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teacher’s permanent status should be portable between school districts; and that permanent status should be able to be rescinded if a teacher receives multiple evaluations showing an ineffective rating.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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dear Colleague,

Election Day has come and gone and while there is little to report in California, there were major ramifications for educators throughout much of the country. Reform-minded governors prevailed in Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida, and the old guard was voted out in Massachusetts, Illinois and Maryland. The day was especially bad for the teachers unions; they spent millions and lost just about every race they were involved with. Their only victories were the ouster of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Tom Torlakson’s narrow victory over challenger Marshall Tuck in the race for California Superintendent of Public Instruction. Here are a couple of interesting takes on the day that NEA president said gave her a “heavy heart” -   and  Kevin Chavous, executive counsel for the American Federation for Children and board chair emeritus for Democrats for Education Reform, suggests thatDemocrats should beware of being on the wrong side of the school choice issue in 2016. To read his USA Today op-ed, go here - For an interesting take on Tuck’s defeat go here -

Speaking of the election, Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform, writes “Newly Elected Leaders Must Separate Fact from Fiction on Charter Schools.” Good idea. There is much misinformation about charters that their foes – either through ignorance or malice – like to perpetuate. To read Kerwin’s piece, go to
The teachers unions were also in the news recently for having taken offense to the cover of the November 3rd edition of Time Magazine, which shows a photo of a judge’s gavel about to pound an apple. 

 The story, “The War on Teacher Tenure,” is mostly about the Vergara decision – in which a judge found that the tenure, seniority and dismissal statutes in the California education code are unconstitutional. The article focuses on Vergara’s guiding light – David Welch, a tech titan who has found a second career as an education reformer. It’s a fair piece, and one worthy of discussion. But the national unions just focused on the cover and organized protests, demanding that Time apologize. Time did not apologize, but instead gave various disgruntled parties a chance to respond to the cover and article, which can be accessed here -

As one who follows education reform issues, I am always looking for outside-the-box ideas. Here’s one that certainly qualifies: “An Employee Stock Ownership Plan—for America’s Public Schools.” Benjamin Scafidi, senior fellow with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and a professor of economics, writes,

Public school teachers and leaders typically don’t place much value in private school choice’s worth. However, that education policy could raise their own stock considerably—and literally. As school choice grows, a teacher investment proposal introduced long ago deserves revisiting.

In Can Teachers Own Their Own Schools?, noted economic historian Richard Vedder makes the case for turning over ownership of public schools to public school employees through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), which began in America’s private sector during the 1970s. 

To continue reading about Scafidi’s plan, which is based on a book by Vedder, go to

On another futuristic note, lifelong educator and former union president Doug Tuthill writes, in “The End of ‘School Choice,’”

The annual American Federation for Children conference is one of the country’s largest gatherings of school choice advocates. So it was notable, during the most recent conference in Orlando, that speakers regularly used the terms “parental choice” and “educational choice,” but not “school choice.”

This shift in semantics reflects an emerging trend that’s a game changer – the expansion of choice in publicly-funded education is increasingly including learning options beyond schools.

Florida’s new Personal Learning Scholarship Account program, for students with special needs such as autism and Down syndrome, is a good example. In the PLSA program, public funds go into a bank account that parents can use for numerous state-approved educational options, including private school tuition, a suite of different therapies, curriculum materials, instructional technology, and postsecondary education and training.

The ongoing “value-added” debate has a new contribution. Thomas Kane, researcher at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has written “Do Value-Added Estimates Identify Causal Effects of Teachers and Schools?” in which he concludes,

… there is now substantial evidence that value-added estimates capture important information about the causal effects of teachers and schools.  Rarely in social science have we seen such a large number of replications in such a short period of time.  Even more rarely have we seen such convergence in the findings.  The application of statistical controls using longitudinal data systems often provide meaningful information regarding program impacts even without random assignment.

He does issue two caveats however. To read this balanced piece, go to

The National Council on Teacher Quality has come out with a second edition of its comprehensive Teacher Prep Review, and again the news is not good.

Using evidence from more than 500 higher education institutions that turn out nearly half of the nation’s new teachers each year, we find that in a majority of institutions (58 percent), grading standards for teacher candidates are much lower than for students in other majors on the same campus.

