Friday Reads


Good Day!!

There’s actually a bit of good news this week hidden among the atrocities.  “No Child Left Behind” has been replaced with “Every Child Succeeds”.   That sounds like one replacing one bit of jargon for another.  However, there’s some substantive changes and there’s some hope it will be good for teachers, students, and taxpayers.

The testing and accountability regime–which really led to a layer of bureaucracy, massive testing and costs–has been criticized by the education community since its inception.  I remember hearing it called “No Teacher Left Standing” by friends teaching in the Public Education system.  It’s a function of corporate bureaucrat think which basically frames all situations in terms of no one can be trusted but a report-generating middle man who basically just ensures every one does their jobs based on some really bizarre set of standards invented by Corporate CEOS like Romney, Fiorino and Trump who notably have no clue what they’re doing in their own companies let alone a school system.

Select “educational outcomes” were boiled down to the most base things and it resulted in teaching to a particular test because teachers feared for their jobs.  The idea of developing a child’s critical thinking skills, their ability to work with others, and their basic nature of surging, fixating and mastering one content area using a variety of different senses was ignored.  As a result, “No Child Left Behind” represented the worst of American Business practices. Trivial outcomes were emphasized.  Control was paramount. The humanity of teachers and students was ignored.  Bureaucratic managers and unnecessary consultants raked in money as Districts struggled to implement and report results.

Unfortunately, this mindset has also crept into Higher Education and I can tell you that my job has switched from teaching to constantly grading stuff, reporting on outcomes, and paperwork.  It’s not a good situation for any one.  It creates a really stressful, negative environment too.

Here’s a good basic outline by USA Today on what’s changing.  This was a bipartisan effort which has been extremely rare given the pledge by Republicans to thwart any possible Obama-backed law.

No Child Left Behind:

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, was a civil rights law that provided education funding to states and attempted to ensure that every student had access to an education. The law would expire every three to five years, requiring Congress to reauthorize it. In 2001, Democrats and Republicans in Congress became increasingly concerned by the growing achievement gaps that left poor and minority students in failing schools, and devised a system of testing and accountability to fix it. “The fundamental principle of this bill is that every child can learn, we expect every child to learn, and you must show us whether or not every child is learning,” President George W. Bush said in the Jan. 8, 2002, signing ceremony.

Every Student Succeeds Act: The new law tries to preserve the spirit of No Child Left Behind, while fixing what were widely perceived as its one-size-fits-all approach.The goals of No Child Left Behind, the predecessor of this law, were the right ones: High standards. Accountability. Closing the achievement gap,” Obama said Thursday. “But in practice, it often fell short. It didn’t always consider the specific needs of each community. It led to too much testing during classroom time. It often forced schools and school districts into cookie-cutter reforms that didn’t always produce the kinds of results that we wanted to see.”

NPR has some interesting analysis on the law.images (2)

The new law changes much about the federal government’s role in education, largely by scaling back Washington’s influence. While ESSA keeps in place the basic testing requirements of No Child Left Behind, it strips away many of the high stakes that had been attached to student scores.

The job of evaluating schools and deciding how to fix them will shift largely back to states. Gone too is the requirement, added several years ago by the Obama administration, that states use student scores to evaluate teachers.

The new law, which passed the House and Senate with rare, resounding bipartisan support, would also expand access to high-quality preschool.

Before the signing, President Obama made clear that he believed the goals of NCLB — namely high standards, accountability and closing the achievement gap — were the right ones. But in practice, he said, the law fell short.

“It often forced schools and school districts into cookie-cutter reforms that didn’t always produce the kinds of results that we wanted to see,” Obama said.

NCLB was signed by President George W. Bush in early 2002 and was, itself, an update of a much older law — the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. While ESSA officially marks the end of the NCLB era, the majority of states have for several years received waivers from the Obama administration, exempting them from some of the law’s toughest requirements.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken was a key supporter and mover for the change.  You can see his speech to the Senate encouraging a yes vote on the bill on his web page.  Minnesota is a state that is consistently oneTop-101 of the best for educational outcomes and has a vibrant public school system.

Now, this bill is not perfect. But it’s a huge improvement over NCLB. Over the last 13 years, we learned that the one-size-fits-all approach to fixing failing schools wasn’t working. That’s why this bill is designed to find a balance between giving states more flexibility while still making sure that states intervene and fix schools where students are not learning.

Over the last several years, I’ve met with principals, teachers, students, parents, and school administrators in Minnesota. These conversations have helped me develop my education priorities to help improve our schools, our communities, and our nation’s future. I worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground, and I’m very pleased that many of my priorities to improve student outcomes and close the achievement gap are reflected in the legislation that is before us today.

These priorities include things like strengthening STEM education, expanding student mental health services, increasing access to courses that help high school students earn college credit, and improving the preparation and recruitment of principals for high need schools. I also successfully fought to renew the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program which provides critical after-school learning activities for students. Another one of my priorities helps increase the number of counselors and social workers in our schools.

And my provision to allow states to use Computer Adaptive Tests will go a long way toward improving the quality of assessments used in our schools and will give teachers and parents more accurate and timely information on their students’ progress.

I was also able to include a new Native language immersion program because I believe language is critical to maintaining cultural heritage and helping Native American students succeed. In addition, I wrote a provision to provide foster children who move to new school districts the opportunity to stay at their current school if it’s in their best interest.

Again, I’m very pleased that these priorities have been included in the legislation we are considering today, and I thank my colleagues for working with me on them. These provisions will help hundreds of thousands of students in Minnesota and across the country reach their full potential.

