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APEDUNG? Well, you know what we really mean... As John Oliver would put it, THEY WENT APESHIT! Peter Cunningham and his well financed blog, 'Education Post' now scramble unsuccessfully to blunt the hilarious demolition of corporate school reform and high-stakes testing on John Oliver's show...

Few propagandists for corporate school reform have had as successful or lucrative a career as Chicago's Peter Cunningham. Above, Cunningham was caught by Substance chatting with Tribune Reporter Tracy Del'angela during the April 25, 2007 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. During the Arne Duncan years, Cunningham was Arne Duncan's "Communications" chief, usually paid the then unprecedented monthly salary of $10,000. When Barack Obama made Duncan U.S. Secretary of Education in January 2009, Cunningham went to D.C. to head communications for the U.S. Department of Education. After a few years in that job, Cunningham returned to Chicago to head a well financed propaganda publication called "Education Post." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. While tens of thousands of people are tuning in to the brilliant refutation against the Testocracy by John Oliver every day since it was first aired on Oliver's popular show, Arne Duncan's corporate apologists have tried to rally their dwindling supporters in defense of corporate school reform and high-stakes testing. One of those attacks on Oliver came from former Chicago Board of Education "Communications" chief Peter Cunningham, who now operates a bloglike thing called "Education Post."

The show that has driven corporate school reformers and their propagandists apeshit was the 18-minute attack on standardized testing by John Oliver. Within less than a week, Oliver's show had 2.8 million hits on You Tube, and it was growing by the hour. (Substance staff watched the entire 18-minute show at our May 9, 2015 meeting). The URL for the show is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6lyURyVz7k

Substance is going to share some of the lame ruling class apologetics for corporate "reform" and high-stakes (and lucrative) corporate testing this morning. But first we hope that every reader will enjoy John Oliver's 18 minutes of Second City fun.

Then two pieces. Peter Cunningham's nonsense, then a screed from former CPS bureaucrat Ann Wheeler (published at Education Post). Then more about Peter Cunningham's latest edupreneurship...

PETER CUNNINGHAM CHARGES THAT JOHN OLIVER 'THROWS POOR KIDS UNDER THE BUS'...

John Oliver Throws Poor Kids Under the Bus

Peter Cunningham, Executive Director of Education PostBy Peter Cunningham | May 5, 2015

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It is a sign of the times that the truth-tellers of the new millennium are comedians rather than journalists. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and now John Oliver are the most trusted news sources for Millennials, so they should be at least somewhat accountable for showing us reality.

So heres a little reality for John Oliver, who devoted 18 tedious minutes to attacking something that protects students at risk from being neglected, ignored and condemned to second-class citizenship. While there has been some progress over the last decade, its not nearly enough:

There are more than 1,000 high schools in America that graduate less than 60 percent of their students. About one in five kids each year drop out.

There are no states where the graduation rate for African-American, Hispanic or economically disadvantaged students is above 90 percent, but 10 states where that is true for white students.

Achievement gaps between African-American, Latino and low income kids compared to white kids are depressingly large.

Less than 10 percent of low-income kids earn a four-year college degree compared to about 50 percent of kids from high income families.

We know these things because we force the educational bureaucracy to test kids, publish results and take action. Until we demanded real accountability, many states, with a few exceptions, simply ignored these kids.

Today, teachers unions, and their mostly white middle-class allies, have an organized, well-funded effort underway to retreat from accountability and evade any responsibility for educating disadvantaged children. Their strategy is clear:

Deny the public the data that shows which schools, teachers and students are struggling.

Blame the parents for being poor.

Deny those parents an opportunity to enroll their kids in schools of choice, some of which are doing a much better job preparing their kids for college and for life.

And endlessly and relentlessly demand more resources without any real responsibility for spending wisely and getting results.

If modern journalism had a patron saint, it would probably be H.L. Mencken, who often said, It is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

John Olivers facile mockery of standardized testing does not put him on the side of disadvantaged children afflicted by underperforming schools. Instead, John Oliver sides with the comfortable bureaucrats, self-serving union leaders, and the complacent middle class that abdicates any responsibility for extending the American Dream beyond their own insular worlds.

Not much to laugh about.

Peter Cunningham is the Executive Director of Education Post.

ANN WHEELER TRIES TO ARGUE WITH JOHN OLIVER THROUGH HER POST AT EDUCATION POST...

