Friday, October 22, 2021

Another Faux Diverse Viewpoint Ed Site

I have reached the point where I really appreciate a website that says "We are here to promote the right wing education agenda," rather than one like Chalkboard Review* that leads with lines like "Everyone is a stakeholder in education" and "Educator perspectives are diverse and necessary." This is, to put it gently, not actually true about this site, which is clearly fully tilted to the right.

First hint. The top of the home page menu is a link to their Critical Race Theory Toolkit, which includes sections like "How to advocate against CRT" and "Evidence of CRT in Schools." That evidence includes items like the National Teachers Association's guide for culturally responsive lesson plans. 

Second hint. Their very first post back in January of 2019 is entitled "School Choice Also Gives Teachers Like Me More Choice." It's by Daniel Buck, a teacher in Wisconsin who writes for the Foundation for Economic Education and The Federalist. Of The Closing of the American Mind he says, "The Bible taught me how to live but that book taught me how to think." He started his teaching career in 2016 in Green Bay public schools before switching to the Holy Spirit Catholic School. He's not a union guy.

Third hint. They run a podcast. The latest episode features Corey DeAngelis, one of the more pugnacious choicers out there.

Fourth hint. Well, let's look at the "about us" tab. 

Turns out that Daniel Buck is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of this operation. He co-founded it with Tony Kinnett, who is, since July 2020, the District Science Coordinator & Instructional Coach at Indianapolis Public Schools. Before that he was Head of Biology at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis for the 2019-2020 school year. Before that he taught two years at Knightstown Intermediate School. He did his student teaching in the first part of 2017, culminating his undergrad education at Maranatha Baptist University. 

Where geography may have separated these two guys, ideology seems to have connected them. They both write for the Federalist, the Foundation for Economic Education, the conservative Washington Examiner, and the Lone Conservative, a platform for conservative college students.

Director of Operations Adam Burnett is another Lone Conservative guy, who studied journalism at Illinois State and enjoys, in his free time, exercise and working on cars; favorite authors include Ted Cruz and Ben Shapiro. His Twitter account lists him as the press secretary for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Director of Social Media Quinn Weimer has logged some writing with CNSNews ("The right news. Right now.") Their podcast producer is Alison Heape, who just last summer became a Distinguished Doctoral Fellow at the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, and started this fall as music teacher at Anthem Classical Academy; her music teacher undergrad work was done at Bob Jones University. Managing editor Lou Scataglia also wrote for the Lone Conservative, including an unironic piece entitled "President Trump's Top Ten Tweets" The site writing staff includes Paul Rossi, the teacher who was canned by a private NYC school for accusing the school of indoctrination.

Their Content Producer for K12 Public Education is Stephanie Edmonds, who's an interesting choice. Edmonds has quite the track record, most recently scoring lots of press for her anti-vax martyr stance that she says is deeply rooted in her Jewish faith (did she also refuse her other vaccination requirement for teachers). Before that she was heavily open the schools (because a vaccine is available). She has a big brand online, complete with an occasional Bronx accent, with folks occasionally called on her stuff and pointing out that she's from Connecticut's Gold Coast. She started teaching in 2016, so she fits the age group here. When she lost her job over her anti-vax stance, Chalkboard Review set up a Go Fund Me for her, after which they apparently decided to give her a job. 

Fifth hint. Following the founders podcast appearances, we find items like Tony Kinnett appearing on a podcast to tout the new site. It's not so much "let's have a diverse conversation" as touting a "new website that will counter the lies spewed by teachers union-dominated educational media."

Let me be clear--there is absolutely nothing wrong with some right-wing twenty-somethings getting together to get on the interwebz and advocate for their views about a cause. They mostly seem sincere enough, if not exactly well-informed on the subject. What they clearly are not is balanced or diverse in their perspective--which again is absolutely their right, but I just wish they went ahead and owned their rightward tilt as clearly as they do over at their various other projects. 

