Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dear Colleague,

We are sending you this email twice this month – via the traditional route and also through MailChimp. Any feedback on which you prefer will be greatly appreciated.

Many studies have shown that teachers don’t improve after the first three to five years on the job, but now a new study refutes the prior ones.

… the researchers found teachers' ability to improve student achievement persisted well beyond the three- to five-year mark. While the teachers did make the most progress during their first few years in the classroom, teachers improved their ability to boost student test scores on average by 40 percent between their 10th and their 30th year on the job, the study shows.

The improvements were seen in both reading and math teachers, but were stronger in mathematics.

If the above is true, then Los Angeles should have the best teachers around.  The Los Angeles Daily News reports that the seniority system has brought us to a point where “Los Angeles Unified’s teachers are old and costly.”

For every teacher under the age of 25, there are more than 19 teachers older than 56, according to district data recently compiled for a retirement plan. 

Additionally, nearly half of the district’s teachers, 49.4 percent, are older than 46, while 15.5 percent are younger than 36. 

This school year, 37.1 percent of the district’s classroom teachers had more than 19 years of experience. Each one of those veteran teachers cost the district at least 37.8 percent more in salary than a freshman teacher who earned $45,637 compared with $75,024 for the veteran teacher, according to LAUSD documents. Additionally, an older workforce increases the cost LAUSD pays for health care benefits.

And speaking of Los Angeles, the talks between the district and teachers union are not going well. There are several issues including salary. While the union is offering a 5 percent raise, UTLA is demanding 8.5 percent. They are in the mediation phase, which is the penultimate step. If mediation bears no fruit, fact-finding follows and then a strike could take place if there is still no meeting of the minds. For the latest on the negotiations and all things educational in Los Angeles, LA School Report is a great one-stop shop. Their daily reports can be accessed here -

A popular trend in education circles these days is “restorative justice,” which tries to deal with student misbehavior issues by utilizing a kinder and gentler approach, and avoiding the traditional “punish and suspend.” But New York charter operator Eva Moskowitz isn’t buying any of the new methods. In fact, she wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which she points out that restorative justice is nonsense. To read “Turning Schools Into Fight Clubs” go to

Do you think you are ready to teach Common Core? If not, you have company. In fact, the president of the state Board of Education estimates that less than half of California's teachers are fully prepared to teach the new instructional standards. Michael Kirst, Stanford University professor emeritus of education and head of the state panel that sets policies followed by school districts, gave that assessment during an interview in late March. “It requires a very different kind of classroom teaching. In education reform, the hardest thing to change is instruction within the classroom,” he said. He went on to say that he thinks it will take “at least four years to fully roll out the new standards in state schools,” and called for patience. For more on Kirst’s thoughts, go to

Speaking of Common Core, reformer Andrew Rotherham asks if “the logical next step for the anti-Common Core 'opt-out' movement is opting out of entire schools.” In other words, if parents are allowed to remove their kids from certain tests, why not allow them full-blown school choice? To read this provocative piece, go here -

You may or may not be an expert on Common Core, but are you ready to teach labor history? If the teachers unions get their way, that’s what some of you will be doing every May. Labor expert Kevin Dayton writes, “Do you want your local high school to offer a Labor Studies class to prepare the next generation of union organizers? In California, students soon might have that opportunity, if the state’s Instructional Quality Commission adopts a recommendation from the California Federation of Teachers and the California Assembly Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education.” To read more of Dayton’s report, go to  If you want to let the state know your thoughts about the addition of Labor Studies to the high school curriculum (or any other curricular changes), please contact Kenneth McDonald ( at the State Board of Education.  

A couple of weeks ago, Mike Antonucci “declassified” a document which shows that NEA is trying to prepare its state affiliates for the inevitable day when “right-to-work” will be a national reality. When that happens, the union will have to recruit its members, and not rely on the old forced-dues way of doing things. Its 23 pages are packed solid with endless lists, bullet points and a lot of useless information – not exactly scintillating reading. But if you want to plow through it, here is the link -

And speaking of the unions, there is another teacher initiated lawsuit in California. Whereas Friedrichs et al v CTA is about making union dues-paying voluntary, Bain v. CTA would enable agency fee payers to remain union members. To learn more about the lawsuit, which was filed by Students First on April 3rd, go to

And finally, we still have a limited number of T-shirts available. They are navy blue with the CTEN logo on front and “A resource for all who care about education” printed on the back. They come preshrunk, in small, medium, large and XL. If you would like one, all you have to do is make a $15 donation to CTEN via PayPal - - and let us know what size and where to send it and we will get it out to you promptly.

