ConversationED Thu, 29 Oct 2015 14:19:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 “High Expectations” and the Criminalization of America’s Students Thu, 29 Oct 2015 14:14:32 +0000 By now most of us have seen the video of the resource officer using brute force to yank a female student out of her desk. Appalling, most agree. But this country has been criminalizing students, if not violently, inhumanely and subtly, in their schools for a long time. Why do Americans put up with it?

They have permitted this to happen through arbitrary “no excuses” zero tolerance rules.

Wiki defines zero tolerance as a policy of punishing any infraction of a rule, regardless of accidental mistakes, ignorance, or extenuating circumstances. In schools, common zero-tolerance policies concern possession or use of illicit drugs or weapons. Students, and sometimes staff, parents, and other visitors, who possess a banned item for any reason are always (if the policy is followed) to be punished.

For starters, in 1994, before the sad event at Columbine, zero tolerance was put into place to curb school gun violence and drugs. If you’re a parent you know the mere mention of guns and schools scares you to death. So getting a resource officer for the school sounds like a good bet—an added measure of protection.

In most places, school resource officers are good people who blend in with the school administration. In the middle and high schools where I worked, the resource officers worked closely with the school counselors. As teachers, we knew they were there if you needed them, but most students saw them, if not as friends, as just another administrator.

School resource officers in many places began pairing with elementary schools with the controversial program DARE which was also supposed to deter students from drugs.

But zero tolerance, while it should do what it was designed for, began being used to punish students, even very young students, for minor offenses. Some of the punishments border on the bizarre and had nothing to do with guns or drugs.

Here’s a few examples From a Huff Post article by John W. Whitehead “Zero Tolerance Schools Discipline Without Wiggle Room.”

  • A high school sophomore was suspended for violating the school’s no-cell-phone policy after he took a call from his father, a master sergeant in the U.S military. 
  • A 12-year-old New York student was hauled out of school in handcuffs for doodling on her desk with an erasable marker. 
  • In Houston, an eighth grader was suspended for wearing rosary beads to school in memory of her grandmother (the school has a zero tolerance policy against the rosary, which the school insists can be interpreted as a sign of gang involvement). 
  • Six-year-old Cub Scout Zachary Christie was sentenced to 45 days in reform school after bringing a camping utensil to school that can serve as a fork, knife or spoon.

Professors William Lyons and Julie Drew wrote a book called Punishing Schools: Fear and Citizenship in American Public Education. They start out with this:

We had witnessed fifty young people being told to relinquish their property for inspection and to stand quietly against a wall. We had watched several physically intimidating men wearing military uniforms and haircuts, combat boots and radios, with visible weapons and huge eager German Shepherds straining on short leashes, search that property for contraband. We stood by while one of these men and his dog searched the bodies of students, who said nothing and did as they were told. No one appeared afraid—except us.

Here are a few others:

  • In 2001, a month after 9-11, a fifth grader was suspended after drawing a picture of the World Trade Center attack. The child, who had Asperger’s syndrome, smiled while showing the picture. The school principal claimed the boy had also stuck a paper airplane on one of the towers. He suspended the child due to “disruptive physical conduct or speech” rule. The father argued that instead of suspending the child, the administration could have let the child speak to a school guidance counselor.
  • In 2003, school officials strip-searched 13-year-old Savana Redding, after finding some ibuprofen in a school planner Savana lent another student. They searched Savana’s backpack and found nothing. So the school nurse and assistant principal made her undress to her underwear and pull out her bra and panties to see if any of the pain reliever fell out. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court vindicated Savana based on the Fourth Amendment.
  • In Minneapolis-St. Paul, a student accidently left a box cutter used at his after school grocery store job in his car. It posed no threat, but a security guard saw it and the school suspended the student for 10 days. Up until that point the student had a flawless record.

I wrote a book a few years back and have a whole chapter on this stuff. Unfortunately, there are many more examples.

The way zero tolerance is used today is to deny children their basic right to be human—to make mistakes. And by not giving students a chance to explain their mistakes, they are treated abysmally.

This attitude, that children should behave perfectly in their schools—that they must never step off the line—permeates into the classroom.

Think about the strictness found in some charter schools where students must be robotic in their responses, where they are treated stricter than soldiers in the military, or prisoners in jail.

The new teacher training by those who never studied child development or behavior is all about control—keeping children in line. In today’s data-driven schools, the new fast-track teachers and so-called leaders care about outward appearances, not a child’s inside distress. They reject studying about behavior and development and about the problems facing children.

But if we were to zoom out and broadly look at schooling today, we would also see a general scorn for children—a meanness that commands but does not deal with a child’s troubling behavior.

There is a difference in dealing with challenging behavior and controlling it. Control means children learn nothing about how to be real human beings with feelings. Their feelings are not valued and they learn nothing about their mistakes. Instead, they learn about tactics for enforcement, because it is the enforcement that matters—not the child.

Certainly, school administrators want to ensure student safety. But all of these actions make me wonder whatever happened to all the “high expectation” talk?

Instead of high expectation, there is fear and loathing. And it leaves students and parents so frightened of public schools that they will run away from them if they can.

As far as the student who was assaulted in the video—did anyone think to ignore her bad behavior until after class was over? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know if that would have worked.

I will be the first to tell you, that dealing with students with behavioral issues is tough and like most teachers the answers don’t come easily.

In fact, working with troubled students is one of the most difficult challenges in our schools today. But it should never result in violence, and officials must always remember that behind the behavior usually there is a frightened kid who wants acceptance and to be heard.

We need to return to schools that honestly care more about the children, and that won’t happen until real educators, who study and understand children, who learn how to treat them appropriately and with respect, get control of their public schools again.