Okay, John Oliver, Lets Put the Test to the Test, annBy Ann Whalen | May 7, 2015

There has been a groundswell of responses to John Olivers latest segment on standardized testing. From feelings of heartbreak to feelings of vindication, Olivers segment on standardized testing has definitely gotten its share of attention.

While many of the recaps have made me laugh and cry about the current polarized standardized testing debate, few have actually talked about the real implications that existed without annual testing and what we risk if we allow rhetoric and anecdotes to dominate the conversation.

First, let me clear the air and say:

Yes, there is too much testing today.

No, the current tests arent perfect.

Indeed there have been some real, unintended consequences to standards-based accountability that need to be (and are being) addressed.

Okay, with that out of the way, lets talk about assessments.

Why Do We Have Standards, Testing and Accountability?

Testing does not, and should not, exist in isolation. We shouldnt be testing kids for testings sake. Instead, the policy to assess students annually is part of a larger strategy to ensure all kids, regardless of race, have access to high standards, rigorous curriculum and data in order to improve student performance.

While significant numbers of children benefited from desegregation, as well as the enforcement of other civil rights laws in education and federal programs such as Head Start, Congress realized in the 1990s that the barriers to obtaining a good education faced by many minority and poor families remained imposing. Low-income children were underrepresented in the more demanding college preparatory track and overrepresented in vocational programs. Further, high-poverty schools often had low expectations for their students, awarding high grades for low-level work.

States had differing local standards and without an accurate gauge, like annual standardized testing, schools and school districts could not be held accountable for results. And even though some classroom and local assessments have helped many individual teachers and schools identify these gaps, they did not shed light onto the enormity of the problem in an accurate or consistent way. Standardized assessments became the glue holding together equity and access.

But What Did This Actually Mean for Kids?

So before statewide assessment and tests, were states really doing harm to kids?

Well, they had unequal expectations:

In some places, students were tracked based on geography, race or income, assigning them to low-ability groups where they were offered only a watered-down curriculum and little or no opportunity to progress to classes with higher standards and a more challenging curriculum. In some systems, ability grouping began at an early age and whole schools were tracked.

California had no statewide standards in English and mathematics until December 1997. Until that time, each of the states 1,052 school districts was left to develop its own standards and, until 1999, adoption of state standards was voluntary, meaning districts could have chosen to develop and use their own standards. While, in theory, local standards must be as rigorous as the states, the reality often may be quite different.

Students were left out:

According to the Citizen Commission on Civil Rights report and the Department of Educations own monitoring reports of states accountability systems (in January 2001, prior to NCLB):

Texas failed to include half of its students with disabilities in its state accountability system. They just simply werent counted or included.

Nevada excluded 58 percent, and North Carolina and Wisconsin excluded at least 40 percent of their English language learners.

California excluded over 900,000 students who were disabled, ELL, or attending charter or small schools.

At least 30 states failed to fully disaggregate their reporting, instead they often reported an average score, which masked many achievement gaps.

Kids were literally dropping out by the millions:

In 1993, over 4 million students dropped out of school. In fact, 1 out of 3 Hispanic students dropped out.

Has it Helped?

Have higher statewide standards, standardized testing and accountability helped?

Graduation rates are at an all-time high and dropout rates are at an all-time low. Data released in fall 2014 showed that just 7 percent of the nations 18 to 24-year-olds had dropped out of high school. Hispanics students dropout rate reached a record low of 14 percent in 2013.

In 2001, 48 percent of students with disabilities graduated with a standard high-school diploma. By 2012, the percentage of students with disabilities graduating with a standard high school diploma increased to almost 64 percent.

Since 1999, students have made gains in reading and math according to NAEP data. Americas 9-year-olds gained on average 9 points in reading and 12 points in math, a significant improvement from the gains seen in the decades prior. Furthermore as Third Way reports, African-American 9-year-olds made twice as much improvement in reading than their white counterparts, the gap between white and Hispanic 9-year-olds in math narrowed by 8 points, and more students with disabilities scored in the proficient or higher level in both math and reading than in decades leading up to NCLB.

From 2000 to 2013, fourth-grade students with disabilities made a 20-point gain in math and a 17-point gain in reading on the NAEP assessments. Eighth-grade students with disabilities also experienced achievement gains: Average math scores increased by 19 points from 2000 to 2013, and average reading scores increased by 7 points from 1998 to 2013.

