Mr. Pallotta, regarding that NYSUT movie promo:

Mr. Pallotta,

I couldn’t care less about this, it is brain-candy full of stuff I already have digested. I’d rather meet with YOU to find out what your strategy is regarding the gov’s “reform commission”, envisioning and promoting a more holistic APPR, and a massive “civics field trip” ala’ Eva Moskowitz where we bus so many people to Albany we shut that mutha down.

Suspiciously yours,

 Dan McConnell


My Snark Quota is Filled (I think)

Is there a difference between the war on terror and the war on teachers?…

Dan McConnell:

Yes. One is secretly driven by a campaign to wrongly stigmatize and portray a particular group of people as a threat to our nation, our economy, American Exceptional-ism (TM), children, and the future. The other causes us to fear people of Middle Eastern descent.

Let’s REALLY do this “reform” thing!

Good for students: Proven, research based approaches to economic equity and school readiness

  • “Grit and Rigor” are not magic words that make developmentally inappropriate choices and wrong-headed approaches suddenly work.
  • Repeatedly insisting that annual testing is top priority in the education-as-vehicle-to-equity approach is either intentional and diversionary- or unintentional and ignorant.
  • BUT: To be an educator in this modern time and to not realize that the changing world requires changing approaches in how we prepare young people for that world is dangerous-to yourself and those you teach.

YES our kids need to increasingly be able to grasp more and be able to do more than they once had to, but a large part of why they are not already isn’t because schools are failing or we’re not identifying “bad teachers” -it’s because of what we’re failing to do collectively. It’s what we allow to happen, and it’s even what we sometimes willingly participate in. To do the “long story short” (out of character for me, I know): our society is failing on the front end to prepare the number of capable learner/leaders it once did- and instead is focused on manufacturing mindless consumers and future workers.

What we are failing to do-and here I mean “we” collectively-a community a state, a nation-a world even. We are failing to hold our leaders truly accountable, rein in our markets and our own participation in them, and to teach our kids true character and responsibility. We’re failing to identify models and to really lift up examples of the kind of people we want our children to grow up to be.

Little bodies are being poisoned by cheap garbage food, their minds poisoned by the smut glorified in the media, and instead of focusing on those endemic and chronic dangers- we are driven to serve numbers tumbled and polished in various complicated formulas; or scores on various standardized tests that supposedly signify human value. But more proficiency on standardized tests of academic skills requires brains that process and perform more proficiently, which requires a foundation of cognitive health and experiences that will support that proficiency.

That means focus on positive cognitive engagement from birth, maybe even before (I would sing to my wife’s belly, and purely anecdotal evidence leads me to believe “You are my sunshine” worked magic on my daughters when they were in-utero). Great books in every home; parents freed from low-wage servitude enough to participate and support academic and emotional development; social networks and experiences away from televisions and gaming screens…

Making these the standards we shoot for would be a difficult goal, for sure- and potentially costly to the garbage dealers, smut peddlers and testing corporations (as well as PACs, non-profits and politicians feeding at their trough).

But entering into this reform battle is true grit, and it’s not just good for students-it’s good for us all.

Not mine, but interesting and evil…not in the way I like

Is the Opt Out Message Being Hijacked by Corp Reformers?

Original post

In August 2015 the National Association of State Boards of Educators (NASBE) created a handy dandy chart entitled “Opt Out Guidance” for all fifty states. How wonderful of them. Their chart was highlighted in a recent Washington Post article and seems to be gaining traction. Sounds great….right? Um. Nope. Why?

The NASBE chart itself is problematic. It gives little useful information. For example under Florida it simply states “opt outs are not permitted” and explains why. That’s it?

Meanwhile three years ago United Opt Out created 50 state opt out guides, that provide, in DETAIL, current information for each state, written by opt out leaders in those states, and updated annually. Our guides say, “This is what your state legislation says,” and, “this is what you need to do.” Of course, the long and the short of it is this: REFUSE THE TESTS. REFUSE IT ALL. THIS IS AN ACT OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE. In the end it doesn’t matter what your state legislation “permits.” But parents want to be informed. And so the guides try to provide as much information as possible.

