Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dear Colleague,

As we head into summer, the California legislature is still dealing with AB 575 and SB 499, two teacher evaluation bills. They are similar in several ways, including the fact that the evals will be subject to collective bargaining. Interestingly, the unions have not yet taken a position on them. For some background on the two bills, go to For the latest info on the bills go here -

The mainstream education media have been sounding the alarm bells about a teacher shortage for some time now. But is it real? Not really, says the National Council on Teacher Quality in its May newsletter. It says that while we are deficient in some areas, generally speaking, there is no shortage of teachers. ( )

Actually California has been overproducing teachers in most subject areas for years. Mike Antonucci has reviewed the Census Bureau and National Center for Education Statistics data for California from 2006-2011 and reports that we have a pool of more than 42,000 experienced K-12 teachers who are available for work. He says, “Not only did the teacher workforce shrink by 14 percent in that five-year period, but there are fewer students to educate as well. Statewide, enrollment dropped almost one percent, and 15 of the 20 largest school districts lost students.” For more, go to
Also in its May newsletter, NCTQ asks, “In the race for teacher quality, how much does teachers' race matter?” They answer:

…having race-congruent teachers appears to nudge the needle on student achievement, but what gets overlooked is that other interventions can move it more. Here we compare the effect sizes of teachers of the same race as their students with the effect sizes of a few other interventions, mostly achieved when schools have altered the curriculum.

Continuing on the subject of race, there is a new report by two Stanford researchers that accuses white teachers of treating black students different than white ones. While “Race and the Disciplining of Young Students” is a paying download, the following abstract is available for free.

There are large racial disparities in school discipline in the United States, which, for Black students, not only contribute to school failure but also can lay a path toward incarceration. Although the disparities have been well documented, the psychological mechanisms underlying them are unclear. In two experiments, we tested the hypothesis that such disparities are, in part, driven by racial stereotypes that can lead teachers to escalate their negative responses to Black students over the course of multiple interpersonal (e.g., teacher-to-student) encounters. More generally, we argue that race not only can influence how perceivers interpret a specific behavior, but also can enhance perceivers’ detection of behavioral patterns across time. Finally, we discuss the theoretical and practical benefits of employing this novel approach to stereotyping across a range of real-world settings.

To buy the full text of the study, go to  To read the Fordham Institute’s take on it, go to

Worried about your students cheating on exams? You’re not alone. In fact, China is so concerned that it’s getting ready to send in the drones.

Cheating is a common problem in the examination rooms, with students employing a variety of tactics to increase their chances of getting into one of China's best higher education institutions. Chinese authorities have not released figures about how many people are caught cheating every year, but in 2014 Kotaku detailed some of the equipment being used by cheats to try and fool invigilators. One such method involved using pens to send test questions to a remote location, with answers being sent back to the cheats via in-ear receivers.

This is where the drone comes in, reports Edu People. Introduced by the Luoyang Radio Authority, it can search for and identify the location of radio signals, intercepting the cheating students in their tracks. The drone hovers 500 metres above the test site and has a range of around 1km. When it identifies a radio signal, it transmits the location of the signal to tablets used by staff. 

The school choice world was rocked this month when Nevada became the first state in the country to embrace universal Educational Savings Accounts. Whereas vouchers give parents the freedom to choose a private school for their children, using some public funding, ESAs – now a reality in five states – are more expansive, typically allowing restricted but multiple uses of the money. Nevada’s version covers tuition at approved private schools, as well as textbooks, tutoring services, tuition for distance learning programs, fees for special instruction if the child has a disability, etc. Money will be dispersed to students’ ESAs on a quarterly basis, and there will be two tiers to the program. As reported by the Friedman Foundation’s Michael Chartier,

For those children with disabilities or students from families with incomes less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level ($44,863 for a family of four), students will receive 100 percent of the statewide average basic support per-pupil, or around $5,700. For families with incomes exceeding 185 percent of the federal poverty level, the funding amount is 90 percent of the statewide average basic support per pupil, or around $5,100.

Has the government gone too far in trying to feed kids breakfast? Mike Antonucci thinks so and drives the point home in “Beating Kids With a Breakfast Club.”

1) School receives federal money to provide breakfast to students who live under the poverty line.
2) Participation is low.
3) School provides breakfast to all students, regardless of parental income, “as a means of protecting low-income students from being ostracized by their peers or feeling embarrassed.”
4) Participation is low because students can’t get to school early enough.
5) School provides mid-morning snack during recess.
6) Participation is low because students prefer to play rather than eat during recess.

We have recently updated our “cheat sheet,” which is available on the CTEN homepage. What do we really spend on education in California? What are teachers’ salaries nationwide? Where does California rank nationally on NAEP scores? We answer these questions and a lot more on this very popular page. To visit it, go to

If you are still using a school email to receive these newsletters, please consider sending us your personal email address. More and more school districts are blocking CTEN. In any event, if you enjoy these letters and find them informative, please pass them along to your colleagues and encourage them to join us.

