Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Dear Colleague,

Perhaps the biggest education story of the month is the SAT makeover. Most who have written about the changes are not happy with them. As Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, explains,

The essay is now optional, ending a decade-long experiment in awarding points for sloppy writing graded by mindless formulae.

The parts of the test that explored the range and richness of a student's vocabulary have been etiolated.  The test now will look for evidence that students are familiar with academic buzzwords and jargon.  The College Board calls this "Relevant Words in Context."  Test-takers won't have to "memorize obscure words" but instead "will be asked to interpret the meaning of words based on the context of the passage in which they appear."

The deductions for guessing wrong are gone.  Literally, there will be no harm in guessing. 
Math will narrow to linear equations, functions, and proportions. 

The scale on which scores are recorded will revert to the old 800 each on two sections, from the current 2,400 on three sections.  (Goodbye essay points.)

To read more of “The SAT Upgrade Is a Big Mistake,” go to

Not everyone thinks it’s a bad idea however. The Los Angeles Times reports,Students, area school staff embrace changes to SAT.” The essence here is that the SAT's structure and content will be beneficial to students’ “aspirations of attending college in the coming years.” To learn more, go to

Not to be missed is Jay Greene’s satirical take on the changes- http://jaypgreene.com/2014/03/11/the-new-sat/

And talking about testing … the subject has become a major source of contention with educators, parents and just about everyone else. In fact, things have become so polarized that, with teacher union backing, teachers are organizing to boycott tests in Seattle (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/26/teacher-boycott-of-standardized-test-in-seattle-spreads/ ) and Chicago (http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/the-stream/the-stream-officialblog/2014/3/4/chicago-teachersboycottstandardizedtests.html)

However, putting the testing controversy into perspective, high school math teacher Darren Miller posted a common sense scenario on his blog site. Written in 2007, it is timelier than ever. He starts off by writing,

Over at the Department of Motor Vehicles, an interesting -- and, for some, scary -- experiment is in progress.

Officials are trying out some new eye charts and reaction-time tests on drivers renewing their licenses...

At first glance, those eye charts are downright spooky. There are six lines of letters. The first line looks like it's fading away in tule fog. The second is worse. The sixth? Forget about it....

Before you even take the eye test, DMV workers will ask you to write your social security number by memory down on a piece of paper. They say there is a correlation between memory loss on rote numbers, like a Social Security number, and crashes.

How does this relate to student testing? To find out, go to http://rightontheleftcoast.blogspot.com/2007/05/why-im-against-new-dmv-driver-test.html

While a lot of talk these days is focused on teacher effectiveness and quality, there has been little mention of administrative competence. But now the Commission on Teacher Credentialing has adopted new standards for school principals.

Known as the California Professional Standards for Educational Leaders, the management protocols were originally adopted by the CTC in 2001, based largely on conduct goals developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers only a few years earlier.

In the time since, the work of a school principal has changed dramatically and is set to change again as the state transitions to new Common Core standards, new accountability measures and a new budgeting system where more spending decisions will be made locally.

Toward that end, the new school leader standards include a long section on goals surrounding family and community engagement – requirements that schools must meet as a condition of receiving billions in additional state support under the governor’s Local Control Funding Formula.


CTEN continues to work with a law firm that promotes what it calls “The Better Model,” an independent teacher association that controls its own destiny. By contracting out for expert legal and labor representation, but retaining for its members all policy and decision-making authority, teachers can easily save half of their current dues and get better and more responsive representation than the big union model.

Thus far, about 400 teachers in five districts have signed on. These teachers are disengaged from the state and national unions, but still have a local teachers association that handles collective bargaining. These teachers’ dues have gone from $1,000 or more to less than $500 a year. To learn more, go to http://www.ctenhome.org/bettermodel.html

The American Federation of Teachers continues the union assault against charter schools. Along with “In the Public Interest,” it has started a website called “Cashing in on Kids” which claims that “for-profit charter school operators aren't held to the same accountability standards as public schools.” (http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/02/26/teachers-union-advocacy-group-call-for-more-charter-school-accountability)

However, Center for Education Reform president Kara Kerwin, shoots down the union line. She claims,

Performance-based accountability is the hallmark of charter schools and reforms aimed at improving student learning. It’s quite galling for the American Federation of Teachers and In the Public Interest to trumpet accountability and transparency in the charter sector when it is those same players that fight so hard and spend millions of taxpayer dollars on politics to maintain the status quo in education.