To read the report and learn where the good and not-so-good schools of education are, go here -

For CTA agency fee payers, the November 15th deadline has passed, so we hope you have already submitted your 2014 rebate form. However, if you are a first time filer, you may resign from the union after the 15th. You will not get the full amount, but rather a prorated one depending on how long after the 15th you file. For more information, please visit

As always, we at CTEN want to thank you for your ongoing support and invite you to visit us regularly at  If you need any information that you can’t find there, just send us an email at or call us at 888-290-8471 and we will get back to you in short order.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dear Colleague,

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a new report on K-12 educational effectiveness last month, and the results are not encouraging. It found that, through the eyes of business leaders, American schools are failing to create internationally competitive, college- and career-ready students. The report focused on eleven measures:
  • academic achievement
  • academic achievement for low-income and minority students
  • return on investment
  • the “truth in advertising” of each state’s student proficiency
  • postsecondary and workforce readiness
  • the quality of the teaching force
  • parental options
  • data quality
  • access to technology
  • international competitiveness
  • fiscal responsibility

A draft of the new History/Social Science Frameworks has been posted online.  The state board is accepting public comments through November 25th.  This is a very good opportunity for teachers and all citizens to weigh in. To make your voice heard, go to

While we don’t know the ultimate fate of the Vergara appeal, some folks are wisely trying to figure out what to do should Judge Rolf Treu’s decision stand. In that case, the tenure, seniority and dismissal statutes in our education code would have to be revised. With reform in mind, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa got together with a couple of advocacy group Teach Plus fellows and hashed things out. Regarding the tenure component, the recommendation included one short-term and three long-term solutions:
  • Extend to four years the time for a teacher to gain “permanent status”; require three consecutive years of evaluations demonstrating effective teaching for a teacher to earn “permanent status.”
  • Base tenure decisions solely on performance.
  • Require schools to provide evidence of support for teachers who receive an unsatisfactory evaluation if those teachers continue their employment.
To read more about the Teach Plus policy recommendations, go to

The race for California state superintendent of public instruction is heating up. Interestingly, reformer Marshall Tuck is neck and neck with the CTA-backed incumbent Tom Torlakson in campaign contributions and in the polls. Also of note is that every major daily in the state has come out for Tuck. The Sacramento Bee had an especially forceful editorial which pointedly asserted,

The Sacramento Bee editorial board has endorsed Tuck because we believe that teachers unions have a chokehold on the state’s public education system and that’s been detrimental for everyone, including teachers.

There is a situation brewing in Philadelphia that other school districts across the country are following with great interest. Last week, after 21 months of fruitless negotiations, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission cancelled its teachers' contract. 

The district says it will not cut the wages of 15,000 teachers, counselors, nurses, secretaries, and other PFT members. But it plans to dismantle the long-standing Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund, which is controlled by the union, and take over administering benefits.

The terms imposed Monday mean most PFT members will have to pay either 10 or 13 percent of the cost of their medical plan beginning Dec. 15, depending on their salaries. They now pay nothing if they opt for a basic plan. Officials said workers would pay between $21 and $200 per month, beginning Dec. 15.

The changes will save the cash-strapped district $54 million this school year, officials said, and as much as $70 million in subsequent years.

That money, SRC Chairman Bill Green said, will be invested directly in classrooms, with principals empowered to use the cash as they see fit - to hire a full-time counselor and nurse, perhaps, or to pay for more supplies or after-school programs.

Needless to say, the local teachers union is having fits, and its president is threatening everyone in sight. To read more, go to
In a post last week, teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci informed us that “NEA Membership Numbers Accelerate Downward.”

Officers of the National Education Association expressed some optimism last July that the union’s falling membership numbers were finally reaching their nadir. Active membership losses totaling more than 9 percent since 2008-09 had slowed to a drop of about 17,000 by the end of the 2013-14 school year. While still a significant loss, surely the end of the lean years was in sight.

That is, until the first figures for the 2014-15 school year came in. NEA is down 37,000 active members from this time a year ago.

“School Choice Means Higher Teacher Pay” according to a new study from the Texas Public Policy Foundation. While the report is specific to Texas, the findings could be applied to other states as well. To read “Teachers Win: A Case for School Choice,” go to

If you are a CTA/NEA agency fee payer, now is the time to submit your rebate request. You must request your rebate this year (and every year!) by November 15th. If you are as much as one day late, you will not get a penny. Also, because liability insurance is important for teachers, we suggest joining the Association of American Educators ( ) or Christian Educators Association ( Both AAE and CEAI are professional organizations, not unions, and are apolitical. (Also, teachers who mention CTEN when they sign up with AAE for the first time will get a $30 discount off the regular $198 first year membership.) For more information, go to

And finally, in a world awash with data, CTEN has an easy-to-read cheat sheet on our website with a load of info -  If you have any questions or would like us to add to it, please let us know. Also, if you enjoy these letters and find them informative, please pass them along to your colleagues and encourage them to join us. 