As always, thanks for your continued interest and support of CTEN.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dear Colleague,

The latest bad news about pensions comes to us via the National Council on Teacher Quality. “Doing the Math on Teacher Pensions: How to Protect Teachers and Taxpayers” is a state-by-state analysis that challenges the claims of pension boards and other groups about “the cost-effectiveness, fairness and flexibility of the traditional defined benefit pension plans still in place in 38 states.” It includes a report card on each of the 50 states and D.C. with a detailed analysis of state teacher pension policies. To access the report, go to  Details on California, rated “C,” are here -

EdVoice, a Sacramento based advocacy group, came out with a report in January: “Student Progress Ignored: An examination of California school districts’ compliance with the Stull Act.” After 40 years of ignoring the law and a lawsuit which was supposed to have changed things, school districts are still not evaluating teachers and principals properly. “Overall, 86.5% of evaluations did not include a connection to pupil progress in their comments. Even in the best district, only 36% of district’s teachers had an evaluation that included any mention of pupil progress.” To learn more about the original EdVoice lawsuit, go here -  To see the report, go to

The debate about testing has become one of the most talked about subjects in education circles. Moderate voices are not always heard, but Teach Plus’s Celine Coggins suggests a sensible approach.

I know annual testing is being hotly debated by teachers right now, with folks on either side of the issue. I stand with Dwight in support of annual assessments. Without them, I fear that we’ll go back in time to 1995, where you couldn’t ask the question:  What did I do this year to help my students succeed? Without annual testing we cannot be pinpoint-focused on closing the achievement gap.

The National Education Association has hired a couple of communications firms to help bolster its image with the public. Over at the Daily Beast, Conor Williams has unearthed and posted the formerly internal communiqué. He writes,

The document, titled ‘Persuading the People on Public Schools,' lists a series of educational and political buzzwords and offers euphemisms of varying degrees of synonymy. Instead of ‘inequality,’ the NEA suggests ‘living in the right ZIP Code.’

This is odd: Those ‘right’ ZIP Codes are usually full of families on the wealthy side of America’s growing inequality gap. How can we talk about ZIP Codes without discussing inequality? It’s also ironic, given the union’s usual resistance to school-choice policies (often involving charter schools) that would weaken links between high real-estate prices and access to quality schools.
Williams’ piece and the document itself can be accessed here –

Friedrichs v. CTA, the Center for Individual Rights challenge to compulsory union dues, is one step closer to the Supreme Court. CIR informs us that on January 26th, “Michael Carvin, lead counsel in the case, filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. The petition asks the Court to take the case and rule that the compulsory union dues laws now in effect in twenty-six states unconstitutionally force individuals to subsidize union positions with which they may fundamentally disagree.  If the Court takes Friedrichs, it will likely schedule the case for the term beginning October, 2015, with a decision likely by June 2016.” To learn more and read the petition, go to

In Illinois, Governor Bruce Rauner apparently decided not to wait for the SCOTUS to rule on the Friedrichs case, and issued an executive order barring unions from forcing public employees to pay dues.

(T)he newly elected Republican who has often criticized public sector unions, took his first step toward curbing their power on Monday by announcing an executive order that would bar unions from requiring all state workers to pay the equivalent of dues.

Mr. Rauner, who faces a Democratic-controlled legislature with strong ties to labor, took the unilateral step saying that he believed those fees violate the United States Constitution.

‘Forced union dues are a critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers,’ Mr. Rauner said. ‘An employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree. That is a clear violation of First Amendment rights — and something that, as governor, I am duty bound to correct.’