So is the information that NASBE publishing (or promoting) actually USEFUL? Not really.  It might serve to deter many parents in most of these states, to just give after reading “No opt out permitted” in their state.

The second and more important reason promoting the NASBE guide is problematic (and is probably tied to why it’s basically useless) is WHO NASBE is. Before steering opt out parents to their site folks might do well to know more about NASBE. The partners who fund them include:


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

McGraw Hill


K12 Inc

Wireless Generation


College Board

Measured Progress

And many, many more…..

Why is Another Corporate-Driven Non-profit Trying to Appear “Opt Out Friendly”?

Again, the opt out narrative is being hijacked.  And it’s not the first time. Education Commission of the States (ECS) also created an “opt out guide” and attempted to steer traffic to their website under the guise of appearing supporting of testing refusal. And yet… Closely examine the funders and partners of ECS.  The list includes General Electric, State Farm, Amplify, Pearson, Verizon, Corinthean, Meta Metrics, Renaissance Learning, Lumina, and Walton. Each of these corporations are members of ALEC and serve ALEC’s agenda. In fact, the vast majority of their partners are members of ALEC or have politicians or CEO’s with direct ties to ALEC.  There are 17 corporate partners for ECS. Out of the 17, 11 are directly tied to ALEC. The remaining six are either indirectly connected by related partnerships (funding other organizations that are in ALEC) or that support and profit from ALEC model legislation.

Of all the 2013 ECS Grants and Contracts, ALL of the contracts are with members of ALEC who are actively involved with the reform initiatives including charters, testing, and Common Core:

State Farm Companies, GE Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation College and Lumina Foundation (aka The Dirty Five)

Visit and see just how many of the corporate sponsors of ECS are members of ALEC.

What Should We Learn From This?

So how can you know if the movement is being co-opted by “ideological camouflage”?  There are 3 steps for answering this question: Examine 1) MESSAGE, 2) MONEY AND 3) MOTIVE. Education Commission of the States and NASBE are prime examples of groups that appears as one thing but in truth is something else entirely.  And it serves their interests to detract the opt out movement by creating mis- information and steering activists away from organizations that part of the real movement. They are the fake Prada handbag being sold on the sreets.

Before promoting an organizations efforts to “support” the opt out movement by getting folks to go visit their site, or giving them legitimacy by republishing their work, we might do well to do some research and avoid being blind-sided by a corporate reform movement that knows all too well how to manipulate public sentiment and engage in camouflage.

The oneness is on us to know who, and what, we are dealing with.

A “Not mine, but I had to share” piece


About a month ago, I illuminated some old expressions that have become obsolete because of the inexorable march of technology. These phrases included

“Don’t touch that dial,”

“Carbon copy,”

“You sound like a broken record” and

“Hung out to dry.”

A bevy of readers have asked me to shine light on more faded words and expressions, and I am happy to oblige:

Back in the olden days we had a lot of moxie. We’d put on our best bib and tucker and knew to straighten up and fly right. Hubba-hubba! We’d cut a rug in some juke joint and then go necking and petting and smooching and spooning and billing and cooing and pitching woo in hot rods and jalopies, in some passion pit or on lovers lane. Heavens to Betsy! Gee whillikers! Jumping Jehoshaphat! Holy moley! We were in-like-Flynn and living the life of Riley, and even a regular guy couldn’t accuse us of being a knucklehead, a nincompoop or a pill. Not for all the tea in China!

Back in the olden days, life used to be swell, but when’s the last time anything was swell? Swell has gone the way of beehives, pageboys and the D.A.; of spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and pedal pushers. Oh, my aching back. Kilroy was here, but he isn’t anymore.