Pretending to be a source for balanced and diverse viewpoints on education has been a popular strategy since these folks were on a grade school playground. They clearly know what they're here to do (basically pick up the mantle of the original Education Post) and they might as well own it. When you lie about what you intend to talk about, you call into question everything you decide to say. 

*As always, I include links so you can check my work if you don't believe me, but I don't endorse sending this site more traffic.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Dear Substitute-Desperate Districts. What Are You Doing About It?

There's a great deal of hollering about the lack of substitute teachers. Like the challenge of filling regular teaching positions, this is not a new problem, but the pandemic has exacerbated it considerably. Everywhere you turn, you can find administrators bemoaning their lack of subs.

But if you are one of these administrators, what are you actually doing about it?

Are you raising sub pay? Sub pay is notoriously lousy, particularly if you're hiring them via some substitute or temp service. I started out substitute teaching in 1980; sub pay in local districts has risen about $25 since then. When you factor in the lack of benefits, it's impossible to make a living substitute teaching and the pool from Way Back In The Day (Moms of school-age kids who wanted a little grocery money) is gone. 

Are you tapping the available talent pool? Michigan just sent out a letter to retired teachers, which seems sensible. I'm a recent retiree, but I have yet to get a single request to consider heading back into the classroom. It's not that I'm in any hurry to go back, but if one were looking for subs, wouldn't it make sense to see if you could guilt some retired educators into helping out. They'd have the added feature of already knowing the drill.

Are you making sure your schools are safe? Let's say you're someone who subs in addition to another job to make ends meet (my wife started out substitute teaching and waitressing). You do a day of subbing, then find that one of the 150 students you were around has tested positive for covid--now, depending on your locale and integrity, you lose two weeks of work at both jobs, a pay cut you can't really afford. Too many districts have taken the position that they can just half-ass safety precautions (unenforced masking, no ventilation improvements, crowded classes, etc) and teachers will come to work anyway. But subs, because they don't (aka can't) count on the work to make a living, are volunteers, and if it doesn't seem safe to be in your building, they can choose to not.

Have you lowered the bar? Are you still requiring all sorts of hoop jumping to be a substitute? Plenty of states have been lowering the bar for teaching, and Oregon just dropped the bar on the ground for substitutes. Which is one way to increase the sub pool, but you had better have some supports in place for these amateurs, or you're going to create more problems than you solve.

Have you invited the big wigs? Friend of the Institute Steven Singer has proposed that all those lawmakers so Deeply Concerned about What Is Being Taught In The Classroom can get a first-hand look even as they help solve the subbing problem. I fully endorse this idea.

Have you gotten out there yourself? At this stage of the game, I am kind of amazed to hear from districts where administrators still haven't stepped up to take over classrooms. This is not a small thing. When a classroom stands open because there's no sub, administrators are making a statement, a choice. Sure, they have work to do, but when they cover a missing sub by dragging teachers away from clerical work periods or other assignments, or just cancel the subless class, they are telling the staff "What I do in my office is actually more important than what you teachers do in your classrooms. Administrators who do sub duty are making an important statement, as well as showing that they're willing to get in there shoulder to shoulder with their staff. 

Finally, are you actually doing something? Because sitting in your office and wishing that subs would suddenly appear is not actually doing something. Complaining that nobody is signing up to sub is not doing something. Some districts are terrible at communication (pro tip: just because everyone in your building knows X does not mean that everyone in your community also knows X); this is carrying over into the sub problem.

Remember--it is not a substitute shortage. There are literally thousands of people in your community who could be substitute teachers, if only you gave them convincing reasons to choose to do so. Your problem is the same as many employers bemoaning staffing problems right now; it's no use complaining that people ought to work, but instead, you need to answer the question "Why should somebody want to do this job for you?"

(Also--radical thought-- if you just hired full time substitutes with full pay and benefits, you'd have handy subs every single day. Of course, that would cost money...)

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Nevada Family Alliance Still Pro-Cameras, Anti-Irony

Remember Nevada Family Alliance, the activist group that may or may not just be one person with some software and a wifi connection, and that one person, a lady named Karen England, may or many not be a big ole scam artist.

