Education, Schools

Ohio BATs w/Seattle

Ohio BATs stands in solidarity with Seattle Educators in proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool. Ohio BATs recognizes that systemic racial inequality within our schools has resulted from decades of neglect for our public education system. As educators and those who support educators, we affirm the Seattle Educators’ call for our collective awareness to this issue. We thank you for your tireless devotion to our students and the education they deserve. We thank you for your strong stand in support of our students of color. All of our children deserve champions like you. #WeSeeYouSeattleEducators
Join the Thunderclap and read about related actions here:


Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools

RESA—Dream Eraser



I would like to share my story of why I became a Special Education teacher with you and how Resident Educator Program or RESA  is affecting my life today. I grew up in a large family with many aunts, uncles, and cousins. I have two cousins who I was always drawn to while growing up. My younger cousins have diagnoses of Cerebral Palsy and Downs Syndrome. I watched them grow up and am still amazed by their accomplishments today. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to do something with my life to make a difference in the lives of adults and children with disabilities.

My early adulthood got off to a rough start with career choices and college, but in the back of my mind I always knew what I ultimately wanted to do with my life, and that was to become a Special Education teacher. People would always say to me, “why would you want to be a teacher, teachers don’t make any money.” I didn’t care about the money and I would always tell those people that being a teacher is what would make me happy. In 2005, I began working at a group home as a Habilitation Assistant for a group of adult women with disabilities. In 2008, I became a nanny for a wonderful family with four children, one who had been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at a young age. While working for this family, I started my college career at the age of 25. Most people have graduated from college and have begun their careers by this age, but I was determined to graduate and pursue my dream. In 2011, at the age of 28, I graduated with my Bachelors from Cleveland State University. I have never seen my parents so proud of me as they were that day I walked across the stage. I will remember that day forever. I could finally begin my teaching career! I co-taught in a 5th grade Special Ed classroom at a charter school in the Parma area for three years and then taught in a self-contained K-2 ED classroom at a public school for two years. Along the way, I decided that one day in the future I wanted to teach Pre-School Special Ed. I would have to go back to school for that. I went on to get my Masters at Cleveland State University in 2015. I sacrificed part of my summer that year because I was required to complete a second student teaching because I needed the Pre-K experience. I never thought in a million years I would be able to tell people that I have a Masters degree. It might not be a big deal to some people, but it is to me.

June of this year, I received the worst news of my life. I was unsuccessful at passing one task of the Ohio Resident Educator program, my license would expire that month, and I would not be able to teach. Why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve this? Something that I had worked so hard for was being taken away from me, something that I had earned. Maybe teaching really isn’t my calling. Those were the thoughts going through my head. I was devastated to say the least. I will remember that day forever too. Many days of mental exhaustion and crying during my summer off, which was supposed to be a happy time spent with my daughter, my first child, born March 13, 2016. I rob my daughter of happy moments with me because I am upset every day. It is September 6th and I am still upset every day.

Because I was unsuccessful at passing RESA, in order to ever be able to teach in Ohio again, the requirements are to work as a substitute teacher for a year and enroll in a RESA college course. The short of it: I’ll have to do student teaching a 3rd time. I’ll have to provide lesson plans, assessments (even though those weren’t the tasks I was unsuccessful at), and be observed 4 times using the OTES rubric. You can check out the letter they send to educators who were unsuccessful in their third attempt here.

College? Again? I thought I was done with that. I think about RESA every day. I constantly think about what I did wrong. How can I be rated as a skilled teacher with OTES and not pass RESA? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t understand how assessors who have never met me, worked with me, or even stepped foot in my classroom can determine my professional fate. Well in Ohio, they can, they did, and they will continue doing so. I’m not the only teacher in Ohio that lost their job and I won’t be the last. They need to have people fail or there would be no point. I fall into the 2% of educators who started the program the year it launched who were unsuccessful. The score reports that educators receive include the score you received on each individual task and extremely vague strengths/areas of weakness. How am I supposed to better myself as an educator if I don’t receive adequate feedback? If I gave my students feedback like we get, I wouldn’t have held my teaching position for 5 years. With the first attempt at RESA we were not provided a rubric and we received no feedback whatsoever on the score reports. It was either pass/not passed. My score report for one task on my second attempt revealed no strengths. A teacher with 4 years experience received no strengths whatsoever. How can I be allowed to teach for 5 years and then be told I’m not fully prepared to be a teacher? RESA changes on us every year. A new change this year is that there are courses now being offered to educators with 1 or 2 unsuccessful attempts at RESA. Where were these classes when I was in jeopardy of losing my job? Resident Educators can now use artifacts from previous years, but up until this point you could only submit artifacts from the current school year. Each district works differently as far as mentors, facilitators, and program coordinators are concerned. Every school participating in RESA should abide by the same rules. I have heard from far too many people of the differences in support that districts provide to their resident educators. My district failed me. The state failed me. You can read more on the enhancements for the 2016-2017 year here.