Like Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle and Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, we have become unstuck in time. We wake up from what surely has been just a short nap, and before we can say, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! or This is a fine kettle of fish! we discover that the words we grew up with, the words that seemed omnipresent as oxygen, have vanished with scarcely a notice from our tongues and our pens and our keyboards.

Poof, poof, poof go the words of our youth, the words we’ve left behind. We blink, and they’re gone, evanesced from the landscape and wordscape of our perception, like Mickey Mouse wristwatches, hula hoops, skate keys, candy cigarettes, little wax bottles of colored sugar water and an organ grinders monkey.

Where have all those phrases gone? Long time passing. Where have all those phrases gone? Long time ago: Pshaw. The milkman did it. Think about the starving Armenians. Bigger than a bread box. Banned in Boston. The very idea! It’s your nickel. Don’t forget to pull the chain. Knee high to a grasshopper. Turn-of-the-century. Iron curtain. Domino theory. Fail safe. Civil defense. Fiddlesticks! You look like the wreck of the Hesperus. Cooties. Going like sixty. I’ll see you in the funny papers. Don’t take any wooden nickels. Heavens to Murgatroyd! And awa-a-ay we go!

Oh, my stars and garters!

It turns out there are more of these lost words and expressions than Carter had liver pills. This can be disturbing stuff, this winking out of the words of our youth, these words that lodge in our heart’s deep core. But just as one never steps into the same river twice, one cannot step into the same language twice. Even as one enters, words are swept downstream into the past, forever making a different river.

We of a certain age have been blessed to live in changeful times. For a child each new word is like a shiny toy, a toy that has no age. We at the other end of the chronological arc have the advantage of remembering there are words that once did not exist and there were words that once strutted their hour upon the earthly stage and now are heard no more, except in our collective memory. It’s one of the greatest advantages of aging. We can have archaic and eat it, too.

See ya later, alligator!

Seems The NY Daily News is concerned

The Daily News is worried that the fabulous work being done in NY by the reform machine is somehow endangered by leaders coming to their senses-or even speaking out so honestly and accurately regarding the true burdens our students bring to school with them. TDN says:

Stunningly, Speaker Carl Heastie, who represents the Bronx, has gone along with a suburban-based movement that works to the disadvantage of the city’s largely minority student body.

Not sure that “stunningly” is a word that goes under Speaker Heastie because he dared to acknowledge the truth with these words:

I really think that we shouldn’t be looking at education alone anymore or mental health alone anymoreor poverty alone anymore. I think that we have to look at the total family structure and see why it is that students are going into school not prepared for these challenges. And I think a lot of it has to do with what’s going on at home and their neighborhoods. Even super teacher may not be able to get through to a student whose life outside of school has issues.

On my game board, I had “finally” under his name (as in “Finally someone in government with the guts to point out that whipping a mule harder makes less sense than putting wheels on the wagon it’s trying to pull”). “Understandably” I had under Commissioner Elia (she’s a policy foot soldier/message carrier and can’t be entirely blamed for what she says…she’s put there to take a fall if required)… then I switched it to being under the governor when he did his infamous “Coumo kow-tow” (as in “Understandably, the governor knows that the educated and aware parents in this state aren’t buying that firing teachers is the fastest way to student success so he needs to re-position himself as that “lobbyist for the students”).

But I guess I need to switch it to under NY Daily News now (as in “Understandably, special interest outlets like The Daily News need to be utilized to help those interests propagate their narrative without having to stand up to identify themselves and proudly claim their positions/effectively debate it.

That leaves me with the word “stunningly” still unassigned on my game board, along with “patiently”, “honestly”, “happily”… I’m hoping it can go with upcoming NYSED Regent action on an indescribably ridiculous rule that would make the efforts to force a standardized test-fueled bad teacher hunt the linchpin of school reform (whipping the mule), as opposed to looking at opportunities, funding, and a more collaborative approach. I’m hoping for a “Stunningly, the regents have taken the lead in setting a better, more student-centered course for school reform by voting “NO” on a potentially destructive new APPR rule”

In response to Sigmund

In Steve Sigmund’s Sept. 6 letter, he states that Fred LeBrun “completely misses the mark when it comes to understanding what higher standards and the tests that measure them are all about.” I believe Mr. Sigmund misses the mark.