Lyons, William and Julie Drew. Punishing Schools: Fear and Citizenship in American Public Education. (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2006), 3-4.

Huchet, Charles G. “Zero Tolerance=Zero Thinking=Zero Sense: A School Policy That Places Our Kids at Risk. The Source. Winter 2001.

ACLU Confronts Criminalization of Children. Civil Liberties: The American Civil Liberties Union National Newsletter. Summer 2009.

Bailey, Nancy. Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students.(Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2013), 95.


Nancy Bailey is an education activist and a former special education teacher.  Her book is titled Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students.  Her blog is Catch up with her on twitter @NancyEBailley1

]]> 0

The Parent Power movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Still, our so-called “leaders” are employing a variety of methods to stave off the inevitable. Embattled leaders seldom read their situations accurately. Hubris is a blinding malady, and the Republican leaders in the Florida legislature are blind indeed.

Aptly named Florida House Rep. Marlene O’Toole, the House Education Committee chair, essentially told everyone listening (and there were lots of us) that Opting Out is not an option, and that if we didn’t like it, to just go enroll our kids in private schools. Said O’Toole to reporters after the committee held one of its infamous predetermined outcome meetings Friday:

“In public school … you cannot opt out of the tests,”  “Every child must have a test. As a parent, if I don’t want to do that … I have the option to take my child and put them in a private school.”

First off, why did she choose to use the first person in her blithering statement? O’Toole, born February 18, 1945, definitely does not have any children in a Florida public school. That alone is a huge problem. We have an entire corps of corporatizers and their cronies attempting to run over the will of school parents across the state of Florida, and they have zero stake in public schools whatsoever other than imploding the entire system in order to line their pockets.

Secondly, she said, “Every child must have a test.” We’re not talking about a test. We’re talking about a very shitty test. We’re talking about too many tests. We’re talking about public education being hijacked by tests.

Back to that pocket-lining thing:

Let’s examine O’Toole:  According to Lauren Ritchie of the Orlando Sentinel, O’Toole admitted that she violated Florida’s ethics laws back in March of this year, but not before a lengthy bout of bullshit on her part. The law she broke is the one that requires a lawmaker to disclose when voting on a measure that will put money in his or her own pocket. O’Toole voted several times to give public money to the “nonprofit” organization Take Stock in Children while in its employ. So-called “nonprofits,” especially the sort that employ political cronies to serve as officers or members of their boards, often serve as little more than big salary vehicles for the influential. In O’Toole’s case (how I love her perfect name!) she was on the payroll to the tune of $50,000 while voting on acts to give the same organization money. That makes her a criminal.

To be clear, Florida isn’t exactly a government ethics rules powerhouse. In fact, Florida has some of the most pitiful ethics rules in the whole country. You have to be a real screw-up to violate them, and violate them she did. She wasn’t even required to sit out the vote; she just had to be honest about her dealings with Take Stock in Children. She chose the opposite.  That makes her an abject liar.

Lawmakin’ Legg

State senator John Legg says that we ought to just get over it. Seriously, there are very few Florida politicians who come even remotely close to him in being artfully deceitful. Every dog has his day. His day is coming. Ol’ JohnnyBoy, like his good buddie Richie Corcoran over in the Florida House, stands to make a whole lot of money if he and his charter chums can just get Florida public education to collapse under the weight of all the assessments they have imposed. Regarding Florida’s school grading sham-scam, Johnny says that the legislature’s hands are tied because it can’t vote until January, and Pam Stewart’s Department of Miseducation is bound by statute to issue school grades in December.  Are we to believe that the legislature has tied its own hands, in effect forbidding itself from prescribing an antidote to this latest legislative clusterfuck? Johnny wants us to.  This guy is so full of audacious pretentiousness that he can’t see the peasants, oops, parents gathering pitchforks and axe handles.

Stewart the Stool

Truth be told, Stewart herself is flouting her own responsibility in this big rotten mess. She has played the part of innocent observer for most of the duration of the FSA saga, loathe to utter a word before first checking with her corporatizing handlers in the legislature. She’s a fit and proper toad, and takes ass-kissing for fun and profit to an entirely new level. With administrative law authority, she has the power to cite gross irregularities in both the content and administration of last year’s FSA debacle and declare it too unsound to base school grades on. That is her authority.  She won’t do that, however, because the scoundrels in the legislature need someone to point their fingers at when they say that they are powerless to fix this massive fuck-up.   Towards the end of the kangaroo court education committee hearing today, you can see Reggie Fullwood’s surprise when O’Toole brazenly takes the floor from Stewart and issues her own stupefying rant of anti-Opt Out rhetoric. When she was finished, Stewart laid a big verbal smooch right on usurper O’Toole’s backside, as if she really needed to prove to us just who she takes her orders from.

It also turns out that Stewart and her fellow minions had a look at the recent “validity study” and were able to make suggestions about the final product before it was issued to the peasants (damn!) public. That alone ought to invalidate the whole charade. Where in God’s name is the Department of Justice? I guess in the case of Florida, it would be the FDLE, and it’s quite obvious to any casual observer that those folks don’t bother with government.

It Damn Sure Ain’t Over

O’Toole, like most overconfident despots, seemed to foolishly believe that she had, in all her capital-criminal might, put the matter to rest once and for all, and actually issued a sort of admonition to the rest of the committee that, (after a nauseating mono-drone-on-and-on-blah-blah-blah-listen-to-me-talk-soliloquy) “Cause dat’s what we have to say as a group.”

Cindy Hamilton, the mother of an Orange County high school senior and the leader of Opt Out Orlandodisputed the officials’ arguments that refusing the tests is illegal.