We still have a lot of work to do, particularly to close achievement gaps, but before there were statewide standards, annual standardized assessments and accountability systems, we know that millions of students were being harmed by our educational system and denied the right to a high-quality education.

CUNNINGHAM INTERVIEW:

In this interview with Peter Cunningham, EduShyster gains his insights into the current thinking of the billionaire reformers.

Peter Cunningham was Arne Duncan's communications director during Duncan's first term. In Washington, he was known as "Arne's Brain." He is smart, charming, and well-spoken. So far as I know, he was never a teacher, but that is not a qualification these days for holding strong views about fixing the public schools. Cunningham is now back in Chicago. He started a blog called "Education Post," which was funded with $12 millionfrom the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and an anonymous philanthropy. Its goal, proclaimed at the outset, was to introduce a more civil tone into education debates and to advance certain ideas: "K-12 academic standards, high-quality charter schools, and how best to hold teachers and schools accountable for educating students." Translated, that means it supports Common Core standards, charter schools, and high-stakes testing for teachers, as well as school closings based on testing.

You might say it is on the other side of almost every issue covered in this blog, as Ed Post praises "no-excuses" charter schools, standardized testing, Teach for America, and other corporate-style reforms.

EduShyster asked Cunningham if he feels the blog is succeeding, and he cites Nicholas Kristof's recent column--admitting the failure of most reform efforts and the need to focus on early childhood programs--as an example of progress. When she pressed him about his "metrics" for "betterness," he replies:

Cunningham: I think that an awful lot of people on the reform side of the fence are thrilled by what were doing. They really feel like *thank God somebody is standing up for us when we get attacked* and *thank God somebody is willing to call out people when they say things that are obviously false or that we think are false.* When I was asked to create this organizationit wasnt my idea; I was initially approached by Broadit was specifically because a lot of reform leaders felt like they were being piled on and that no one would come to their defense. They said somebody just needs to help right the ship here. There was a broad feeling that the anti-reform community was very effective at piling on and that no one was organizing that on our side. There was unequivocally a call to create a community of voices that would rise to the defense of people pushing reform who felt like they were isolated and alone.

EduShyster: That expression you see on my face is incredulity. But please go on sir. I want to hear more about the isolation and alone-ness of people pushing reform. How they are faring today?

Cunningham: Take Kevin Huffman. Now you can disagree with him on policy, but he felt like people were waking up everyday and just attacking him on social media. He tried to respond, and he just felt like it didnt matter. By 2012-2013, Team Status Quoyour label not minewas very effectively calling a lot of reform ideas into question. I mean look around the country. Huffmans gone, John King is gone, John Deasy is gone, Michelle Rhee is gone. Ive created the ability to swarm, because everyone felt like they were being swarmed. We now have people who will, when asked, lean in on the debate, when people feel like theyre just under siege.

There is much in this interview that is fascinating, but most interesting to me is that the billionaires, who have unlimited resources were "feeling isolated and alone." They felt they were "being piled on and that no one would come to their defense." They needed to hire bloggers to defend them.

This is indicative, I think, of the fact that social media is very powerful, and those who oppose the "reformers" own social media. The pro-public education voices are in the millions--millions of teachers, principals, parents, and students. The billionaire reformers hire thousands. Whether you consider the more than 200 bloggers who are part of theEducation Bloggers Network, which advocates for public education, or consider Twitter and Facebook, the critics of billionaire-backed reform and privatization are many, are outspoken, and command a huge forum. No wonder the billionaires are feeling lonely and isolated. They can create astroturf organizations like StudentsFirst, Education Reform Now, 50CAN, TeachPlus, Educators4Excellence, and dozens more groups, but it is typically the same people running a small number of organizations and issuing press releases.

Is it time to feel sorry for the billionaires?

Be sure to read the comments that follow the interview.

THE FULL INTERVIEW BELOW HERE

EduShyster: Education Post is now nine months old. How much better has the conversation gotten?

Peter Cunningham: I see elements here and there. I see other people calling for it. Even Nicholas Kristofs piece in the New York Times where he says, look, theres been a lot of blood spilled in this debate. Why cant we unite around early learning? I think thats a good illustration. Vitriol isnt getting us anywhere. Ive published people who disagree with me and Id like to do more of that. I dont want to just create a platform where people can spout off; I think theres a right way and a wrong way to do it. I want to give people a chance to honestly present other arguments.

EduShyster: Do you have a metric for measuring *better-ness*?