I didn’t so much read doubt of higher standards or the usefulness of tests coming from LeBrun’s words  It was about Commissioner Elia’s unwillingness to engage with concerned parents regarding: 1) what is wrong with current education policy in New York, 2) how parents have been driven to collective action by unresponsive leaders, and 3) how tests are being given undue respect as the reform tool of choice.

I share these concerns, but am even more concerned about who is truly driving education policy, and trying to clumsily control the narrative. Unwavering deference to tests, the unwillingness of the governor to own up to his responsibility, the apparent powerlessness of the regents to follow through on ensuring opportunity as opposed to enforcing testing and consequences… When a collection of business leaders, charter school-pushing non-profits and political action groups can be amongst the “regents research fellows” embedded within NYSED, I have to wonder whose priorities are represented.

Sigmund also states that: “Opt-out organizers are working to destroy not only the tests, but ultimately higher standards themselves, with no alternative for improving our schools.”

Does he use “organizers” because “parents” doesn’t play so well for reform activists? Does he claim that there is “no alternative” because the best alternatives mean less opportunity for control of funding and policy?

Dan McConnell

Cortland, NY

Another letter to NY Assembly members

I was moved to send another letter to Assemby members Lifton, Nolan and Speaker Heastie again…I think I made the coffee strong this morning.

In communicating with the NYSED regents, and other concerned citizens around this state, I am hearing that some of the regents who might not agree with the new APPR rule might still vote to approve it because they feel obligated to follow the lead of legislators.

This concerns me.
I have a governor who plays whack-a-mole, only poking his head up at times of political convenience to pretend to take a stand, yet blaming everyone else for the collateral damage of a war on teachers and their unions that he has led from day 1. He pushed for this rule, one that is wrong-headed in it’s focus to define and identify “bad teachers”, and I get the impression that our lawmakers are sometimes hostage to the imbalance of powers in our state-leading to the passage of regrettable legislation simply to get a budget and funding wrapped up on time.The governor coming out with “doubts” about common core and “support” is like painting the shutters on a house you’re trying to sell when you know the foundation is crumbling and there’s termites in the walls. He is selling himself, not a real plan for a better path forward.Thank you for your call on his most recent statements, Barbara. Your interest and advocacy is encouraging. But while it is not campaign season, my opinion is that this governor is in continual campaign mode. He’s no dummy-he waits to publicly care until he sees the wave of public care, a potential feather in his cap.
So now the Governer blames SED, the lawmakers blame the governor, and SED regents use legislative lead as the reason to vote against their conscience. Maybe I am over-simplifying things, but what can be done? There is a chance to defeat this rule, and force an opening up of the process for some true collaboration on a better path forward. If you have not seen my letter to the regents (I sent one to all of them as well as the commissioner), I encourage you to look at it (I attached it). The regents need to be empowered to support a system that involves collaborative design over compliance, informed by the profession over targeting the profession, responsive to learners and communities first, not testing and “reform” interests. A system that is intentionally designed to eliminate teachers based on a testing system that has not even been vetted, validated, finalized…who can in good conscience advocate for that (even though the new commissioner and many of the non-profits, charters, business leaders, investors…seem willing to)?
So wrapping up-how can the regents be made to feel free to vote based on common sense, as opposed to the wishes of an unaccountable group of “regent research fellows”, or deference to a pressured legislative lead?
Thank you for all the hard hard work you all do while I sit back and complain. You will help make this world a better place for my daughters and my students-I truly believe that.
Dan McConnell

Final Letter to Elia

New York Commissioner of Education Mary Ellen Elia

NYS Education Department Building

89 Washington Street

Board of Regents , Room 110 EB

Albany, NY 12234

Re: 3012-d Public Comment EDU-27-15-00019-P

Dear Commissioner Elia,

Consider this letter my contribution to public comments regarding EDU-27-15-00019-P, in opposition to permanent adoption of this new rule. I have sent this letter to the regents as well, and included my phone number only in the letters to my representative (Regent Tallon) and to you. My hope is that education leaders will truly work for the future good of all by using the suggestions that follow my concerns to consider a more effective path forward. Tests are dipsticks, not care and maintenance.