From Politico Florida:

Students’ participation in the testing is required by law, she said. But parents who have joined the protest have largely instructed their children to sit for the test — thereby participating — and simply refuse to answer any questions.
Hamilton said the opt-out movement is a form of civil disobedience, and that “we are not asking permission.”
“Basically what she said was, ‘Comply or get out,’” Hamilton said. “That’s a threat to all citizens of Florida. Public schools belong to the public, and we’re going to take our schools back. We’re not planning to leave.”
If you are a public school parent and you share our revulsion at a state government that is bent beyond redemption on testing your child’s school right out of existence, then go to The Florida Opt Out Network and get in the fight! The testing terrorists are on the ropes and they’re starting to squirm in their big, cushy, leather committee chairs.

PW-Withering is a writer for ConversationED. Check out PW’s website here for more edgy commentary on education issues.


]]> 0
6 ways market-based education reform has destroyed public education and how we can fix it. Sun, 06 Sep 2015 16:14:48 +0000 “The market will solve our education problems!” was the rallying cry of every education reformer since 2001. If we just allow standards, accountability, consequences, choice and competition to work their magic, our capitalist economy would do what it does best – push bad products down the drain and allow the best of the best to rise to the top. For education this meant the bad schools would fail and become obsolete, and the good schools would donate and continue to thrive.

Market-based education reform was the silver bullet.

However, the market is a tricky thing when applied to an institution where people are the inputs and outputs. And it wasn’t long before market-based reform started to crash and burn.

Even after his market-based policies weren’t working out, President George W. Bush touted No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2011 speech to the US Chamber’s Small Business Summit. “You measure everyday, that’s why you’re successful business people,” he said. “I mean, you know what your business is doing. I believe we should extend that same principle to our public schools.”

Watch the 56 sec video clip here

And he did apply that principle to US public schools. However, by the time Bush gave that speech to the US Chamber, NCLB had been failing for 10 years. But it wasn’t from lack of high standards.  In fact, Bush set a very high standard for his own education reform, when he outlined his NCLB policy goals. One goal in particular, was the most audacious objective ever set in education. He proclaimed that because of NCLB, 100% of US students would read on grade level by the school year 2013-2014. Not only was that goal unrealistic, but it was statistically impossible. He and his reformers moved forward anyway. 

The 2013-2014 school year has come and gone, and in many states over 50% of students are failing the reading portion of their high-stakes assessments every year. Some studies claim the achievement gap is wider than ever before. 

That didn’t stop more market-based reforms. President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top (RTTT)  was the same philosophy, different jingle. His ambition was that competition and reward – two aspects of the market economy – would motive teachers and students to do better on tests. Instead, President Obama’s RTTT only exacerbated an already failing NCLB 

Politicians go to business summits to talk education policy. However, educators do actual research and access academic journals to study the problems with market-based school reform. Here are just a few reform failures featured in academic, researched-based publications over the last couple of years.

1. Goodhart’s Law

Good economists will the remember Goodhart’s Law when making policy. Charles Goodhart was a famous economist, who warned, “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” And in an article in the Peabody Journal of Education, O’Neill (2013) refers to this while he examined market-based education reform. The measure (the test) has become the target, and educators chase that target. The results are disastrous for the learning environment. Teachers, who are understandably worried about accountability measures, teach to the test. In turn, schools become test prep factories rather than institutions for learning. Students become focused on the target as well. Students become test taking drones, while critical thinking is compromised. Goodhart’s Law is in full effect in many of today’s schools.

2. Education Industrial Complex 

People have been trying to figure out a way to make money off education for many years. Market-based reform has made that possible. In an article for the Anthropology Education Journal, Yang (2010) calls education reform an industrial complex and targets anyone who profits from it as being part of the problem. Obviously he means testing companies and publishers who develop the curriculum and assessments.  However, Yang (2010) goes further to include, “all the private tutoring companies that profit from Title I schools; all the people in the academy who receive federal grants to study the achievement gap as if it were a phenomenon that exists outside of the logic of public schooling; all the non-profit educational consultants who coach schools into doing more with fewer resources,; all the grant makers who tie test scores to their giving; and finally, all the teachers who pay to be credentialed” (Yang 2010, p. 145). Even worse, the education industrial complex has turned students into commodities.

3. A Giant Bricolage 

School leaders will do anything to achieve in this market-based, data driven environment. Principals and assistant principals spend their days chasing a target usually communicated as a school grade. Koyama (2014) asserts, under the immense pressure of accountability, principals strived to achieve by using bricolage – whatever comes to hand, such as intensive reading programs, test prep, data mining, professional development, and even an extra quarter of school in some cases.  Unfortunately, these efforts have done little to move the student achievement meter. Even worse, teachers feel less supported by administrators than ever before and are leaving in droves.

4. Exodus

While administrators are breaking their backs trying to negotiate the demands of the state and achieve the almighty A+ school grade, their teachers are walking out the back door. The Alliance for Excellence in Education detailed in their report, On the Path to Equity: Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers, that half of new teachers leave the profession before year 5. In a recent article in the Atlantic, Barnwell (2015) a teacher in an urban school district, described his exodus from k-12 education as being caused by incessant demands of accountability and assessments by the state. When teachers are asked about why the are leaving, they typically cite lack of support by administrators, and the fact they can’t be creative because of the demands for accountability. 

5. The Death of the Intern

Market-based competition in schools is also hurting College of Education (COE) programs. In fact, the Dean of the COE at Purdue University – Maryann Santos de Barona – described market-based reform as the reason colleges of education have so many problems working with teachers and administrators in public schools. “Teachers and administrators are reluctant to let our faculty research in their classrooms, as this represents a risk that might impact test scores,” Santos de Barona said. Most COE professors will confirm, an intern friendly environment is hard to find these days when teachers’ paychecks and evaluations depend on student test scores. 