This will be interesting to watch. If Rauner’s decision stands, will other governors try to follow suit? To read more, go here -

On the national stage, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) is pushing for a school choice bill that would help children with disabilities, provide more choices to military families and expanded educational options for low-income families in Washington, DC. To learn more about the CHOICE Act, go to To get a varied view on why choice, in general, is beneficial, go here -

This coming June and July, the Independent Institute is hostingChallenge of Liberty,” a free market seminar for students who are at least 18 years old.

The five-day series of lectures, readings, films, multimedia presentations, and debates teach participants what economics is, how it affects their lives, and how understanding it can help them achieve better lives for themselves, their communities, and the world at large. Challenge of Liberty illuminates the intimate connection between principles of free market economics and public policy decisions. Informative, inspiring, and fun, Challenge of Liberty is an ideal way stay intellectually engaged over the summer while bolstering your personal network and building your skill set. 

Know anyone who is interested in becoming a member of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing?

There is a Public Member vacancy on the Committee of Credentials. By statute, the committee is responsible for initiating all investigations into allegations of misconduct by credential holders and applicants. To serve in the Public Member position on the COC, applicants may not have been employed in either a certificated public school position and/or have been a member of any governing board of a school district or county board of education within the five years prior to the date of appointment. Applications must be postmarked no later than May 29, 2015. Visit the CTC website ( for additional information and a copy of the application. 

On March 3rd an election in Los Angeles will, among other things, determine 4 seats on the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees. Four people are running for Seat 1, including CTEN supporter Mark Isler. At the end of this email, I will paste in info that we have received from Isler and the other candidates who are running. (Just to set the record straight, as a 501(c)(3) CTEN cannot, and is not, endorsing anyone for the post.)

If you are interested in giving CTEN brochures to colleagues, you can print them right from the home page - - Brochure.pdf  Or, if you prefer, we will be happy to send you as many preprinted ones as you need.

Also, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money order or PayPal -  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Candidates for Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees:

Mark Isler -

I am running to reverse a long decline in the quality and performance of our educational system. Too many students graduate from high school who can't read, write, spell, or even fill out a job application so the community colleges have had to make up for the failure of the lower grades.

Our community colleges spend too much time and money providing programs and classes that don't translate into marketable skills and true opportunities. My mission will be to challenge schools to provide programs and degrees that translate into jobs and opportunities.

We need to go back to high standards, high expectations, and strong discipline. One of the best ways to achieve these results is by providing school choice.  With competition, the public schools will get much better, but we need to redefine public schools as schools the public chooses, be they public, charter, private or home schools. 

I have 17 years of experience as a community college educator.  I currently work at a local community college as a Professor in the Political Science and Business Divisions; I also run the Job Placement Center where I place students in jobs and internships both on and off campus, and I am the Government Relations liaison to the college. Every year I bring students, faculty and staff to Sacramento to lobby the legislature and teach them how to advocate for issues that matter. I have seen first hand what our community colleges can do to improve the lives of those who walk through our doors.  I’ve also seen underprepared and underserved populations struggle to be successful in college. I am running because I want to remove barriers and make sure that all students regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status have an opportunity to benefit from an affordable, high quality public higher education.

Francesca Vega -  (Statement solicited; none received.)

Maria “Sokie” Quintero -  (Statement solicited; none received.)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dear Colleague,

While the Vergara case is being appealed by the state and CTA, activists are busy trying to figure out what will replace the laws that Judge Rolf Treu said “shock the conscience.” The Students Matter team has come up with a plan it feels will make education more child-friendly in California. Regarding tenure, they write:

Increasing the length of the probationary period alone will not address the core problem of ineffective teachers obtaining tenure and retaining employment despite poor job performance. In addition to extending the minimum length of the probationary period, Students Matter recommends basing the tenure decision on demonstrated quality of teaching, instead of on time in the classroom. Students Matter believes teachers should earn a designated number of effective or highly effective ratings on annual performance evaluations in order to receive tenure; that a teacher’s permanent status should be portable between school districts; and that permanent status should be able to be rescinded if a teacher receives multiple evaluations showing an ineffective rating.