It could be a vicious cycle for those who choose to jump through the hoops of the remediation year. A teacher who is unsuccessful a 4th time will lose their license again, be ineligible for any type of license, and go back to working as a substitute and completing 3 hours of additional coursework. You can view the “Pathways to Completion” flow chart here.

Who on earth would even want to teach at that point? I’ll put that into perspective for you: 6 years teaching experience plus a year of substitute teaching. Ohio can still say that you are not fully prepared to be a teacher. But… if you are one of those brave people that will be taking RESA for the 4th time in the 2017-2018 school year, here’s a tip for you: you can buy your way out on Teachers Pay Teachers.  (Thanks Tim! )

My husband and I struggled with infertility for 2 years. That period of my life was emotionally and mentally exhausting and I never thought I would have to go through something that intense again. The situation that I am in today is just as emotionally and mentally exhausting as then. I go through a mental battle every day whether to stay in this or get the hell out. Is this remediation year worth my sanity and happiness? I think not. I love teaching and I want to teach, but I do not want to jump through these ridiculous hoops that insult my education and teaching experience.



Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 1, Forming the Foundations

A-misty-phantom (1)

***Note: Links are in bold and faintly underlined***

Positioned atop of his self-made pinnacle of one of the most cult-like pyramiding schemes I have ever seen, is none other than Tom Vander Ark. But somehow he seems to go unnamed and unnoticed most of the time, misting about like a phantom in all aspects of ruinous reform.

phan·tomˈ fan(t)əm/ noun (Google definitions)
*a ghost. synonyms: ghost, apparition, spirit, specter, wraith
*a figment of the imagination.synonyms: delusion, figment of the imagination, hallucination, illusion, chimera, vision, mirage*denoting a financial arrangement or transaction that has been invented for fraudulent purposes but that does not really exist.modifier noun: phantom”he diverted an estimated $1,500,000 into “phantom” bank accounts”

In Ohio, I have more than learned, any time something related to education reform arises, that Tom and his profit-pointed poisons and, purposefully-packaged propaganda will be forming the fortunes in the foundation, working the middle-man-game like pros and gleaning the gold dust that seems to magically disappear into thin air.  His public school takeover plans or new charter start-ups are quite the practiced prescribed sales pitches. Through iNACOL and NACSA (and a score more of such groups), he uses heavily-lobbied-legislation which he templates and passes out like addictive-drug-laced-candy to the well-intentioned, the unaware, or the greedy.  A combination of these three sectors works the best for Tom’s charismatic churning up of yet another minefield of coffers for him and his collaborators. And, there are an extensive amount of the zombie-bitten ones on the public education deathship at this point. I know, I know, no one will wade through this (I certainly have not all the way, but rather have skimmed numerous times and I long for the time to go line by line through it and bring along all of the articles of related FAILURES, CHANGE-UPS and SCANDAL) but here is a 270 page paper that covers so much of Tom Vander Ark’s vision and the connections.

Through the scope of his financial engineering (Tom: “I’m an engineer by training, and moved into finance.”) Cincinnati has long been a target of Tom’s.  Yes, a long time, to answer Michelle Dillingham’s wonderings about how long they have been planning the takeover of taxpayers’ turf. Specifically, Mind Trust has been looking to set up their (scholarly-sounding) scheme for quite the while. In a manner similar to the buying and selling of fast-food chain restaurants, a formula has been finited and the exponential spread of the ‘brain-washed marching repeaters’ are ready to be strategically inserted into YOUR CHILD’s education world. They (Mind Trust and Tom Vander Ark) have been deviously developing this formula for privatization since 2006.

Tom Vander is the CEO of Getting Smart, and under that are all of his books, blogs, and hashtags by the same names: #SmartStates #SmartCities #SmartParents. This is one of the main ways he pumps his pompous unproven ideas. This is one of the hundreds upon hundreds of avenues from which he gets paid. It is all a huge hype for his one-man-show on how he (and all of his fortune-seeking followers) are going to set about to transform schools or get rich depending on which tongue Tom is using in the discussion.