Unlike all other public schools, charters must be proactive in their efforts to stay open. They must set and meet rigorous academic goals, and actually meet or exceed their state’s proficiency standards. Unlike the conventional public schools that intentionally remain under the radar, charter schools operate under intense scrutiny from teachers unions, the media, and lawmakers. In states with strong charter school laws that allow for objective oversight, it is clear that performance-based accountability is working.

To continue reading Kerwin’s rejoinder, go to http://www.edreform.com/2014/02/education-can-be-for-students-and-for-profit/  To visit the Cashing in on Kids website, go here - http://cashinginonkids.com/

Student expulsion and detention continue to be controversial. The latest news comes from San Francisco, where administrators will no longer be able to use “willful defiance” as a reason to suspend or expel a student beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

San Francisco’s school board voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate the controversial category, which has been used disproportionately to suspend African American students in that district and also statewide.

San Francisco joins Los Angeles Unified, which eliminated the category of willful defiance of school authorities or disruptive behavior as a reason to expel or suspend students beginning this school year.

Statewide, willful defiance accounted for 43 percent of all suspensions in 2012-13. African American students, who make up 6 percent of statewide enrollment, accounted for 19 percent of willful defiance suspensions.


We were hoping that the CTEN website would be completed by now – well, almost, but we’re not quite there yet. But please visit www.ctenhome.org and let us know what you think of what we have done so far.

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 - http://www.ctenhome.org/donate.htm - 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

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Dear Colleague,

The Students Matter case is continuing and will go beyond its four week allotted time. And whichever side loses is sure to appeal the decision. As we have mentioned in previous letters, every public school teacher in California could be affected by the outcome of this case, as tenure, seniority and the state’s dismissal statutes as we know them could conceivably be eliminated. For more, up-to-date information, go to http://studentsmatter.org/

And on the topic of reform, the Association of American Educators has come out with its 2014 national membership survey. The alternative teachers’ organization posted some very interesting results. For example, on Common Core,
  • 51% of survey respondents have an unfavorable opinion of CCSS.
  • 30% of teachers believe the Common Core will make the U.S. more competitive on a global scale. 47% of teachers believe they would have no effect, and 22% assert that CCSS would have an adverse effect.
On technology in the classroom:
  • 93% of AAE members incorporate technology in their daily lessons.
  • 65% of teachers would support a blended learning environment where students spend part of their day with a teacher and part of their day on a computer.
And in spite of the fact that the teachers unions are constantly railing against any kind of school choice, the teachers polled came down in favor of various types of parental options:
  • 82% of members support public school open enrollment.
  • 59% of teachers agree with Wisconsin's Parental Choice Program, allowing low-income students public funds to attend a school of their choice.
  • 72% of AAE members support Arizona's Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), which enable students to leave their assigned public schools, taking 90% of the state dollars with them. That money, deposited into ESAs, can then be used to access a multitude of education options that better meet their children's needs.
Regarding school choice, on January 31st I was on a panel with Lisa Keegan, Lance Izumi and Lisa Snell on the National School Choice Week train as it rumbled up the coast from Los Angeles to Oakland. Moderated by NSCW president Andrew Campanella, we covered various aspects of choice. To view the video go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMyQOaT_MQI

The Center for Education Reform has come out with its latest charter school survey. As the charter movement has been expanding – there are over 6,000 in the U.S. and over 1,100 in CA alone – it is important for teachers to learn more about them. Just a few findings from the survey:

· Charter sector growth is proportionately higher in states with stronger laws. 335 charter schools opened in states rated “A” and “B,” while only 13 campuses opened in states rated “D” or “F.”
· The average number of students on charter school wait lists has increased by 44 students since 2009. Put into context, districts like New York City calculate upwards of 50,000 students on charter school waiting lists.
· Over half of America’s charter schools (61%) serve a student population where over 60% are considered low-income or disadvantaged.