If you would like to see us address certain issues, topics, etc. in these newsletters or on our website – please let us know.

And have a great summer!  

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Friday, May 22, 2015

Dear Colleague,

In light of the Vergara ruling, legislators in Sacramento have been busy trying to get some replacement laws on the books, but the going hasn’t been easy. Three Republican bills and one by a Democrat have been killed in the Assembly Education Committee where the California Teachers Association reigns. The bills dealt with tenure, seniority and teacher evaluations. None were particularly draconian, but with Vergara in the appeal stage, it seems that the unions are not yet willing to do any compromising. They have not yet taken a position, however, on SB 499 which would subject teacher evaluations to collective bargaining. To learn more about the legislative doings …or lack thereof, go to , and

At the same time it is fighting reforms to traditional public schools, CTA is sponsoring four bills that would make life more difficult for charter schools. LA School Report explains,

Four Democratic California lawmakers joined forces yesterday to promote new bills aimed at creating more stringent regulation of the state’s charter schools.

If passed, the package of bills would bring big changes to the charter schools, including a requirement that they be run as non-profits, that charters be considered government entities and that all of their workers be public employees. One of them would also make it easier for charter school teachers to unionize.

To read more, go to  To read what the California Charter School Association thinks of the bills, go here -
A recent report informs us that both graduation rates and dropout rates have inched up in the Golden State. How is that possible? According to the San Jose Mercury News,

California's high school graduation rate continued its steady climb last year -- but paradoxically, its dropout rate nudged up as well, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.

About four out of five students who entered high school in fall 2010 graduated last June -- 80.8 percent, up from 80.4 percent for the previous class. But 11.6 percent of those destined for the class of 2014 dropped out, up from 11.4 percent for the previous year's class.

Both figures can rise because neither includes students who continue their education without graduating.

Much has been written over the past few years about how teachers in the U.S. spend upwards of 50 percent more time in front of their students than educators in other countries. But according to a recent study by Samuel Abrams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University Teachers College, it’s not true.

In reality, U.S. primary teachers spend about 12 percent more time leading classes than their OECD counterparts, not 50 percent; U.S. lower -- secondary teachers spend about 14 percent more time, not 65 percent; and U.S. upper -- secondary teachers spend about 11 percent more time, not 73 percent.

Also, there are several interesting charts in the report, including one which shows a state-by-state comparison of daily teaching time, and California comes in at 5 hours and 59 minutes – one minute under the national average of exactly six hours. To read the report, go here -

“Shockingly Few Students Are Proficient In U.S. History” read the headline in a Huffington Post piece a few weeks ago. And if the latest NAEP history scores are any indication, the headline is accurate.

Which of these do the governments of Canada, France and Australia have in common: a) They are controlled by the military; b) They have constitutions that limit their power; c) They have leaders with absolute power; d) They discourage participation by citizens in public affairs?

If you chose b, you're smarter than more than 40 percent of America’s eighth graders. But that's a stubbornly low bar, according to a report released Wednesday by the federal government’s educational research arm.

Common Core still is getting a large share of the edu-headlines these days and the testing opt-out movement seems to be gaining strength on both the political right and left. Researcher and Professor Jay Greene gave a particularly articulate statement to the Arkansas Common Core Council a couple of weeks ago. In part, he said,

Standards are about what we value. They communicate what we think is important for our children to learn, when they should learn it, and ultimately what kinds of adults we hope they will grow up to be.

Because standards are about values, their content is not merely a technical issue that can be determined by scientific methods. There is no technically correct set of standards, just as there is no technically correct political party or religion. Reasonable people have legitimate differences of opinion about what they want their children taught. A fundamental problem with national standards efforts, like Common Core, is that they are attempting to impose a single vision of a proper education on a large and diverse country with differing views.

The “free community college” idea is still being bandied about. But is it really “free?” “No” says Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke. She points out that “Over the past several decades, college costs have risen at more than twice the rate of inflation, thanks in large part to federal subsidies.” To read more, go here -

Barry Garelick, co-founder of the U.S. Coalition for World Class Math, which has provided extensive comments on the deficiencies of the Common Core standards for mathematics, has written Teaching Math in the 21st Century, an honest, critical and entertaining look at math education from the inside.

I am not an outright proponent of the philosophy that ‘If you want something done right, you have to live in the past’, but when it comes to how to teach math there are worse philosophies to embrace.

And finally, this is your last chance to take advantage of the following:

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. 

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

Also, please visit “Teachers for School Choice” here -
As always, thanks for your continued interest and support of CTEN.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

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