6. Joy has become obsolete 

This is rarely talked about in academic journals and never addressed in policy circles, but it’s certainly worth mentioning here. Joyful is not a popular word public school teachers use when describing their jobs these days. Happy is not a feeling students experience when they get off the bus and head into a public school building. Unfortunately, the focus on the target the market-based approach enforces has sucked even the smallest amount of joy left in the teaching and learning experience. Teaching and learning for the sake of teaching and learning no longer exists. If it can’t be measured or tied back to a standard, it isn’t happening in schools. 

Not all is lost, however.

This can all be fixed by focusing on the learning experience rather than focusing on the target. In addition, schools should be recognized as learning institutions rather than warehouses and factories for big businesses to make profits. Also, all high-stakes must be removed from learning. Once students know they can learn without consequence, student engagement will increase. Teachers should be trusted to do their jobs without unrealistic evaluations and accountability measures looming in the background.  And finally, joy can fix just about anything; bring back joy in schools because amazing things happen when people are happy.

Remember when you pledge, we can keep going. Donating means you value our work. Please consider a monthly pledge. Thank you so very much!

Pledge Options


Barnwell, P. (2015, May 27). The Ongoing Struggle of Teacher Retention. The Atlantic. Retrieved May 28, 2015, from

Bangert, D. (2015, May 27). Awkward … Ed reform called out at Purdue. JConline – The Lafayette Journal and Courier. Retrieved May 28, 2015, from

Hayes, M. (2014) On the Path to Equity: Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers. Alliance for Excellence in Education

Koyama, J. (2014). Principals as bricoleurs: Making sense and making do in an era of accountability. Educational Administration Quarterly 50(2) 279–304. DOI: 10.1177/0013161X13492796

 O’Neill, O. (2013). Intelligent accountability in education. Oxford Review of Education 39(1) 4-16. DOI: 10.1080/03054985.2013.764761 

Yang, K. W. (2010). Rites to reform: The cultural production of the reformer in urban schools. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 41(2) 144-160. DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1492.2010.01075.x

]]> 0
Prolific Education Researcher Starts ED Think Tank Sun, 06 Sep 2015 10:17:18 +0000 Linda Darling-Hammond, arguably the most prolific educational researcher, has announced she will head up a new education think tank – The Learning Policy Institute.

In the Huffington Post on Thursday Darling-Hammond said, “It is time to get serious about how to support and enable our education system to respond to the massive changes in learning that some other nation’s systems have been addressing more systemically, with much better results, over the last two decades.”

In 2008, Dr. Darling-Hammond was slotted for the position of US Education Secretary under President Barack Obama. However, even though her qualifications far exceeded Arne Duncan’s, she was passed over at the last minute and the president appointed Mr. Duncan. Linda Darling-Hammond’s credentials are vast and wide and she would have most likely opposed many of the Race to The Top and Common Core initiatives being pushed by politicians and testing executives. So the switch from Darling-Hammond to Duncan was not too surprising.

As a professor at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University, Darling-Hammond has continuously published on the topics of:

  1. Improving teacher professional development to ensure that teachers have the knowledge and skills necessary to teach students with diverse needs.
  2. Making organizational changes within schools to support more intensive learning.
  3. Ensuring that targeted supports and services are available for struggling students.
  4. Conducting classroom assessments that better inform teaching.

She has also helped develop the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the test used to assess the Common Core Standards in some states like California. She has said this about the Common Core Standards:

My view about what we should be doing re: curriculum and assessments can be found in the last chapter of my book, The Flat World and Education, where I describe how many other countries create thoughtful curriculum guidance as part of an integrated teaching and learning system. In short, what I would prefer and what other more deliberative countries do is a careful process by which educators are regularly convened over several years to revise the national or state curriculum expectations (typically national in smaller countries like Finland and Singapore, and state or provincial in large ones like Canada and China). Then there is an equally careful process of developing curriculum materials and assessments (managed by the Ministry or Department of Education with the participation of educators) and organizing intensive professional development. The development process takes at least 3 years and the initial implementation process takes about the same amount of time and deeply involves educators all along the way. Unfortunately, this was not the process that was used to develop and roll out the CCSS.

Darling-Hammond, once the education darling of President Obama, has since come out opposed to the way Race to The Top has pushed for teacher accountability through high-stakes test scores. Her research shows that she is far more concerned for students and teachers rather than test scores.

Darling-Hammond’s Learning Policy Institute will provide necessary research for decision makers to use when imposing policy onto schools. According to Darling-Hammond, The Learning Policy Institute’s agenda will include:

  • Examining effective designs for new schools with structures, curriculum and types of learning that young people will need to thrive in a “radically different, knowledge-based world economy.”
  • Sharing early education programs with strong outcomes so that they can be brought to scale. There is an emerging bipartisan recognition nationally of the importance of early education, she said.
  • Making recommendations and sharing research on how to attract, train and effectively retain the next generation of teachers; California and other states are already experiencing a diminishing supply of prospective teachers.
  • Helping to shape an “equity agenda” that draws attention to the United States’ high rates of child poverty and homelessness and unequal school funding and staffing, compared with other industrialized nations.

Funding for think tanks is typically a concern for those who follow education policy.  The San Francisco-based Sandler Foundation is the lead funder of The Learning Policy Institute, with the Atlantic Philanthropies, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Stuart Foundation also providing initial support for the institute.

While there is excitement among many that someone like Darling-Hammond is going to Washington, some people in the education world are concerned this is just another think tank with motives that may not be aligned with the best interests of students and teachers. In fact, here are just a few responses from parents, teachers and activists about Dr. Darling-Hammond’s new organization.

“Oh, no!…”

“It is being touted by the Superintendent of Public Instruction in CA as well. I’m having the same reaction.””