I'm still on NFA's mailing list, and my last check-in from my friend Karen, whose latest email is just loaded with stuff. Well, three stuffs. Let's take them one at a time, because she certainly captures some features of the current anti-stuff panic.

First, she wants you to know that she has a map of all the places where teachers have signed the Zinn pledge to Teach Bad Things No Matter What. That includes a link to the list to the names of Nevada teachers on the naughty list, which is actually a link to the website Cameras in the Classroom. It's a dumb idea, but it's been the one way that England has broken through to some larger coverage. It's her thing. And she assures us that this is supported by Russ Vought. Vought was director of the office of management and budget 2020-2021 under Trump. He used to work for the Heritage Foundation, but these days he runs Citizens for Renewing America, one more Trumpy critical race theory panic group. Also signing on are Mark Levin (who has featured NFA on his radio show), Becky Norton Dunlop (Heritage Foundation), Charles Cooper (founder of a "leading litigation boutique") and Brandon Zehm (tech bro). More coming soon, the website assures us.

The website further warns us about cultural Marxism, the attempt to start a race war, and offers this irony-free quote from England, this time in her capacity as executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute, another of England's anti-Progressive groups. Anyway, here's why we need cameras in the classroom-

Every day we are told of another incident where a teacher is violating the privacy of a student or contradicting the lessons taught by parents at home.

You know what would really violate the privacy of a student? Having a video record of everything they did in school. Imagine some parent deciding that your kid is causing problems for their kid in school, and demanding to see what your kid has been doing in class. Yikes.

Anyway, we came to this site so we could look up exactly which teachers, by name, are Indoctrinating Our Children. However, to see the map/database, the site requires you to give up your name, email, and zip code. Almost as if this is a data gathering exercise rather than an attempt to liberate our children.

So, second item in the email. An item about the 17 state attorneys general who wrote to Joe Biden and Merrick Garland to protest the targeting of parents at school board meetings. 

"Your recent action seeks to chill lawful dissent by parents voiced during local school board meetings by characterizing them as unlawful and threatening," the attorneys general wrote in the letter.

While I have some misgivings about the AG's action, but at least it's not as if they made a website where you could look up the individual names of misbehaving school board members with an exhortation to "double down" and let them know they can't get away with what they're doing. 

Irony is so dead, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to hear complaints about "cancel culture" from any of these groups ever again.

Part three? That is, of course, the plea for money. "Please Join with NFA," she says, because they "relies solely on the generous giving from people like you and from the many churches and organizations that support us." That link takes you right to their Square site.

The address for NFA is the same as that of Capitol Resource Institute; an office building in Sacramento, CA. Nevada Family Alliance's website URL is actually There's a whole England trail that leads back to her failed attempt to commandeer GOP politics in California. 

It's such an unprincipled mess. Don't try to chill expression on our side while we try to put your side in a deep freeze. Privacy for me, but not for thee (and not for me, either, if I thought this through for even fifteen seconds). 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

PA: Another CRT Panic Tale

 So here's a story from my corner of the state that tells you how far the "critical race theory" panic has seeped into the ordinary operations of school districts.

Penncrest School District  is located in the NW corner of the state, located mostly in Crawford County. It's a mid-sized (around 3500 students K-12) district that was stitched together out of several very small rural districts

The district pops up in the news occasionally, most recently in May of this year when two board members got in a Facebook flap over a collection of LGBTQ+ books displayed at the Maplewood High School Library. Board member David Valesky posted:

Besides the point of being totally evil, this is not what we need to be teaching kids. They aren't at school to be brainwashed into thinking homosexuality is okay. Its [sic] actually being promoted to the point where it's even 'cool'.

Board member Jeff Brooks responded 

There have always been gay students in our hallways. And unfortunately there have always been hateful voices looking to discriminate against them. Let's just be a little better today and not make kids [sic] lives worse by being hateful, bigoted and prejudiced.