First, the reasons to oppose adoption of 3012-d Public Comment EDU-27-15-00019-P as a permanent rule:

1)  “Faulty rollout” of the new standards: It is among the reasons cited for the unrest, uneasiness, and displeasure that have arisen regarding the linkage of what were brand new standards, the need to acquire and create curriculum materials tied to those standards…and high stakes tests tying reputations and careers to that faulty rollout.  This new rule would not address the missteps in practice and disrespects to students, citizens and professionals that occurred with that rollout. In fact, this is a move to memorialize one of the biggest missteps, especially since the new tests and testing company haven’t been rolled out yet..

2) Although our governor has taken the positions that: a)  we need a better evaluation system so we can find more teachers to fire; b)  he has no responsibility for education policy (he says this mostly when citizens are unhappy with his approach to education policy)- he has also admitted those faults in the rollout of the new standards. He has also noted the lack of reliability in the tests in accurately gauging student outcomes, and has proclaimed primary importance of parents and kitchen tables as tools for student success. The passage of this new rule puts more focus on entrenching the mistakes and the faults of New York style reform, while ignoring the issues of primary importance. This rule is not an indicator of effective or highly effective policy making.

3)  An approach to APPR so heavily weighted in standardized tests is misguided. While we do need tests to chart student progress toward achieving academic standards, and to inform instruction, the more correlative variables in positive student outcomes are resources and opportunities, not tests and consequences.

Following are my suggestions:

Instead of trying to sell (or impose) the primary importance of tests to people who know that there are so many things more important in the educational experience of a learner-embrace sound pedagogy and practice. Listen to students, parents and concerned citizens and then include the teaching profession in building up learning experiences as opposed to finding someone to blame for the lack of them provided for in policy. Accountability is important-for all of us, and not just for test scores.

Put this new APPR rule at least on hold, and at best in the circular file, while a more holistic and experiential accountability system is created. Think of a portfolio, an ongoing assessment of academic skills, social/emotional indicators, and extra-curricular involvements/experiences…A tracking of the whole child with shared responsibilities between classroom teacher, administrators, school district, family and community… and leaders at the state level. Such a system would have to include regular assessment of essential academic skills, but these could be made far less intrusive on the school schedule and often be completed quickly on a computer and immediately saved as evidence of progress (or not). Third party proctors could be used for the more official assessments, but even then the focus is on building that ongoing resume for our future citizens, not finding someone to blame.  By high school, their portfolio should be showing community service, volunteer activities, leadership roles, internships and college visit records…

Think and reflect on the words of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who in a recent interview acknowledged that educators are often forced to be responsible for a host of burdens that students bring to school with them:

“I really think that we shouldn’t be looking at education alone anymore or mental health alone anymore or poverty alone anymore. I think that we have to look at the total family structure and see why it is that students are going into school not prepared for these challenges. And I think a lot of it has to do with what’s going on at home and their neighborhoods. Even super teacher may not be able to get through to a student whose life outside of school has issues.”

Most of all, we cannot continue letting state education officials and politicians off the hook and/or promoting them onward and upward for little more than lack of honesty and a tin ear. I have personal experience with NYSED’s willingness to self-promote the opportunities it supposedly provides, while at the same time denying that all students have access to those opportunities. “Sadly, that’s the state of funding in our state,” said a NYSED associate to me when explaining why this is the case.

If anything is unethical, it is leadership turning a blind eye to these conditions.

Thank you for considering my position in opposing this rule, and my suggestions for an alternative approach.

Dan McConnell