“Linda Darling-Hammond is a very good educator. Maybe she can change things for the better.”

“I agree and hope so. She’s also a major player behind the Race to the Top initiatives. She’s been a roller coaster. It’s hard to know how to feel about her starting a new major policy initiative. The last time she got involved with that, public education met it’s most destructive policies to date. We’ll see. We need to watch this very closely.”

Indeed people will be watching very closely, especially those who are inside school buildings having to implement and come to terms with current and future education policy.





]]> 0
6 tips for building an awesome resume. Sat, 22 Aug 2015 23:29:59 +0000 Not many things are more depressing than a horribly, put together resume. A resume says something about you. And when I see a pathetic, sad, poor excuse for a resume, I want to cry.

I have written many resumes over the years. However, I have sorted through hundreds more in my career. Some were really bad, most were average, and very few knocked my socks off. But I did take notice of the ones that stood out and I identified key components that all awesome resumes have in common.

One thing to remember when constructing your resume, is that resume building is a skill that must be practiced again and again. So if you’re a high school or college student, who’s just starting out, or if you’re someone getting back into the workforce after a long hiatus, these small but impactful practices go a long way when beginning the resume process.

1. Forget the objective. Don’t put an objective line at the top of your resume or anywhere on your resume for that matter. The act of sending your resume to an employer or to a college is your objective. For example, let’s say you’re sending your resume to obtain a position as a summer camp counselor. Putting the objective: to obtain a position as a camp counselor, is slightly redundant don’t you think? We get it; you want to be a camp counselor. That’s why you’re applying for the job.

2. Use words from the job description in your resume.  Many companies and organizations use automated resume sorting software. Basically, a robot is most likely reading through the hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of resumes at the company where you want to work. That robot selects resumes that have key words from the job description. Only then does the resume get to the boss. So use words from the job description! For example, if the job description says they are looking for someone to organize systems or someone who is meticulous with details, put that in your resume – those exact words. Then the robot will put you in the pile for the boss to read.

3. Tailor your resume. People often make the mistake of using one resume for multiple jobs. You need a different resume for each job you are applying for. Each resume doesn’t have to be completely different. However, if you are following the tip in number two above you need different resumes with different key words. Think about the robot!

4. Have someone, other than you, proof your resume. When you are working on something for a long time, you get used to the mistakes and miss them. In fact, I have come across many resumes with silly grammar and spelling errors. Everyone makes silly grammar and spelling errors. That’s why it’s important to have someone, other than you, proof your writing – preferably, someone who knows how to spell.

5. Spend time. Don’t write your resume in one day. Let it sit for a day and go back to it. I bet you’ll find things you want to change. Time makes things better, especially writing. Give your resume a day and revisit it.

6. Be proud. When writing your resume, get into the frame of mind that you are awesome and this is your chance to show prospective employers how awesome you are. Maybe listen to Beyonce or watch your favorite home run or touchdown before you start your resume. Whatever you need to do, get pumped to show that robot you’re amazing.

If you’re interested in more information about courses we will be offering related to resume building, please click the link below and we will send you a building a badass resume checklist.

Get the Awesome Resume Checklist HERE!

]]> 0
Rosalind Franklin and the discovery of the DNA molecule (Women in Science PODCAST) Fri, 21 Aug 2015 18:57:15 +0000 This week we talk to Glen Upton, fellow science teacher, about the great Rosalind Franklin. She was the woman who helped discover the DNA molecule. Although she received little credit for her contribution to the study of genetics when she was alive, today we celebrate her in this candid conversation about Genetics and women in science.

This podcast is part of our Genetics I Course. Learn more about our courses HERE.

Get Our Interactive Word Wall and Video Tutorial that goes with this Podcast by clicking the button below.
Click Here to Get Instant Access

Be sure to go to to learn more about upcoming courses and information.

]]> 0
I’m not angry anymore. Mon, 10 Aug 2015 17:14:51 +0000 I’ve been angry for two years.

Really angry.

I radiated it. Not just anger, but also frustration and indignation.

When casually asked, “Hey Kathleen!  What have you been up to?” Instead of the standard reply, “Not much. How are you?” I would fly into a full-fledged, red-faced rant about any and all of the following:

  • testing companies
  • unnecessary faculty meetings
  • education mandates coming from non-educators
  • school grade calculations
  • VAM scores
  • 10 page Danielson teacher evaluation rubrics
  • testing companies
  • testing calendars
  • closed media centers due to testing (we closed ours Feb-June)
  • remedial reading programs made by the same people who make the tests
  • Jeb Bush
  • Arne Duncan
  • Bill Gates
  • my local school district’s leadership team
  • the superintendent
  • my former boss
  • my local school board
  • every school board
  • governors who don’t know anything about education
  • Pam Stewart
  • legislators, every last one of them
  • unions who don’t support their teachers
  • teachers who complain but don’t vote or stand up for what they want
  • parents who complain but don’t vote or stand up for what they want

I even got with other angry people and we got pissed off together. We took to school board podiums; we went to conferences; we went on the news; we stood on the side of the road with signs; we assembled and mobilized.

I had the pleasure of working with education activists whom I love and respect, women who had been fighting this fight long before I quit my job in public education to join them.

And the ranting worked. We got things done. We got our local School Board to opt out of state tests (they later opted back in). Together, we brought national awareness to these issues and helped hundreds of thousands of people refuse high-stakes assessments.

I put on webinars, wrote blogs, and conducted research. All fueled by my anger.

My anger was energizing. It helped me work harder and longer. It was like a drug that made me clear and focused.  I felt like I could do anything the more and more pissed off I got.

Then something happened.

I was out on a long run, Rage Against the Machine playing through my headphones.