Also Teach Plus, whose mission is to “to improve outcomes for urban children by ensuring that a greater proportion of students have access to effective, experienced teachers,” has come out with a survey which finds that teachers are amenable to change the way California does tenure, seniority and dismissals. Among the findings:

·         69 percent (of teachers) said tenure protected an ineffective colleague who should have been dismissed but wasn’t.

·         71 percent said layoff decisions should be based partly or entirely on classroom performance.

·         74 percent said it should take no more than two years for dismissal after a teacher receiving help was still determined to be ineffective.

What, if anything, the unions will do with the results of this poll is anyone’s guess. For more information and access to the survey, go to

While many teachers and parents favor small class-size, the evidence that students are really helped by it is scant. As Hoover Institution senior fellow and economist Eric Hanushek recently wrote in the New York Daily News,

Nobody has shown that the substantial class-size reductions of the past 15 years have paid off in terms of student achievement. Instead, the two main effects of past class-size reduction have been more teachers and more expensive schools.

Education research is essentially unanimous: The effectiveness of the teacher in the classroom is far, far more important than how many students are in the classroom. But this is not the message that the union wants to hear, because it would involve evaluating teachers and making personnel decisions based on the quality of the work they do. 

In another piece that defies conventional thought, the Independent Institute’s Vicki Alger penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, “Education’s No Dollar Left Behind Competition,” in which she claims,

States that spent less per pupil tended to have better educational outcomes. More than 45% of low-income students in Idaho—with its relatively puny $4,100 per pupil spending—tested proficient in reading and math. Low-income students in stingy Arizona, which spent $4,200 per pupil on instruction, had 51% proficiency rates in both subjects. And students in penny-pinching Oklahoma, which spent around $4,300 per pupil, achieved a 53% proficiency rate in reading and 52% in math.

Last month, the National Education Association posted their ideas about “2014’s Best and Worst Players in Public Education.” The usual bogeymen – the Koch brothers and new villainess Campbell Brown – are of course trotted out. But also prominently bashed is Democrats for Education Reform, which advocates for sensible education policy changes. But according to NEA, the reforms suggested by DFER (and many other groups) have “acquired a bit of a stench over the last few years, as the ideas with which it is most closely associated – high stakes accountability, vouchers, merit pay, charter schools, not to mention teacher bashing – have not worn well with much of the public.” (Actually, polls show that the general public is now at odds with the teachers unions, not the reformers.) To see the entire NEA list, go to

And talking about unions, there is a bill that has been kicking around Congress since late 2013 called the “Employee Rights Act.” Its goal is to “provide protections for workers with respect to their right to select or refrain from selecting representation by a labor organization.” The hope is that with the recent political shift in Washington, the legislation can be moved along at a speedier clip. To read more about the multifaceted bill, go to

January 25-31 is National School Choice Week, a time dedicated to shining a positive spotlight “on the need for effective education options for all children.” Last year there were over 5,500 events across the country and this year I will be participating in two of them. For more information about the events in Los Angeles and Orange County, please contact

Over the last several years, one needs more than an abacus to keep up with the bevy of school choice lawsuits and countersuits that are jamming courtrooms all over the country. But thankfully, the good folks over at have spelled out many of them in bite-sized pieces. To learn more, go to
Also regarding vouchers, according to a 17-year study in New York City, Education Next reports “Minority students who received a school voucher to attend private elementary schools in 1997 were, as of 2013, 10 percent more likely to enroll in college and 35 percent more likely than their peers in public school to obtain a bachelor’s degree. To read more about the study, go to
CTEN has two Facebook pages. If you have a Facebook account, we urge you to join them and let us know your thoughts. Having a dialogue among teachers is an effective way to spread information and share experiences and ideas. Our original Facebook page can be found here!/group.php?gid=125866159932&ref=ts  Our second page, which deals with teacher evaluation and transparency, can be accessed here -!/group.php?gid=126900987357825&ref=ts

Also, you can access “Teachers for School Choice here -
As always, thanks for your continued interest and support of CTEN.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dear Colleague,

The National Council on Teacher Quality has released the 2014 version of its “State Teacher Policy Yearbook.” The report summarizes how the states are doing in developing policies that improve the teaching profession.

