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America’s schools are at a turning point.  Our children are being over-tested, our teachers are physically exhausted and emotionally demoralized, and our tax dollars are being diverted to replace our public schools with a privately managed, free-market system of education.

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Corky O'Callaghan

It Matters A Lot

If we tell the American people how the education reform movement is impacting them and their public schools, will it matter to them?  This is a big unanswered question on the minds of many of our educational leaders.  This past Sunday, I learned, once again, that it matters a lot.  The setting was the meeting room of the public library in Green Valley, Arizona.  Green Valley is a retirement community located 25 miles south of Tucson.  The audience included about 30 senior citizens and the discussion which focused on the state of education in Arizona was led by a panel of educators that included two area school superintendents and an elementary building principal.  Following overviews of the positive things that are happening in their school systems, the three educational leaders responded to the question: What major challenges are you and your schools facing?  Since Arizona is at or near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to financial support of its public schools, initial responses not surprisingly centered around funding-related issues and concerns such as the difficulty of filling open teaching positions due to the state’s low teacher salaries.  Then, the… Continue reading

More Tax Dollars for Charter Schools

With the Republicans poised to take control of the United States Senate for the next two years, the bleeding of tax dollars from our nation’s public schools to charter schools will likely increase.   Unfortunately, most citizens have no idea this is happening.  Not surprisingly, school choice and vouchers are a top priority for Republic leaders in the House and Senate.  According to Education Week, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell have pledged a renewed effort to debate and vote on the many bills that passed the Republican-led House in recent years with bipartisan support, but were never even brought to a vote by the Democratic Senate majority.  These bills include legislation to support innovative charter schools around the country.  However, while the majority of Americans support the concept of charter schools, they do not support using their tax dollars to pay for them.  In its 2014 poll of public attitudes toward our country’s public schools, Phi Delta Kappan and Gallup reported that while two out of three Americans like the idea that charter schools operate under a charter or contract that… Continue reading

It Is Official

It is official.  My new book, America’s Schools at a Turning Point:  And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future, is now available on Amazon.  I hope it resonates with the American people and makes a difference for our nation’s public schools.  I welcome any and all feedback.  Thank you in advance for your support.

The Good in America

In 1831, the French government sent twenty-seven-year-old Alexis de Tocqueville to America to study and report on the American prison system.  He traveled across our nation making notes not only on the prison systems but on all aspects of American society and government.  From these notes Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America.  In his final campaign address in Boston, Massachusetts, in November 3, 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to one of Tocqueville’s most powerful and often-used quotes:  “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers—and it was not there … in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there … in her rich mines and her vast world commerce—and it was not there … in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there.  Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.  America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”  Throughout my life, I have observed this goodness.… Continue reading

Growing Opposition to Student Testing

Resistance to test overuse and misuse has reached unprecedented heights across the nation.  This year, resistance won notable victories, such as ending, lessening or postponing graduation exams in at least eight states and easing or ending grade promotion tests.  The ultimate goals of the movement are to dramatically reduce the amount of testing, end high stakes uses, and implement educationally sound assessments.  An in-depth look at the rise of anti-standardized testing movement recently appeared on the website of the Washington Post.

Why School Isn’t for Children Anymore

One of the major reasons why I wrote  America’s Schools at a Turning Point:  And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future is that our nation’s teachers are currently overwhelmed by the parade of education reforms being foisted upon them and their students.  As a result, many of our teachers are worn out both physically and emotionally, and some are being stretched to their breaking point.  An all-too common example of how waves of school reform efforts have negatively impacted teacher morale is contained in the heart-felt words of a twenty-four year veteran teacher in Ohio.  Her letter describing why school isn’t for children anymore was published on the website of the Washington Post this past March.

Putting It Bluntly

To put it bluntly, the future of our nation’s public schools is now even more uncertain and the need to sit down with the American people and talk about it is even greater as a result of the elections last Tuesday.  While much of the media coverage has focused on the Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate, for our nation’s public schools the most significant impact of Tuesday’s elections will occur at the state level.  According to the National Journal, the governorships provided the biggest surprises of the night, with Republicans nearly running the table, mostly in Democratic states.  They entered the night holding 30 governorships, a high-water mark given that most were elected in the 2010 wave.  They could end the night controlling as many as 35.  The prediction of a group of 50-75 influential leaders who are shaping federal education reform, including individuals who have served or are currently serving as key policy and political “insiders,” is that school choice and teacher tenure reform efforts will gain more traction while the Common Core standards will face a significant setback as a result of the outcome of the governors’ races across the country.… Continue reading

More Promises to Fix Our Schools

It was predictable.  On Tuesday night as the election returns rolled in and the victory speeches began, one after another, the victors promised – no doubt with good intentions – to reform our education system and fix our “failing” schools.   My point here is not to bash our political leaders.  I believe that most of them are sincere and doing what they feel they have been elected to do – which is to represent us, serve as our voice and fix our problems.  The big problem, however, is that they are hearing from everyone but the American people when it comes to education.  And there is good reason for this. Other than the growing public concern about the Common Core, most people are in the dark about how our nation’s education reform movement is impacting our schools and communities.  They are unaware that our students are being over tested, our teachers are physically and emotionally exhausted and our tax dollars are being diverted to the corporate sector to replace our public schools with a privately managed, free market system of education.  As long as our citizens remain in the… Continue reading

Charlie’s Warning

With election day tomorrow, I thought it would be appropriate to share a thoughtful warning from my friend and colleague, Charlie Irish.  Charlie served as superintendent of the Medina City Schools, Medina, Ohio, for 13 years and is now the point person for the Santa Rita Collaborative on an important research initiative with the Kettering Foundation.  Here is his warning:

While we hear school leaders promote the attributes of their public school systems, we don’t hear them talk very much about their community’s commonly held purpose for their schools and children.  We seldom, if ever, see school leaders trying to help their communities forge that common purpose.  As a result, the legitimacy of our schools as an institution representative of our communities is vanishing, and our schools are on track to becoming little more than a service that has no voice.

The following fictional story written by an 83-year-old Nobel Prize winning author from Portugal speaks to this loss of legitimacy.

On a rainy election day, practically no one went to the polls until 4 in the afternoon, and then everybody seemed to arrive at once.  When the ballots were counted, almost three-quarters turned… Continue reading

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