One of my favorite songs to run to, “Take it back! Take it back! Take it back!” was interrupted by a phone call. I looked at the screen and the name of my former boss appeared. He was also a former friend before he made the list. I knew something was up, because it had been a year since he had called me. I had a sinking feeling.


“Yeah, George.” I said cautiously. I missed him, but I was too angry to tell him that.

“Kathleen, have you gotten a call about Coach?”

I knew before I even asked, “No, why?”

He told me that our friend, who was my mentor for the last 10 years, suddenly had a heart attack and died just a couple of hours before.

The Universe opened up and a huge hole appeared.

Coach, who was like a father, brother, and best friend all rolled into one, was gone. He had given me my start in education, had yanked me off the slow, arduous path I was on and changed the trajectory of my life. And in the last year of my angry rebellion, I had pulled away from him because my fight against all things public ed was more important than staying connected with him. He had invited me to the movies, and I passed. He invited to several other outings with his family, and I made excuses why I couldn’t go.

And now he was gone.

While standing there on the side of the road, hanging up the phone, the anger left my body like smoke coming off an extinguished candle.

I tried to be angry but I couldn’t find it anymore. I knew I was done fighting.

My outrage was replaced by anguish and my natural tendency to second-guess past decisions, although he taught me to never look back.

“Make a decision and then move forward.” He’d say. “Don’t look back, Jasper.”

So that’s what I am doing. Moving forward, eyes straight ahead.

Over ten years with him, I learned to empower people to realize their potential and take action to achieve their goals. I challenged young people to look at the world differently and reach beyond their comfort level. He taught me how to do that, and that’s what I want to do.

The absence of anger has made me realize how much I miss working with high school students and teaching them to be part of the solution. How can I expect them to do that when I am busy yelling about the problem?

Resentment and discontent are soul-sucking and toxic. So, I’ve decided to be the solution rather than focusing on all the troubles.

I’m not abandoning my feistiness towards education issues and bad policy. I will continue to bring awareness to those elements. However, I am going to spend my time helping others find ways around these problems.

ConversationED will be a solution to the problems many people face in public education in this country, by helping people hack their education. That’s right, if you are dissatisfied in education and education policies, we will help you hack your education to find ways YOU can make it better.

Here are just a few hacks we are working on:

  • Workforce Essentials: Things you wish they’d teach you in school like organization, time management, professional communication and problem solving.
  • Resume Building – Quick and Dirty Tricks to get noticed in a Sea of Applicants
  • Finance – Understand your loan terms before you owe government-backed companies hundreds of thousands of dollars for your liberal arts degree.
  • Down with the 5 Paragraph Essay – Learn How to Write for Real.
  • The MLA Lie: No one uses it after high school so we’ll teach you APA – the formatting your professor wants you to use.
  • SAT/ACT prep – Skip the FSA, get the concordant score, and move on with your life.
  • Happiness courses. Yup that’s right, how to be happy. This is something we believe everyone should have a chance to learn.
  • Wellness – Nutrition, Exercises, Mindfulness and a more productive life.
  • Academic Courses that don’t Suck:
    • Genetics I, II, & III (Skip the parts of the cell and get to the good stuff!)
    • Math as a language
    • Research
    • Pairing literature with history

We are going to help people circumvent a bad system and decide for themselves how they want to learn and thrive. Maybe you can’t leave public education or you don’t want to. We will be here when you want something different, a solution to whatever problem you are feeling in your learning.

This is going to take us a while. We have a very small team and by small I mean 3 people. But those 3 people are the most creative educators I know.

I’ve missed being an educator. I’m back, and I hope you will join me.

If you want to learn more about what we are doing and how to hack your education, we have a really cool infographic you can download for free. Click Here to get the FREE infographic. Or click the image to the FREE infographic and Hack your ED!

]]> 2
Community Schools or a Bunch of Bologna? Tue, 21 Jul 2015 13:22:27 +0000 With the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or No Child Left Behind into the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), there is a lot of talk about community schools.

For many, the term “community schools” conjures up the idea of schools as the hub of the town, with experienced principals and credentialed career teachers. We think of these schools as designed for the public good, with strong PTAs, afterschool programs, and health screenings which include a school nurse.

Most important, the community, we assume, owns these schools. They should be public in the truest sense of the word with plenty of electives including the arts and sports. With luck, community schools stay open into the evening with course offerings for adults and students! They are overseen by strong, involved school boards, we think.

Some of us might remember our own public schools as community schools when we were young. Others think their schools needed help. But all of us probably agree that community schools should be schools the community gets behind and is proud of—a source of support for families and the town or city.

The elephant in the room with community schools is…you guessed it…racial diversity. Unless the surrounding neighborhood is multicultural, community schools run the risk of being segregated.

Also, many parents might be scratching their heads. They have not forgotten the closure of what they believed used to be their community public schools. They might wonder if they will be getting their old schools back.

So, aside from the problem with integration, or the lack of it, upon hearing the term community schools, it is easy to get a warm fuzzy feeling that something good is happening in education. Maybe the tide is turning. Perhaps too, our neighborhoods are changing when it comes to ethnicity.

Alas, however, upon examining today’s term “community schools,” one realizes quickly, that they are usually charter schools.

Here is the Ohio definition of community schools.

Community schools, often called charter schools in other states, are public nonprofit, nonsectarian schools that operate independently of any school district but under a contract with an authorized sponsoring entity that is established by statute or approved by the State Board of Education. Community schools are public schools of choice and are state and federally funded.

If they aren’t charters, they are poor traditional public schools relying on some business in the community to keep the school afloat. Chances are it will only be time before they are turned into a charter. Some choice.