Valesky later told the local newspaper that "he was against the school 'pushing' such topics onto the students," and that schools shouldn't have anything to do with "kids determining their sex or who they should be interested in." Brooks expressed his opposition to censoring books at school and that schools "need to be a safe place."

So their board is used to some argument over issues. 

Fast forward to this month. High school English teacher Stacey Hetrick has gotten a spot as a presenter at the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts conference. It's a great privilege, and the conference itself is a great professional builder. The conference is on Friday and Saturday in Harrisburg; Hetrick wanted the board to approve a day off to attend on Friday. She was paying her own registration for the conference; her presentation was entitled "Using audio analysis to maximize independent reading time."

But David Valesky had dug through the schedule for the conference and didn't like what he saw. Like any such conference, the gathering included multiple session offerings in time slots throughout the two days. These concurrent sessions include a wide variety of selections, from "How do I foster a growth mindset" to "Teaching with poetry." But one of the five threads in the conference deals with "social justice movements in literacy education," and that included some sessions that alarmed Valesky, like "Building an anti-racist lens in your classroom" and "Elevating diversity starting with the traditional curriculum."

The Penncrest Board is currently considering a policy to ban what it imagines to be critical race theory from the district. So Valesky was primed to spot tell-tale signs.

“Obviously, the entire thing is laced with aspects of critical race theory,” he said. “That’s not what English is for.”

Valesky's old pal Brooks noted that having a teacher learn about anti-racism "might be worth our time."

The board denied her request 5-4.

Note--this is not a CRT anti-racism conference. It's just a conference at which many, many topics will be discussed, anti-racism and diversity among them. But five members of the board couldn't bear to even have Hetrick in the same building as these dreaded ideas. 

They could have congratulated her on being selected to present and told her to make the district proud. They could have, I suppose, tried to forbid her to attend any of the naughty presentations. They could even have weaseled around the issue by simply saying (as many districts would) that it's too hard to get subs on Fridays and therefor they couldn't give her release time. But instead they did this.

Members on the losing side were angry. Robert Gulick was one of the four:

“I have never been more disappointed in this school board in my entire career, four years of being on this school board, and I have never been more disappointed about the overreaction, about the craziness, the insanity,” he said.

Hetrick had no comment for the paper, and did not indicate whether or not she would attend the conference, but she's no longer listed on the schedule.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Let Me Propose A New Teacher Pay System

One feature of modern ed reform over the last couple of decades has been the attempt to "disrupt" teacher pay. I have an idea, or at least a thought experiment.

Many education disruptors have noted that it seems unfair to pay "good" teachers and "bad" teachers the same amount. To be honest, that thought has occurred to one or two teachers as well. Meanwhile, not a day goes by that some civilian doesn't argue that teachers only work nine months out of the year, so they should get lousy pay.

A variety of alternatives have been proposed and tried. Attempts to link pay to quality flounder because there is no reliable objective way to measure teacher quality so we end up with systems that link teacher pay to test score, resulting in an unfair, complicated, demoralizing mess. Merit pay bonuses are great except that 1) they're invariably tied to a really low base pay and 2) they never work. Also, see above problems with measuring merit. And the problem behind all of these stabs at teacher pay systems is that the goal is to reduce total personnel costs for a school. 

That personnel cost level drives some people from the business world crazy. My district had a board member years ago who ran a concrete business, and the high percentage of district expense that went to personnel drove him crazy, because in private industry, that's just not how it works. 

But if our goal was to come up with a better way to pay teachers, and not just cut costs, I think I've got one. And I stole it from the legal profession.

Billable hours.

Teaching in a classroom? Billable time. Grading papers at home? Billable time. Research and development of lesson plans? Billable time.

Teachers would have to get over the loss of being salaried employees, but school districts would have to start thinking about what they're actually paying for instead of operating on the assumption that if teachers aren't in front of students, they aren't Doing Any Work. 