The 2014 State Teacher Policy Yearbook includes the National Council on Teacher Quality’s (NCTQ) focus on state efforts to align their requirements for teacher preparation and licensure with the skills needed to prepare students for college and careers. Five years after the vast majority of states adopted Common Core State Standards or other state-specific standards, NCTQ finds that most states have not done nearly enough to make sure new teachers will be ready for the higher standards their students are expected to achieve.

Not surprisingly, California gets an overall “D+” in teacher prep because teacher preparation admissions requirements are not selective and the state neither collects meaningful data about the quality of teacher prep programs nor holds programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce. 

NCTQ has also come out with an interesting report on teacher salaries in which it shows where teachers earn the most after adjusting for cost of living. It ranks districts first by the lifetime earnings a teacher accrues in each district over a 30-year career and second by the time it takes teachers to reach the maximum salary benchmark. “To accommodate the unique factors in performance-pay districts, we calculate their rank in three ways, depending on whether a teacher is considered average, above average or exemplary.”

No matter how you slice it, CA does not fare well. Fresno, the highest ranking district in the state, comes in at #36 nationally. To see the rankings and learn more, go to

Interestingly, at the same time we learn the latest about teacher salaries, we get news that Dennis Van Roekel, in his last year as NEA president earned a cool $541,632. However, current American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten out-earned Van Roekel, pulling in $543,679 in 2012. Nice work if you can get it. To learn more about teacher union leader compensation and other places the union spends teachers’ money, their income tax returns are a great source and can be found at

If you are not happy paying unions for the pleasure of teaching in public schools, there may be help on the way in the form of a lawsuit. Friedrichs et al vs. CTA could get a hearing at the Supreme Court in 2015. If the case is successful, public employee union dues-paying would become voluntary. To learn more about the case, go to

For those of you who are interested in allowing parents a choice as to where to send their kids to school, there is a new Facebook page called “Teachers for School Choice.” If you are so inclined, please go to the page and “Like” it, and feel free to post any content that you think is pertinent. The page can be accessed at

Speaking of school choice, Dr. Alan Bonsteel, a log-time friend of CTEN, had a very touching op-ed in the Sacramento Bee earlier this month. To read it, go to

The woes of Los Angeles Unified seem to be never ending. First it settled for $139 million (on top of $30 million paid last year) in the Mark Berndt sexual abuse lawsuit. Now the FBI is investigating the district over the botched iPad program. Additionally, the district and UTLA are far apart in their contract negotiations, and the union is talking tough and making strike noises. For more info, go here -, and

For you common core fans and foes, there has been an interesting development in CA. Stanford University has joined forces with CTA to prepare schools “for new learning goals that will change the way California students are taught and tested.” The project, launched earlier this month, “initially involves training 160 teachers and 24 administrators, who, in turn, will reach about 50,000 educators over three years.” To learn more, go to

While we all know that the effects of good teachers on children are supremely important, we are also aware that their home lives greatly affect their learning potential. In its Winter 2015 edition, Education Next has an in-depth study on the effects of single-parenthood.

(Daniel) Moynihan’s claim that growing up in a fatherless family reduced a child’s chances of educational and economic success was furiously denounced when the report appeared in 1965, with many critics calling Moynihan a racist. For the next two decades few scholars chose to investigate the effects of father absence, lest they too be demonized if their findings supported Moynihan’s argument. Fortunately, America’s best-known black sociologist, William Julius Wilson, broke this taboo in 1987, providing a candid assessment of the black family and its problems in The Truly Disadvantaged. Since then, social scientists have accumulated a lot more evidence on the effects of family structure. This article will offer some educated guesses about what that evidence means.

To read this very important piece, go here -

Anyone wishing to make a year-end donation to CTEN can do so very simply through a personal check or PayPal -  As a non-profit, we exist and operate only through the generosity and support of others.

It has been another exciting year for CTEN - and we look forward to an even more vigorous 2015. We remain grateful for your interest and involvement, and wish you and your families the happiest of holidays. See you next year!

Larry Sand
CTEN President