The mention of public-private ownership whenever community schools are mentioned, gives it away. Certainly private business has an interest in supporting local public schools. They should donate to them to help them thrive. But public schools should not be so poor that the community must rely on outsiders to keep the school open.

Public-private partnerships implies more than volunteerism. It involves ownership. We know ownership means business will run the schools—even possibly make a profit off them. They will also drive career teachers and reputable principals and superintendents out of the system. They will claim they are too costly.

In some places charter schools have turned into for-profit businesses with stocks trading on Wall Street. How does this make it a community school?

Certainly, there are charters that are run by sincere individuals doing good work. Those aren’t the charter schools I refer to. And if the ECAA passes with wraparound health services that would be a good thing. However, there is uncertainty with that part of the bill.

Also, many public schools used to offer wraparound services. They had school nurses and health screenings. Poor children usually had access to primary health and dental care. Who will monitor whether children get those services in their charter schools? Real public schools should still be able to offer those services.

The main lobbying group for community schools is the Coalition of Community Schools. It is troubling upon studying their website that anyone can start a community school. And they mention “personalized learning” which has become a euphemism for online instruction. Will the new community schools eventually be like the online Rocketship charter schools?

It is also interesting that they talk little about teachers on their website.

A traditional public school is a real community school. It is a school that rejects no one. It has legitimate career teachers and principals.

So hearing all the hype about community schools in the new Every Child Achieves Act is deceptive, because when most of us think of community schools we are dreaming of something different than charter schools. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like bologna.

bailey-489_0_0-300x199Nancy Bailey is an education activist and a former special education teacher.  Her book is titled Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students.  Her blog is Catch up with her on twitter @NancyEBailley1


Citation Link:

Baron, Kathryn. “Senate Bill Keeps After-School and Community Schools in ESEA.” Education Week. July 17, 2015.

]]> 0
The Democrats May Have Just Aligned Themselves With Test and Punish – We Are Doomed Fri, 17 Jul 2015 20:03:06 +0000 Almost every Democrat in the US Senate just voted to keep Test and Punish.
But Republicans defeated them.
I know. I feel like I just entered a parallel universe, too. But that’s what happened.

Some facts:

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is a disaster.

It took the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – a federal law designed to ensure all schools get equitable resources and funding – and turned it into a law about standardized testing and punishing schools that don’t measure up.

This was a Republican policy proposed by President George W. Bush.
But now that the ESEA is being rewritten, those pushing to keep the same horrendous Bush era policies are the Democrats.

Almost all of the Democrats!

That includes so-called far left Dems like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren!

It comes down to the Murphy Amendment, a Democratically sponsored change to the ESEA.

This provision was an attempt to keep as many Test and Punish policies as possible in the Senate rewrite.

The amendment, “reads more like NCLB, with its detailed prescription for reporting on student test results, for ‘meaningfully differentiating among all public schools’ (i.e., grading schools), including publicly identifying the lowest five percent, and, among interventions, potentially firing staff and offering students the option to transfer to other schools and using part of the budget to pay for the transportation,” according to blogger Mercedes Schneider.

Education historian Diane Ravich adds, “This amendment would have enacted tough, federal-mandated accountability, akin to setting up an ‘achievement school district’ in every state.”

Thankfully it was voted down. The ESEA will probably not be affected. The rewrite was passed by both the House and Senate without these provisions. Once the two versions of the bill are combined, it is quite possible – maybe even probable – that we’ll have a slight improvement on NCLB. Sure there is plenty of crap in it and plenty of lost opportunities, but the ESEA rewrite looks to be a baby step in the right direction.

The problem is this: the failed Murphy Amendment shows the Democrats’ education vision. Almost all of them voted for it. Warren even co-sponsored it!

When it was defeated and the Senate approved the ESEA rewrite, Warren released a statement expressing her disapproval. But if you didn’t know about the Murphy Amendment, you could have read her criticisms quite differently.

She says the (ESEA rewrite) “eliminates basic, fundamental safeguards to ensure that federal dollars are actually used to improve both schools and educational outcomes for those students who are often ignored.”

That sounds good until you realize what she means. “Educational outcomes” mean test scores. She’s talking about test-based accountability. She is against the ESEA rewrite because it doesn’t necessarily put strings on schools’ funding based on standardized test scores like NCLB.

She continues, “Republicans have blocked every attempt to establish even minimum safeguards to ensure that money would be used effectively. I am deeply concerned that billions in taxpayer dollars will not actually reach those schools and students who need them the most…”

She is upset because Republicans repeatedly stripped away federal power to Test and Punish schools. The GOP gave that power to the states. So Warren is concerned that somewhere in this great nation there may be a state or two that decides NOT to take away funding if some of their schools have bad test scores! God forbid!

And Warren’s about as far left as they come!

What about liberal lion Bernie Sanders? I’d sure like an explanation for his vote.

It makes me wonder if when he promised to “end No Child Left Behind,” did he mean the policies in the bill or just the name!?

The Democrats seem to be committed to the notion that the only way to tell if a school is doing a good job is by reference to its test scores. High test scores – good school. Bad test scores – bad school.

This is baloney! Test scores show parental income, not academic achievement. Virtually every school with low test scores serves a majority of poor children. Virtually every school with high test scores serves rich kids.

Real school accountability would be something more akin to the original vision of the ESEA – making sure each district had what it needs to give kids the best education possible. This means at least equalizing funding to poverty schools so they have the same resources as wealthy ones. Even better would be ending our strange reliance on local property taxes to provide the majority of district monies.

But the Dems won’t hear it. The Murphy Amendment seems to show that they’re committed to punishing poor schools and rewarding rich ones.

I really hope I’m wrong about this. Please, anyone out there, talk me down!