Choice advocates are pushing for laws on the national level. Senators Tim Scott (SC) and Lamar Alexander (TN) have unveiled new federal legislation “that intends to encourage innovative state efforts to expand school choice and educational opportunity without imposing new federal mandates.” Scott’s bill deals with kids with disabilities, while Alexander’s focuses on low-income students. To learn more about the two choice bills, go here - http://www.aei.org/events/2014/01/28/senators-lamar-alexander-and-tim-scott-unveil-ambitious-proposals-to-expand-school-choice/

Bullying is a subject that has permeated the everyday discourse in schools. The fixes usually revolve around teaching empathy and tolerance. But a very interesting take on bullying comes from New Zealand. The provocatively titled “School ditches rules and loses bullies” goes into detail about a school that tried a very different kind of policy.

Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a "loose parts pit" which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.

"The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It's during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school."

Parents were happy too because their children were happy, he said.

But this wasn't a playtime revolution, it was just a return to the days before health and safety policies came to rule.

AUT professor of public health Grant Schofield, who worked on the research project, said there are too many rules in modern playgrounds.

"The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it's more dangerous in the long-run."
Society's obsession with protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking, he said.
To read more about what some might see as unorthodox but others see as common sense, go to http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/school-ditches-rules-and-loses-bullies-5807957

On January 30th the National Council on Teacher Quality released its seventh annual State Teacher Policy Yearbook, which includes a “360-degree analysis of every state law, rule and regulation that shapes the effectiveness of the teaching profession in California.”

California has consistently earned low grades in the Yearbook, with its grade of "D+" unchanged since 2009. The average grade across all 50 states and the District of Columbia is an improving “C-”.

To learn more about this disturbing report and see what other states are doing better, go to http://www.nctq.org/statePolicy/statePolicyNationalSummary.do

On the Common Core front, while the national teachers unions have been touting it, New York State United Teachers have come out against it. Hard to know how all this will play out, because the unions typically disdain any kind of public internal discord. To read more about NYSUT’s apostasy, go to http://www.politico.com/story/2014/01/new-york-common-core-teachers-schools-education-102614.html

For all you high school history teachers and anyone who teaches current events, Student News Daily is an excellent website that you should be aware of. Its goal is to

build students’ knowledge of current events and strengthen their critical thinking skills.  This is done by providing comprehension and critical thinking questions along with published news articles and other current events items from established news organizations.  We provide resources that will enable students to become informed viewers and readers of the news.

StudentNewsDaily.com was launched in 2005.  The content is created with the belief that all students can think critically about the news when it is presented in a manageable format.

A politically balanced and fair-minded website, it includes quizzes on the stories that are posted on a daily basis. To learn more and download Student News Daily apps for iPhone, iPad and Android, go to http://www.studentnewsdaily.com/

The CTEN website is in the process of being updated! It will be more organized and much easier to navigate. Please visit us at www.ctenhome.org If you have any questions or suggestions, please let us know.

CTEN also has two Facebook pages. If you have a Facebook account, we urge you to visit ours and let us know your thoughts. Having a dialogue among teachers is an effective way to spread information and experiences and to share ideas. Our original Facebook page can be found here http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=125866159932&ref=ts  Our second page, which deals with teacher evaluation and transparency, can be accessed here - http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=126900987357825&ref=ts

In any event, if you enjoy these letters and find them informative, please pass them along to your colleagues. We know that there are many independent-minded teachers in California who are looking for alternative sources of information.