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

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dear Colleague,

Courtesy of the Fordham Institute, we again learn that there has been a large uptick in the number of non-teaching staff employed in our public schools.The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don’t Teach,” informs us that:

The number of non-teaching staff in the United States (those employed by school systems but not serving as classroom teachers) has grown by 130 percent since 1970. Non-teachers, more than three million strong, now comprise half of the public school workforce. Their salaries and benefits absorb one-quarter of current education expenditures. But is this growth necessary—or even sustainable?

A look at countries which typically beat us in international comparisons tells an important story. Switzerland spends 70 percent of its compensation dollars on teachers and just 14 percent on other staff. In Finland those numbers are 51:11 and Slovakia 54:14. But in the U.S., we spend 54 percent on teachers and 27 percent on non-teaching staff.

In another study, The Friedman Foundation – using U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics data – found that between fiscal years 1950 and 2009,

… the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.  

The Vergara case was back in the news again at the end of August. After Judge Rolf Treu reaffirmed his original decision, CTA, CFT and the state of California immediately appealed. The unions issued a joint statement, stating that “Judge Treu’s decision striking down five California Education Code provisions is without support in law or fact, the appeal says that Treu’s reversible errors are too numerous to list.” To read the entire statement, go here -  During their recent debate, Governor Jerry Brown and challenger Neel Kashkari had a brief discussion about the appeal. Brown’s comments ( and Kashkari’s heated rejoinder ( leave no doubt as to where the two men stand on the case.
On the Common Core front, there was a reasoned discussion in the Washington Times between Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli and Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey. While the two men differ greatly on the subject, they do agree on certain facts as laid out in this informative piece. To read it, go to
We have come across a website that you and your students might find beneficial. offers homework help and claims that “…80% of questions get answers within 10 minutes.” To check it out, go to  If you find the website beneficial and helpful to your students, please let us know.
Regarding the seemingly endless Los Angeles Unified School District iPad saga, a new chapter has been written. Via some “smoking gun” emails, there are allegations of impropriety by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and his top adviser Jaime Aquino. No charges have been filed … yet. For a basic overview on the latest turn of events, go to

According to a report on school choice by Katie Furtick, a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, more than 2.3 million American students were enrolled in public charter schools in 2012-2013. Additionally,
States continued to expand their school choice options last year, with 13 states creating or expanding their tuition tax credit programs, private school scholarships or school choice vouchers.
  • Forty-eight school choice programs are now available to children and their families in the United States. This includes 22 voucher programs, 16 tax credit scholarship programs, one education savings account program and eight individual tax credit programs.
  • 260,000 students used vouchers and tax credit scholarships in 2013.
  • Enrollment in public charter schools increased by more than 250,000 between 2012 and 2013, totaling 5 percent of public school enrollment nationwide.
To continue reading this brief overview, go to  To access the entire report, go to 
The teachers unions seem to be getting it from all sides these days. The Wall Street Journal’s Teachers Unions Under Fire ( informs us that the percentage of elementary and secondary teachers who are union members is down about 20 percent since 1988.
Also tenure, an important component for the unions in the Vergara case, has fallen out of favor with the public. In an Education Next poll ( released in August:

… Survey respondents favor ending tenure by a 2-to-1 ratio. By about the same ratio, the public also thinks that if tenure is awarded, it should be based in part on how well the teacher's students perform in the classroom. Only 9% of the public agrees with current practice in most states, the policy of granting teachers tenure without taking student performance into account.

And finally, there are some interesting results in the yearly Gallup poll that surveys Americans on their attitudes toward labor unions. This year a question was added about right-to-work laws, and the responses were not good news for the unions. As Mike Antonucci writes,

The poll finds 82% of Americans agreeing that ‘no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will,’ a position advanced by right-to-work proponents. Pro-union forces partly oppose right-to-work laws because of the ‘free-rider’ problem, with non-union workers benefitting as much as union workers when unions negotiate pay and benefit increases with employers. But by 64% to 32%, Americans disagree that workers should ‘have to join and pay dues to give the union financial support’ because ‘all workers share the gains won by the labor union.’

And a reminder: If you are an NEA/CTA agency fee payer, you must apply for your yearly rebate between now and November 15th. For more info and form letters, go to
If you are a member of AFT/CFT or UTLA, please call 888-290-8471 or email for more information.)
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