It would require administrators to be more thoughtful about how they waste teacher time. Want to have forty-seven after school meetings, or drag teachers into pointless PD sessions? Fine--but you have to pay for it. Need teachers to show up before actual report time in order take care of morning clerical stuff? Pay for it. Want a teacher to watch a study hall or patrol the parking lot? Sure--but you'll pay for it. Maybe you'd rather hire some lower-cost personnel to cover non-teaching duties.

Paying a higher hourly rate for experienced teachers makes sense, because experience leads to greater efficiency-- an experienced teacher gets more done in an hour than they did when starting out.

For teachers, this would give some control over their own personal and professional lives, because they get to decide about the trade-off. Now we have a system where teachers are told to feel an obligation to give their infinite all in exchange for a flat rate. Under a billable hours system, you can still decide to give up your weekend to read about the influence of Poe on modern gothic literature, but you make the choice knowing you will get paid for it instead of simply doing it to try to fight off a heavy blanket of guilt. 

Could a system like this be gamed? Sure--but from a district point of view, this is a plus. To game the current system, a teacher just does less (like my not-very-respected previous colleague who never, ever took a piece of paper home). To game a billable hours system, a teacher would have to do more work--a win for the district.

Would districts be incentivized to screw over older, more expensive teachers? Probably--but we're living in that world already. Would some teachers hate the idea of having to punch a clock? Probably. Personally, I'd still have liked knowing that I wasn't donating hour after hour for free.

There would be critical nuts and bolts to work out, like a reasonable hourly rate--that part would be huge, because this system must not end up requiring teachers to bill 100 hours a week just to make a living wage. How to pay coaches and extracurricular advisors, who currently make anywhere from $100 to $0.02 an hour. Monitoring the hours in a way that provides accountability without treating teachers like children (always a challenge for the education system). And maybe a way to index the hours to other factors, like, say, number of students in a class. Teacher contracts would have to be changed to a model that contracts for a certain base number of hours.

The big drawback for districts would be giving up what they quietly love about traditional teacher pay grids-- being able to know fairly precisely what next year's personnel costs will be. Billable hours would make that figure a little harder to predict. And, if cutting personnel costs is your goal, well, it would not reduce personnel costs at all.

But for teachers? More control of your life. Bosses forced to respect your time (if not you). 

I'm not expecting anyone to try this any time soon, and it's in no way a perfect set up, but it's fun to think about. If someone in your neighborhood has done more than think about it, please let me know.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

ICYMI: Days Of Rage Edition (10/17)

The anti-crt movement is rapidly changing form into the anti-public education movement. Well, maybe not so much changing as revealing. Things are heating up across the country, and this week was a big week for reads in the Big People Media. 

Enrollment jumps in charter schools--with biggest gains in the worst sector

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post hosts Carol Burris. Charter schools were earlier this year boasting about their huge pandemic gains. Turns out that those gains were overwhelmingly in the cyber-school sector, the well-documented mostly-failing part of the charter world.

This virtual classroom company made millions during the pandemic while students languished

Buzzfeed, of all places, has a blunt takedown of Edgenuity, the 800 pound gorilla of online education, and how badly they fail to provide what they promise.

Moms for Liberty and "parents rights"

A Washington Post piece about one of the momming groups that really captures how critical race theory is now in the rear-view mirror as they start agitating for conservative control of public education.

When parents scream at school board meetings, how can I teach their children?

NY teacher of the year Jennifer Wolfe looks at the fallout from raging parents

With equity resolution, Birmingham schools push back against state critical race theory ban.

A few districts are displaying some spine and resolution. It remains to be seen how this plays out, but it looks as if Birmingham schools have elected to be on the front lines. From

The Great Resignation Is Accelerating

Derek Thompson for the Atlantic, looking at how millions in the country are just dropping out and walking away. 

The 'Great Resignation' is finally getting companies to take burnout seriously. Is it enough?

Jamie Ducharme at Time magazine takes a look at how business is adjusting (or not) to the great walkaway.

Williamston parents upset about plan to give kids library cards

Well, there's a headline that doesn't bode well. This particular story is from Michigan. Keep them books away from them kids!