Thanks for your continuing support and interest.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Dear Colleague,

We have mentioned the Students Matter lawsuit (Vergara v. California) in previous letters. The trial, which is open to the public, is set to begin in Los Angeles this Monday January 27th and could stretch on for four weeks. Every public school teacher in California could be affected by the judge’s ruling, as tenure, seniority and the state’s dismissal statutes in their current state could conceivably be eliminated. For more on the case, go to http://studentsmatter.org/

Last month we reported that CTA released a 34-page “Strategic Plan,” which only CTA members could access. However, we have obtained a copy and it is now linked on the CTEN website. So if you belong to another union or are an agency fee payer, you can view it here - http://www.ctenhome.org/PDFdocs/strategic.pdf

AB 1266, also known as the bathroom bill, which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law in August, is still on hold as signatures are verified for an initiative that will give citizens a chance to weigh in. The controversial legislation can be summed up in its final 37 words: “A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.” Pending the signature count, the bill could wind up on the ballot in November. For more on the bill, go to http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB1266 - and http://www.city-journal.org/2013/cjc1126ls.html

Our legislature in Sacramento is trying to get a Transitional Kindergarten (TK) bill into law, which would cover every four year-old in the state. Unfortunately, there have been no studies done on TK and those done on Head Start – a similar program – show that any benefits gained disappear by grade 3. Importantly, Governor Jerry Brown is not convinced that universal TK is a good idea, so its future in California is up in the air. In 2006, voters trounced Prop. 82 – a  bill that would have “created a free, voluntary, half-day public preschool program available to all 4-year olds” – by more than a 3-2 margin. To pay for the program, California would have imposed a new tax on high-income individuals. To read more about the current TK bill, go to http://edsource.org/today/2014/transitional-kindergarten-expansion-early-education-not-included-in-governors-budget-proposal/56029#.UtgfRhBQybR

California math teacher Barry Garelick has written an important book about his experiences in ed school and as an student teacher. As a former math teacher who’d also suffered through ed school, the book really resonated with me. In fact, it’s an important read for all teachers. To learn more about the book and see my review, go to http://www.amazon.com/Letters-John-Dewey-Huck-Finn/dp/149440947X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389895705&sr=1-1

The National Council on Teacher Quality has a new study which examines “the extent to which America's traditional teacher preparation programs offer future teachers research-based strategies to help them better manage their classroom from the start of their teaching career. These strategies are so strongly supported by research that we refer to them as the Big Five.” The five are: establishing rules, building routines, reinforcing good behavior with praise, addressing misbehavior and maintaining engagement. NCTQ has determined that our ed schools are not doing a good job in preparing teachers to successfully manage their students. They explain,

The disconnect between classroom management instruction and practice may be clearest when teacher candidates are placed in PK-12 classrooms for a semester of student teaching. NCTQ has created a chart that shows the rarity of instances when a strategy was addressed in a lecture, an assignment, and also a feedback indicator on the program's student teaching evaluation/observation forms.

Regrettably, we could not identify a single program in the sample that did well addressing all research-based strategies, identifying classroom management as a priority, strategically determining how it should be taught and practiced, and employing feedback accordingly. However, some programs are paying more attention to research and to the alignment of instruction and practice: St. Mary's College of Maryland, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington-Seattle are notable for aligning instruction and practice with research-based strategies.


National School Choice Week will be celebrated Jan. 26th - Feb. 1st this year and on January 30th I will be taking part in a panel in San Jose. For those of you who are interested, please see the flyer that I have pasted in at the end of this letter. To sign up for the event, go to here - http://www.eventbrite.com/e/school-choice-better-education-at-lower-cost-tickets-9902213788  If you do attend, please make sure to introduce yourself to me. For more information on National School Choice week, go to http://schoolchoiceweek.com/

Of interest to all teachers is their pension. And those pensions are at this time at risk. Over the past few weeks, there has been a number of pieces written about their unsustainability. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten weighed in on the subject in a video that can be seen here - http://www.foxbusiness.com/live-coverage/pension-crisis However, City Journal’s Steve Malanga destroys her flawed reasoning and half-truths,  

… around the 12 minute and 30 second mark, is her contention that various conservative groups are using a call for better actuarial standards in pension accounting as a way to cut government worker pensions (as opposed to say, bringing more transparency to this murky field.) She specifically names ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council, a coalition of conservative legislators) as a perpetrator of this effort to diminish government worker pensions. It’s an odd remark considering that interviewer Adam Shapiro introduces the issue by quoting from a Morningstar report that’s highly critical of current actuarial standards. Is she saying the investment adviser and the many other critics of current actuarial assumptions are part of the ALEC plot? Beats me.