Mind Trust and Cincinnati are discussed numerous times in the same articles in his tons of different blogs and tweets. Search it– you will immediately see.  I will give him this, he is OBSESSIVELY PROLIFIC and DETERMINED, but that does not make him any less WRONG, and at this point EVIL for all the irreparable demise that has come about in education realms.

His engineering degree was in mining. He writes about the barriers to completely overhauling education, and compares those barriers of experienced teachers, unions, local boards, legislation and so on as being “Gordian knots”. But he has bore through those barriers like he is using the largest mountain-tunneling machine ever built along with the similarities of using large amounts of dynamite to open up deep, dangerous shafts. Imagine the noise of such devices and the permanent scarring to the landscape. And yet, to my utter frustration and lack of understanding, he has done it all nearly as silently as though he were an apparition walking through walls. By this I mean there have been 100s of conferences leading into this current proposal push in Cincinnati, but we who are fighting to preserve PUBLIC education, seem to only hear about all of it when it is already a done deal. Most find it unbelieveable when I try to show all the areas Tom is haunting.

The next time I write about Vander Ark, I truly would like to really show in as full-blown of a manner as I can, how dastardly his omnipresence in Ohio has become. Each time I set out to write about how Tom is connected to and orchestrating so much of this reform, I become almost instantly overwhelmed with a sickening migraine. It is that much. It is that big. It is that nauseating. But, for the here and now, I am about to bombard the readers with as much as I can, as it will relate to the current Cincinnati cash clutch. Here is where it all is headed. This is what it will look and sound like. Not at all like the ‘MIND TWISTS’ they will paint for you as the future.   Just insert Cincinnati where you read Indianapolis.

“The Indianapolis Star tells us The Mind Trust is sticking its fingers in the affairs of our Indianapolis Public School system again. The nonprofit education group, which is nothing more than a front organization for wealthy education profiteers, is awarding two $50,000 grants to IPS to transform George Fisher School 93 and Cold Spring School into what is called “innovation network schools.” These schools are in fact charter schools operating for profit within the IPS district using our public school property and tax dollars to operate schools free from all of the burdens and regulations imposed on traditional public schools.”

“[IPS] to the Phalen Leadership Academy to operate its for-profit charter school using our public school property and tax dollars. You heard that right. As much as $3 million has been given to operate their for-profit charter school within the IPS network. Phalen’s hands aren’t tied by the collective bargaining agreement IPS has with its schools. Phalen pays nothing to use our public school building. The entire tab and then some is picked up by IPS. How’s that for driving a good bargain? Thanks to a state law passed by state lawmakers who accepted large campaign contributions from the very people who profit from charter schools, it’s all legal. Under an agreement IPS entered into with The Mind Trust, it will eventually convert 15%, or about nine schools altogether, into profit centers for these greedy bastards.”

“ All of the $100,000 paid to the two school in these grants will go to a group of consultants and attorneys who will work out the logistics of transitioning the schools into for-profit places of learning according to The Mind Trust’s spokesman, Steve Campbell, another political crony of former Mayor Bart Peterson. Naturally, there is no disclosure in advance to whom those consulting and legal fees will be paid. Don’t be surprised if it includes people listed on the campaign finance reports of the best school board money can buy. This IPS board doesn’t approve anything unless there’s something in it for their political cronies.” (taken from the comments section)

“With $1.19M in surplus revenue and an 84.7% margin in 2013, Phalen Leadership Academy-indiana Inc. was profitable.”

I could go on and on for great lengths of time establishing the FOR-PROFIT side of all of this. I want to wrap this piece up by shedding light in one or two more dark and dank dreads of going forward with this Cincinnati. So, please skim through this 24 page pdf: Boosting Impact: Why Foundations Should Invest in Education Venture Funds.” Getting Smart, March 2014.   It is Tom speaking in his non-child-concerned true voice. It is the language of the lust for money. It is mind mining. Written to those who have money and want more money. By the time it all gets to the public, it is donning a shimmery, sugary sheath of ‘save the children’.  But underneath is an ugly specter looking to suck the very souls from our schools. Enter the Eerie Era of Educational Entrepreneurships.
The Phalen Phantom strikes again and again.

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 2, Working the Middle-Man-Game Like Pros

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 3, Gleaning the Gold Dust that Seems to Magically Disappear Into Thin Air

Education, Ohio, Opt out, Public Schools

Go Big or Go Home (Part 2 of 2)

go pink

Go Big or Go Home, Part 2

I cannot explain what happened next. All I remember thinking as I listened to those who spoke against was that they were talking about another NBI entirely. While I agreed with some of the points made, other statements truly disturbed me. There were multiple passionate pleas made in favor of the NBI as well.