The early history of edtech

If you still haven't gotten a copy of Audrey Watters's Teaching Machines, you need to get that done. But in the meantime, here's an excerpt from the book at Edutopia.

Texas school district reinstates book by Black author amid critical race theory claims

More Texas mess. On the one hand, the story has a happy-ish ending. On the other hand, why was this ever even a thing in the first place?

Ohio state education board repeals anti-racism resolution

Jan Resseger has some bad news from Ohio, where the state board has decided not to be against racism after all.

"The Truth About Reading" is missing truths and backstory

Nancy Bailey takes a look at an upcoming documentary about reading--and what it doesn't include.

The Book We Need Now

Nancy Flanagan has read Clint Smith's book, and she's here to explain why you should, too

Saturday, October 16, 2021

NC: Further Suppressing Education

North Carolina has not been a great state for education for many years, and as the fight over all the things lumped under the banner of "critical race theory" has heated up, they've been doing their part to fan the flames.

Lt. Governor Mark Robinson set up a website to collect reports of naughty indoctrinatin' going on, then issued a report that seemed more interested in buttressing a pre-selected agenda than taking a look at what they had actually collected. Bad stuff, the task force alleged, was rampant out there.

So the Johnston County Board of Commissioners decided to take action. That matters because in North Carolina, thanks to a Depression-era law, the state pays for operating the schools, and the county pays for the buildings and other facilities. School districts cannot levy taxes or raise their own money. Which means that state and county government have considerable say in how schools are run.

In June, Johnston County's Board of Commissioners decided they had thoughts about the teaching of indoctrinaty stuff in the county schools. The board decided they would withhold $7.9 million in funding until the school district banned critical race theory. 

They tried. In July the revised the code of ethics to say “instructional staff and other school system employees will not utilize methods or materials that would create division or promote animosity amongst students, staff and the community." Johnston County school board meetings were hit with protests, including a "visit" from Rep. Madison Cawthorne urging them "to stand up to [Governor] Roy Cooper" and reverse their mask mandate. Cooper has been blocking legislative attempts at gag laws for schools.

So they tried again. And came up with one of the more repressive, China-re-education-camp-style policies in the country. Here's how it comes across in the News Observer

The new Johnston policy tells teachers not to undermine foundational documents, which include the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. 

“All people deserve full credit and recognition for their struggles and accomplishments throughout United States history,” the policy says. “The United States foundational documents shall not be undermined. 

“No employee of Johnston County Schools will make any attempt to discredit the efforts made by all people using foundational documents for reform.”

There's more.

The policy also tackles the sensitive topic about how to teach about historical figures. “All people who contributed to American Society will be recognized and presented as reformists, innovators and heroes to our culture,” according to the policy.

Every historical figure is a hero??!! Andrew Jackson? Great guy. Aaron Burr? Heck of a fella. Presumably all of the founders were very heroic in how they held slaves. What possible educational benefit can there be to requiring schools to teach two-dimensional versions of our very human forebears? 


The policy says “teachers will instruct and educate students about legal policies and avenues of actions.” The policy also says its goal “is to foster positive relationships between our students and the local government entities who provide services to their community.”

“Any group who encourages students to act outside of the law, places this relationship in peril, and is not productive to the goal of Social Responsibility,” the policy says.

Two thoughts. First, I am repeatedly amazed at the magical powers that some folks believe teachers have. Second, what requirements will be placed on local government entities to help foster these relationships.

It's worth noting that not all of the commissioners were on board with this extortion-based curriculum development plan. Said Commissioner Tony Braswell, "We were outside what I think our lane is." Yes, that's correct. And it's worth noting that this sort of propaganda, this Only Good Stuff version of history that the commissioners dragged out of the district in the name of promoting patriotism, and which Commissioner Ted Godwin called "as basic as Mom, the flag, and apple pie," is the kind of thing we would expect from China or North Korea. It's bad education, bad history and bad patriotism. It's terrible policy, and a terrible way to get policy implemented. Here's hoping that teachers in the district ignore it.