-stakes testing.

Hanna Skandera, State Superintendent in New Mexico, worked for Jeb Bush, was a member and chair of Jeb’s Chiefs for Change, and is a supporter of Common Core (and president of the PARCC consortium).

Now Politico reports that Paul Pastorek of Louisiana, also a member of Jeb’s Chiefs for Change, is under consideration for the ED Department’s general counsel. Pastorek was a leader and cheerleader for the complete privatization of the public schools in New Orleans.

As superintendent [of Louisiana] from 2007 to 2011, he helped oversee the rebuilding of New Orleans schools after Hurricane Katrina. He has held a number of education reform leadership positions, serving as co-executive director of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, for example. Pastorek helped found the PARCC consortium and he’s chairman of PARCC Inc.’s board of directors.

In other words, Trump has forgotten that he promised to eliminate Common Core (which he can’t do unless the states want to do it.) He said repeatedly that Common Core is a “disaster.” But all of his likely top appointments are Common Core advocates, like Jeb Bush.

The High School Of The Future — Right Here In Boston

(City Year/flickr)

Many education leaders lament the current state of American high schools and say we need to redesign them to do better at teaching creativity, design thinking, forming and defending ideas, collaboration and effective communication, and STEM skills. But there’s a school in Boston that’s already doing all that right now: Boston Arts Academy.

In fact, as delegations of U.S. educators travel to Scandinavian countries to study their education systems, a team from the Netherlands is coming to BAA this winter to learn best practices for organizing a school around creativity and innovation.

Tucked behind Fenway Park, BAA was founded in 1998 as the city’s first public performing and visual arts high school. Its 457 students specialize in either dance, music, theater or visual arts.

The school is routinely recognized for its excellence in arts education, with awards in the last few years from the Grammy Foundation, the Arts Schools Network, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and more. Notable alumni include dancer/choreographer Kirven Douthit-Boyd, actress Diane Guerrero and singer Brittany Butler, who’s competed on “The Voice.”

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Supporting Brookline Paraprofessionals

 Dec 15, 2016
 We are writing in support of Brookline classroom paraprofessionals, who are still working without a fair contract. At our release day on Nov. 2, kindergarten teachers were asked to make a list of all of the critical things that classroom paraprofessionals do in our classrooms, and why their role is so vital to our teaching. The list was incredibly long - after five minutes of brainstorming, we filled boards with over 250 post-it notes - including everything from being a second adult in the room, to comforting a crying child, to providing one-on-one support to children with special needs. In our discussions, what was said over and over again by kindergarten teachers across the district is that we absolutely could not do our jobs without the support, professionalism, expertise and commitment of paras. They enrich and support our curriculum, they provide invaluable behavioral support, they ensure the safety of all of our students and they are some of the hardest working educators in our district. And yet, their pay reflects a school district that does not acknowledge or respect their value and professionalism, and the critical role that they play in educating our students.

Just to give a couple of examples, one of our paras is a certified teacher with her master's degree. This is her fourth year in Brookline, and she currently takes home $412 each week. Another one of our paras has worked at Pierce for 15 years and maxed out her salary on the highest step, seven years ago. After contributing to her increasing retirement fund and paying for her family's health insurance, her take home pay is BARELY over $300 per week. This, after 15 years of dedicated service to our district.

The School Committee's latest proposal seeks to create two different classes of paraprofessionals - paying those that work with children in special programs more than the majority of paras who support teachers in classrooms throughout the district. While we can understand why this might seem like a good idea to those who have never spent significant time in our schools, as kindergarten teachers we can tell you firsthand that every one of our classroom paraprofessionals is not just a classroom support - they are special educators and professionals doing deeply important work for our students and the district. Most IEP's in our classrooms have "support from classroom para" written in, and our paras are consistently collecting data, differentiating instruction, providing one-on-one support and modifying activities to ensure that every child has access to our curriculum and can be successful. Without paraprofessionals, the district would not be able to meet the levels of support mandated for these students. Furthermore, in Kindergarten, every year our classrooms have students with undiagnosed disabilities. This means that our paras are actually supporting even more students with special needs than the district documents. In fact, we are consistently reminded that Special Ed pays half of our paras' small salaries.

The high turnover of paraprofessionals is a significant hardship for us as teachers, and for our students. At that release day meeting we also talked about the difference between having a paraprofessional work with us over several years versus having to train a new person every school year (or more often). Our ability to teach more deeply, more effectively, and to develop more thoughtful curriculum is directly affected by the amount of time we have worked together as a team. Our paraprofessionals work SO HARD, and our schools would not function without them.

Having consistent, well-trained paraprofessionals that are paid a living wage should be a priority for our district. Their value to our classrooms and students cannot be overemphasized, and we will continue to stand with our colleagues until they are given the fair contract that they deserve.


Amie Buchman (Pierce K)

Eowyn Daly-Griffin (Pierce K/1)

Ashley Haese (Runkle K)

Kristen Haynes (Runkle K)

Colleen Muldoon (Pierce K)

Tanya Paris (Runkle K)

Lauren Kelly Talanian (Pierce K)

Andrew Winston (Pierce K)

Trump & Common Core

Hanna Skandera, Undersecretary of Education??

Mercedes Schneider, December 15, 2016

According to the December 15, 2016, Politico Pro, controversial New Mexico Commissioner of Education Hanna Skandera “is under close consideration for education deputy secretary or undersecretary in the Trump administration.”

hanna-skandera  Hanna Skandera

The New Mexico Senate took four years to confirm Skandera, and it was a close vote: 22-19. Skandera has never taught, an issue that arguably violates the New Mexico constitution, which requires the state’s ed secretary to be a “qualified, experienced educator.”

However, in the world of ed reform, it’s who you know, and if you can get your non-teaching foot in the door and hold it there as ed sec “designee” for years, then it is indeed possible to be tagged as an “educator” by a state senate majority.

But let’s turn our attention to Common Core.

If Trump is supposedly against Common Core, one wonders why he would choose a woman who is currently the chair for one of the two federal-fund-established Common Core testing consortia, PARCC.

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It Turns Out Spending More Probably Does Improve Education

by Kevin Carey & Elizabeth A. Harris,

Educators, politicians and unions have battled in court over that crucial question for decades, most recently in a sweeping decision this fall in Connecticut, where a judge ordered the state to revamp nearly every facet of its education policies, from graduation requirements to special education, along with its school funding.

For many years, research on the relationship between spending and student learning has been surprisingly inconclusive. Many other factors, including student poverty, parental education and the way schools are organized, contribute to educational results.

Teasing out the specific effect of money spent is methodologically difficult. Opponents of increased school funding have seized on that ambiguity to argue that, for schools, money doesn’t matter — and, therefore, more money isn’t needed.

But new, first-of-its-kind research suggests that conclusion is mistaken. Money really does matter in education, which could provide fresh momentum for more lawsuits and judgments like the Connecticut decision.

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