What stood out to me was the real and prevalent fear among my fellow educators. I do not say this from a place of blame or malice. There is an overwhelming sense that survival is the name of the game right now. If we, as educators, feel that way then how must our students feel? It is too much pressure on our students for tests that literally tell us nothing of value. When we are concerned more about how a child who has been opted out affects our VAM scores or our district report cards than we are about the children who sit for hours in front of these pointless tests, we are not staying true to our mission as educators or as an organization.

Here is the amended version that passed:

OEA will lobby the state legislature to require that ODE will notify parents of their

right to refuse and the implications of refusing statewide standardized tests that are

not required for any grade promotion or graduation.

It is a step in the right direction. Movement forward. It is not enough, though, and I will continue to push for stronger support for parents and their children who refuse standardized tests because it is the right thing to do. Last year, the NBI I introduced created a lot of debate and failed.

Before this NBI, the most spirited debates were about two other issues. One had to do with the number of Representative Assemblies to be held annually. It was important to discuss this issue before delegates; however, the length and intensity of the debate did not match its importance for educators and our students. The other requested that OEA inform members about the existence of The Network for Public Education (NPE). I was astonished at the debate that followed. This was the most ironic part of the two days for me. I cannot, for the life of me, fathom one NPE stance that OEA would oppose. You can check it out for yourself here:

I was fortunate enough to attend the most recent NPE Conference held in Chicago in April. This conference was about the same length as the OEA RA. While they obviously have distinctively different purposes, the missions of both organizations mesh more than not. One glaring difference that I noted is the NPE Conference was filled with pressing and relevant issues to educators and their students. I attended incredible sessions about social justice, test resistance, building allies, and community schools. These do not even include the outstanding keynotes. You can view each keynote speech on NPE’s website. Particularly, OEA members may be interested to see Dr. Diane Ravitch in conversation with Lily Esklesen-Garcia and Randi Weingarten.

At the NPE Conference, I did not have to wait until the last moments to know how my being there could and would help my students and me as a professional who advocates for her students.

Education, Opt out, Public Schools, Schools, Test Refusal

Go Big or Go Home (Part 1 of 2)


Go Big or Go Home

This was my approach to the only two OEA Representative Assemblies I have attended. While this second one lacked the element of surprise in what motion I would make, it certainly sparked some lively debate among delegates.

In a year’s time though, things did change. Most importantly, I built connections with other delegates and friendships with many of them. The level of support was astonishing to me. I am truly grateful for the many people who spoke in favor of and helped with the motion. I must acknowledge Kevin Griffin who agreed to second and help tweak the phrasing umpteen times. We were optimistic and felt we had language that would request a very simple, but significant action.

I submitted the New Business Item (NBI) form and returned to my seat. The day was busy and many people had thoughts to share with me after that paper got turned in. Some wanted to clarify the intent and just get more information. Some wanted to share the concerns they have. Some wanted to share their support. It was pretty overwhelming.

Here is what was submitted:

NBI: OEA will educate members and parents about their right to refuse statewide

standardized tests. OEA will request that ODE notify parents of their right to

refuse any statewide standardized test that is not required for grade promotion or


Rationale: This NBI shows that OEA supports parents and their right to direct their

children’s education.

At some point that morning, my local president informed me of news that really touched my heart. She called a vote in our district’s delegation. They unanimously voted to support the NBI and to have her speak in favor of it on their behalf. That means more to me than I can adequately express. I am grateful to Mary Kennedy and our entire Hilliard EA delegation for their support.

As I approached the microphone, an inexplicable calm washed over me. I had sobbed while writing my speech the night before and felt certain I wouldn’t make it through without crying. I technically didn’t, but I’m OK with that. I can rarely talk about what is happening to my students without crying. So what if that happened to be in front of a large number of people? I didn’t feel nervous, just sad.

I finished and Kevin eloquently explained further. He made excellent points about the sharp differences in how school districts are handling refusal requests. He even quoted from the NEA President’s blog to show how far-reaching the support for parents’ right to refuse the tests is. I was again humbled and blessed that he agreed to help.

Drama, Education, Ohio, Opt out, Public Schools, Schools

A Tribute to My Mother, a Teacher – Stephanie Grant Duke, by Wendy S Duke.