Up until now I’ve always been with the Democrats because they had better – though still bad – education policies than the Republicans. I’m not sure I can say that anymore. In fact, it may be just the opposite.

Which party is most committed to ending Common Core? The Republicans!

Which party has championed reducing federal power over our schools and giving us a fighting chance at real education reforms? Republicans!

Which party more often champion’s parental rights over the state? Republicans!

Sure, most of them still love vouchers and charter schools. But increasingly so do the Democrats.

This vote has me rethinking everything.

Our country’s education voters may have just been abandoned by their longest ally.

Where do we go from here?

Steven Singer is an educator and blogger. His website is and you can follow him on twitter @StevenSinger3


]]> 0
Senator Bernie Sanders and K-12 Education: We’re Listening! Tue, 07 Jul 2015 14:23:42 +0000 Bernie fever is sweeping the Internet. I like Sen. Sanders. He says a lot of things that make me want to jump up and shout YES! You Go Bernie! But I, like many others, am still listening for the specifics when it comes to education and public schools.

On the issue of K-12 education he leaves me a bit high and dry. Something is missing. I think as parents and educators, we need to not be swept off our feet by Bernie Sanders, but we need to hold his feet to the fire. I think this is important because I am hopeful he is one candidate that might listen.

We should require more answers from him about his education agenda.

You might say, “Well who else is out there who will do any better for education and public schools?” Good question.

Still, while I am no fan of Jeb Bush, I can honestly say I know where he stands on education. This will make it simple for me not to vote or support him. The others, including Sen. Sanders, leave out a lot of issues.

The Pros

These are the positive reasons I like Sen. Sanders. Please let me know if I missed something and I will add it to the list.

  • He recognizes many children in this country live in poverty. Poverty has always been an overriding issue in the struggle to have decent public schools. What more will Sen. Sanders advocate concerning poverty and public schools?
  • He emphasizes good Pre-K programs. I’d like to hear more about what he means here since this is always one of the goals of politicians. But it should be addressed.
  • He supports affordable public higher education for all students who are capable and wish to attend college. He seems to be fighting for the middle class here and transcends the usual “all students must go to college” hype. He focuses instead on the troubling reality many hard-working students face–especially student debt.
  • He likes small class sizes! This is written in his educational platform and is one of those issues that makes me jump off my couch and cheer!
  • He is against vouchers. He has more recently made some reference against sending vouchers to private schools. Most Democrats are against vouchers.
  • He has supported after school programs. This issue is important and I am glad he has been a part of showcasing it in the past.
  • He has supported good education facilities for elementary schools. Many schools across the country are in bad condition. It is refreshing that Sen. Sanders has spoken out on this serious and often neglected issue.
  • He doesn’t like NCLB. He should discuss more about why he doesn’t like it, and he needs to discuss the problematic Race to the Top.
  • He talks about the whole child. Add to this a discussion about having a balanced curriculum in our public schools which is what is needed to address the whole child. I think he has mentioned the importance of art in school.
  • He supports the teachers’ unions. This is good; however, unions are also controversial these days. They seem to be on board for selective charters (thinking teachers are still in charge) and Common Core. It also remains to be seen how hard they will fight for saving special education or returning normalcy to the classroom when it comes to high-stakes testing. Although I support teacher unions, I, like many others, am not enthralled with the AFT or the NEA right now.
  • He speaks against high-stakes testing. While he might say there is too much testing, so did President Obama in the early days. Still, it is always nice to hear.

The Cons

Here are the murky areas that trouble me about Sen. Sander’s education platform thus far.

  • He is selective in his criticism. He knocks corporations and the Koch brothers who have certainly had what I would call a negative imprint on our public schools, especially in North Carolina. But, thus far, I have not heard a peep about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which have a far more formidable influence on education at the present time.
  • He has yet to mention Common Core State Standards. I heard a person in an audience ask about Common Core along with some other issues. Sen. Sanders was evasive. Yet, CCSS is one of the hottest topics in education today.
  • Senator Sanders talks proudly about being on the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pension. Probably the rewrite of the 800 page ESEA will be approved this week. This bill is generating much concern and is highly supportive of charter schools and the state’s overall draconian influence on schools. Some parents and educators myself included, think they should go back to the drawing board. Here is Dr. Sandra Stotsky warning against it and requesting phone calls to appropriate lawmakers. The education community seems divided on this issue.
  • He has not mentioned charter schools. Dems tend to dislike vouchers but cling to the belief charters are the old Albert Shanker idea that has teachers in charge of nice alternative schools. But this country strayed far from that concept years ago. While there may be some good charters, most lack transparency and are posed to dismantle traditional public schools. Teachers are often treated abysmally when it comes to charters. Many teachers have lost their jobs when their schools arbitrarily shut down and converted to charters. And many charters rely on teachers who are lacking suitable qualifications.
  • He likes teachers but which ones? I would like Sen. Sanders to get more specific on this issue. Teacher education is being dismantled in this country in favor of the Teach for America types. I want a candidate who will speak out in favor of fully-prepared career teachers, who study the needs of children and not just data, and not fast-track Teach for America.
  • Special education? There are signs everyday that special education is in serious trouble of being eliminated in public schools. We have fought too long and too hard for the rights of all students with disabilities. We also need good programming for ELL students and the gifted. I want to hear this issue addressed by Sen. Sanders and the rest.

There may be many reasons to support Sen. Bernie Sanders. In general, he has a fine political agenda on many issues. But so far, Sen. Sanders needs to answer many other questions about K-12 education. I hope this will soon change.

We are listening.

Here is a Face Book page for Bernie Sanders. Let him know how you feel about public schools and education.



Nancy Bailey is an education activist and a former special education teacher.  Her book is titled Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students.  Her blog is Catch up with her on twitter @NancyEBailley1


]]> 1