She also claims somewhere around minute 8 that average government pensions are very modest, just $23,000 annually. I can’t tell if she’s talking about all government workers or just teachers, but this is the kind of statistic that needs to be taken with a grain of salt.


On the same subject and certainly worth reading isThe California Teachers Association: A Failure of Leadership” by Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility who states,

California’s no stranger to municipal bankruptcy or powerful unions unable to face facts. In California, nowhere is the abrogation of union leadership more evident than with the California Teachers Association. CalSTRS, California’s teacher retirement system, is massively underfunded, and will soon need increased contributions and/or benefit reductions to keep its promises. And yet, not only has the CTA not been forthcoming with their own reform proposals, they have actively opposed other plans, such as Mayor Chuck Reed’s “Pension Reform Act of 2014,” that would lead to a more affordable and thus sustainable public pension system.

To read more, go to http://www.publicsectorinc.org/2014/01/the-california-teachers-association-a-failure-of-leadership/  


Teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci weighs in on the topic with “California Will Be Next Pension Battleground” and can be accessed here - http://www.eiaonline.com/2014/01/13/california-will-be-next-pension-battleground/


For those of you who have been inquiring – yes, the CTEN website is being renovated as we speak. Over the years, we have piled loads of information and it is past time to neaten things up. We hope to have all the work completed by the end of this month.


As always, we at CTEN want to thank you for your ongoing support. Please visit us regularly at www.ctenhome.org  We do our best to keep our website up-to-date, but if you need any information that you can’t find, please send us an email at cteninfo@ctenhome.org or call us at 888-290-8471 and we will get back to you in short order.



Sincerely,

Larry Sand

CTEN President

Join us to celebrate: logo.png
“School Choice: Better Education at Lower Cost”

Thursday, 30 Jan. 2014  |  6:30 pm–9:00 pm
WestGate Church, 1735 Saratoga Ave.  (Between Lawrence Expy. &  Prospect Rd.) San Jose, CA 95129

The state of education in America is not good. Taxes are rising to meet the perceived need. But test scores and other meaningful measures of quality are not improving. What is to be done? School Choice holds great promise to improve education and lower the costs of education. But just what is school choice? How can it promise higher quality AND lower costs?
This unique program will answer these and other questions you have. Our Forum and Break-out sessions will bring together top experts in School Choice to provide a path forward for the education of our children and common sense economics.   Our experts are:
Williamson M. Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of the Koret Task Force on K–12 Education, specializes in research on education policy especially as it pertains to curriculum, teaching, testing, accountability, and school finance from kindergarten through high school.
Larry Sand taught elementary and middle school for over 28 years in NY and CA. Now retired, he is president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network - a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.
Lisa Snell is the director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.  She has frequently testified before the CA State Legislature and numerous other state legislatures and government agencies.  She has written on school finance, universal preschool, charter schools, and other related topics.
Ana Rita Guzman is the founder and coordinator for the Mid-Peninsula Homeschoolers group in Palo Alto, CA.  She has overseen the education of her three children, homeschooling them since birth, then transitioning to more traditional institutions when appropriate.  She is a strong spokesperson for homeschooling.
The program will include an opening panel, in-depth break-out sessions and then a final concluding summary and way-forward session covering:
- history & relevance of school funding, competition and choice
- charter schools - in CA and nationwide, their origin, growth and promise
- vouchers, credits, rebates, and private scholarships
- homeschooling alternatives
- competition, creativity and costs vs. monopoly
Join us to better understand the promises and excitement of what real school choice can mean for the improvement of your family, school, community and country.    This event is free of charge, but seating is limited.  Please RSVP at:   http://SchoolChoiceSJ.eventbrite.com
Co-Sponsors: Silicon Valley Freedom Project, Discovery Charter School,
California Teachers Empowerment Network and the Reason Foundation

For more information about National School Choice Week, please visit: www.SchoolChoiceWeek.com, or for more information about this event, contact us at:   patrickpeterson@yahoo.com   or Ph: 408-261-1913