11 plus

My British mother bombed the 11 Plus Exam she had to take as a child. She was very ill that day, but as the test was super important, she went in but her fever took away her focus. The consequence was that she could not enter the track that led to university. Instead, she found herself assigned to secretary school. At age 16 she began working as a secretary in London, but the dream of college never died. Years later, having married her American penpal, she became a US citizen who used her secretarial skills to move from BF Goodrich to the University of Akron, where suddenly — she was able to further her education at no cost. She earned her BA and MA and became a teacher, first at Hoban High School and then on to the life of an adjunct at both Kent State and U of A. Not bad for a girl who was tested and found not good enough at age eleven.

My mother would be appalled at what is happening in US education today. She fled a society built upon rigid class distinctions. When she arrived in the US in 1950, she found a country with a flourishing public school system. Yes, there was tracking in the high schools: college prep, business, and general ed (trades), but students for the most part were learning their subjects in the same building, participating in the same student activities, attending the same football games and dances. Social mixing could and did happen. Unless of course you were of another race. I firmly believe that my mother’s strong activism in support of civil rights for people of all colors and genders stemmed in part from growing up in the numbingly rigid British class system.

Over the past two years, as eduction “reform” policies have hit Ohio teachers in the gut, I have come home from school wishing I could call up my mom to vent. What would she say if I told her that teachers in my once distinguished school now have to teach from scripts? That all the creative and highly intelligent teachers in my building are not free to select their own reading materials. That the passion for learning has been beaten down with endless testing and data collection.

My mom used to love listening to my stories about the latest amazing arts integration project, about our staff professional development road trips to the art museum or the House of Blues or to NASA in West Virginia. She was so proud of what the school represented — a place where talents could flourish along with the arts and sciences. She would, I am sure, see through the farce of “Common Core State Standards” — a common curriculum for the commoners while the billionaires’ children are steeped in the arts and humanities offered by the best private schools.

jan 14`

She would decry the abandonment of inner city students, the new racial divides brought about by de facto segregation along with the failing and closing of public schools. I can just imagine her reading about Eva Moskowitz and her brand of “success” in schooling. The relentless drill for the test and constant control of every thought and movement would make her launch into quotes from Huxley and Orwell. The dystopian future is now. And the scariest thought of all is who will be left that can remember the days when teachers taught with passion? Who will remember when students entered school to learn and grow as human beings? As it is now, education has become an assembly line of students as widgets on their way to career and college readiness from day one of pre-school.

With great love and respect, I thank my mother Stephanie Grant Duke: teacher, activist, and life-long reader and writer. Like her, I will not give in to the forces of conformity and control. We as a society will turn this thing around or else there will be no one left to think an original creative thought.


Note: Wendy S Duke has left an indelible impact in the Akron Arts, but sadly she (directly related to this insane testing environment) is leaving the teaching profession. She is, in conjunction with this early retirement, starting The Center for Applied Drama & Autism. 


Out-of-Control Control

Intl control goalA great thread developed in Ohio BATs…I will try to piece it together here.

BEN GIBSON initiated it all with:

While digging a little deeper I came across the OECD and PISA. Suddenly words like “robust” and “rigor” began to stand out. The PISA is a multinational exam given every 3 years to some 15 year olds to determine how we rank globally in education. And guess who developed it? Yep……Pearson. I am now thoroughly disgusted that our government has not only bypassed our local and state control but now they are basing all of our NATIONAL education reform off an international test (PISA) that was created by the OECD and Pearson. Is this $hit made up???? Since when did America care about a single foreign group’s opinion of our educational standards? So Pearson develops the PISA test which suddenly drops our global ranking substantially and then provides products ($$$) to “fix” us. We need to listen to the guy on the H&R Block ads…..”It’s time to get your billions back America.” If we truly are broken, then lets fix it ourselves. I prefer my children’s education home grown please!!! Here is an open letter that is globally supported by some of our worlds greatest education researchers and leaders in response to OECD and PISA.

Someone was quick to offer this appropos quote:


Someone else asked: This letter was written in 2014…has there been any response from Schleicher? OECD? PISA?

Gibson answered: Here’s their response

Aghast, another participant exclaimed: Pearson wrote Pisa???!!!! OMG. They are going to own the world. They already own Ohio. 😦

Right on top of his research, Ben cited three sources:

1. Ravitch reference    2.PISA Tests    3. Common Core video (3 min.)

Yet another posted this: Speaking of owning the world…Read this carefully> 
“What we need now is a different kind of education to prepare people for work”