So one of the most interesting things that has just come out of the battle royale that is the republican presidential primary campaign is the news that a supposed “secret” meeting took place among establishment Republicans like Dick Cheney.  There is now official talk of a brokered convention. Establishment Republicans have been concerned about the rise of both Donald Trump and Ben Carson and the incredible chaos that’s occurred because of differences in priorities between insurgent and establishment Republicans. We may be looking at an event that hasn’t happened for some time.

abductionWill there be a contested convention?

Republican officials and leading figures in the party’s establishment are preparing for the possibility of a brokered convention as businessman Donald Trump continues to sit atop the polls in the GOP presidential race.

More than 20 of them convened Monday near the Capitol for a dinner held by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, and the prospect of Trump nearing next year’s nominating convention in Cleveland with a significant number of delegates dominated the discussion, according to five people familiar with the meeting.

Weighing in on that scenario as Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listened, several longtime Republican power brokers argued that if the controversial billionaire storms through the primaries, the party’s establishment must lay the groundwork for a floor fight in which the GOP’s mainstream wing could coalesce around an alternative, the people said.

The development represents a major shift for veteran Republican strategists, who until this month had spoken of a brokered convention only in the most hypothetical terms — and had tried to encourage a drama-free nomination by limiting debates and setting an earlier convention date.

Now, those same leaders see a floor fight as a real possibility. And so does Trump, who said in an interview last week that he, too, is preparing.

Ben Carson has had a public hissy fit over the news and is threatening to leave the Republican Party.1206-BKS-Childrens-facebookJumbo

Ben Carson on Friday blasted the Republican National Committee following a Washington Post report that nearly two-dozen establishment party figures were prepping for a potential brokered convention as Donald Trump continues to lead most polls.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus held a dinner in Washington, D.C., on Monday, and, according to five people who spoke with the Post, the possibility of Trump heading into the Cleveland convention with a substantial number of delegates was a topic of discussion. Some attendees suggested the establishment lay the groundwork for a floor fight that could lead the party’s mainstream wing to unite behind an alternative. Carson rejected this approach.

“If the leaders of the Republican Party want to destroy the party, they should continue to hold meetings like the one described in the Washington Post this morning,” Carson said in a statement released by his campaign.

Carson said he prays the Post’s report is incorrect and threatened to leave the GOP. “If it is correct, every voter who is standing for change must know they are being betrayed. I won’t stand for it,” said Carson, who added that if the plot is accurate, “I assure you Donald Trump won’t be the only one leaving the party.”

The retired neurosurgeon said that next summer’s Cleveland convention could be the last Republican National Convention if leaders try to manipulate it.

“I am prepared to lose fair and square, as I am sure is Donald,” Carson said. “But I will not sit by and watch a theft. I intend on being the nominee. If I am not, the winner will have my support. If the winner isn’t our nominee then we have a massive problem.”

Establishment Republicans fear that Donald Trump–as their presidential nominee–means that Democratic party will have a real chance at taking back the Senate and even the House.  The Cook Political Report explains that this might be an overreaction.


To most Republican strategists, there’s no bigger nightmare than Donald Trump as the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2016. This week, just about every Democrat running for president, Senate, House, and their respective campaign committees sought to tie Republicans to Trump and brand them one big bunch of xenophobes. Talk of a down-ballot Republican apocalypse has reached fever pitch.

Even setting aside the remoteness of a scenario in which Trump would face Hillary Clinton in a one-on-one contest, such talk is premature and possibly overblown.

Given Trump’s unpopularity with the electorate overall, there’s a possibility he could end an era of very close and competitive presidential elections and suffer a landslide defeat (by modern standards). But what would that mean down-ballot? If Trump becomes his own radioactive island, GOP candidates in swing districts would have no choice but to renounce him and run far away for cover.

The challenge in assessing their odds for survival in such a scenario is that there hasn’t been a blowout presidential election in a very long time. However, history is on the GOP’s side.

Since 1960, there have only been three elections in which one candidate prevailed by a double-digit margin in a presidential race: Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater in 1964 (by 22.6 percent), Richard Nixon over George McGovern in 1972 (by 23.2 percent), and Ronald Reagan over Walter Mondale in 1984 (by 18.2 percent). In all three instances, Democrats retained control of the House.

Despite the predictable outcome of each of the three landslides, there is scant evidence the losing side’s demoralized voters stayed home in huge numbers or bolted their party en masse down-ballot compared to the previous presidential cycle. In each case, voters seemed to evaluate presidential candidates on a case-by-case basis but stuck with their core party preferences for Congress.

So, if you want some real conspiracy theory/gossip.  The establishment plan is to put Mitt Romney into nomination on the floor.  (GAG)

With Donald Trump’s ruinous domination of the Republican primary polls showing no signs of abating, top leaders in the GOP are reportedly now preparing for the possibility of a contentious brokered convention next year in Cleveland.

If that happens, a small group of wealthy donors and die-hard loyalists close to Mitt Romney will be ready with a strategy to win him the nomination from the convention floor.

Romney thought seriously about entering the 2016 race earlier this year, and ultimately decided against it. But as I report in my new book, The Wilderness, when the former Republican nominee informed friends, family, and a few close allies late in January that he was going to announce his decision to bow out, some urged him to reconsider:

The Republicans have seriously lost it.  All I can say is that Nixon’s Southern Strategy has caused the vultures to come home to roost.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?