Cunningham: I think that an awful lot of people on the reform side of the fence are thrilled by what were doing. They really feel like *thank God somebody is standing up for us when we get attacked* and *thank God somebody is willing to call out people when they say things that are obviously false or that we think are false.* When I was asked to createthis organizationit wasnt my idea; I was initially approached by Broadit was specifically because a lot of reform leaders felt like they were being piled on and that no one would come to their defense. They said somebody just needs to help right the ship here. There was a broad feeling that the anti-reform community was very effective at piling on and that no one was organizing that on our side. There was unequivocally a call to create a community of voices that would rise to the defense of people pushing reform who felt like they were isolated and alone. EduShyster: That expression you see on my face is incredulity. But please go on sir. I want to hear more about the isolation and alone-ness of people pushing reform. How are they faring today?

Cunningham: Take Kevin Huffman. Now you can disagree with him on policy, but he felt like people were waking up everyday and just attacking him on social media. He tried to respond, and he just felt like it didnt matter. By 2012-2013, Team Status Quoyour label not minewas very effectively calling a lot of reform ideas into question. I mean look around the country. Huffmans gone, John King is gone, John Deasy is gone, Michelle Rhee is gone. Ive created the ability to swarm, because everyone felt like they were being swarmed. We now have people who will, when asked, lean in on the debate, when people feel like theyre just under siege.

Ive created the ability to swarm, because everyone felt like they were being swarmed. We now have people who will, when asked, lean in on the debate, when people feel like theyre just under siege.

EduShyster: I like that word *swarm* because thats kind of how I imagine the scene at EdPost HQ. Somewhere somebody on the Internets says something hurtful about, say, PARCC, and an alarm sounds, activating the team members who then proceed to badger the offender into submission.

Cunningham: Unfortunately what people pay attention to are the fights. A lot of times when we share the voices of teachers and parents and what theyre excited aboutsome of them are excited about PARCC, or charter schools, orCommon Coreno one sees it.

EduShyster: You mean like the EdPost post by the dad who is excited about not opting out? I saw that one! Seriously though, the debate about testing in particular feels to be shifting really quickly with the critics of overtesting and all of its unintended consequence gaining ground. Any chance well start to see that shift reflected over at EdPost?

Cunningham: You think all were doing is saying *testing is great,* but we are saying over and over on our blog that overtesting is a problem and that we should be reducing it, and reminding people that the federal mandate is only 17 teststhe typical kid takes 113. Lets take a look at the other causes of overtesting, things that are locally controlled and can be fixed right away. Were having a debate in Washington about how much testing to do under ESEA. Finelets have the debate. But in the meantime we can radically reduce testing at the local level.

EduShyster: Lets move on. I think people who only know EdPost and arent familiar with you, Peter Cunningham, might be surprised at how critical you are of reform movement rhetoric. I first heard you speak at JebFestin Boston and you told the audience that if they didnt stop harping on failure, they were going to lose the debate. The crowd was not happy. What else have you been telling reformers?

Cunningham: One of my big messages to the funders early on was that we have to be much more open and transparent about where weve gone wrong, and that we have to stop touting success stories when were only 50% successful, or 70% or 30% or 20%. My big message to the charter community has been that you need to talk about quality not growth. You have a quality control problem that you hear reformers acknowledge behind closed doors: *out of 6500 charter schools, how many would you send your own kids to?* Those are the kinds of honest questions we should be asking.

EduShyster: Youve worked with Arne Duncan since back in the days he was running the Chicago Public Schools, and you went with him to Washington. Anything you think he should have done differently?

Cunningham: The sequencing of higher standards, curriculum training, evaluation, accountabilityI wish wed thought that through more. The world is set up in a way that everyone is in a hurry. You think you have a good idea and its like that Billy Crystal line: you figure out who you want to spend the rest of your life with and you want the rest of your life to start right away. We all decided high standards and accountability are great, choice is greatwe wanted to do everything we could to make them available to people sooner rather than later. I wish Id really war gamed out that sequencing issue beforejust understood it. I didnt because Im not a policy person; this isnt really my world. I trusted a lot of policy people who said *we can do this.* But wed never really done anything like this in the history of America. We were completely stunned that 40 some states adopted higher standards so quickly. We were completely stunned that so many states applied for Race to the Top. It was a pretty heady time and we were drinking from the firehose. I wish Id thought that through more. I didnt.

EduShyster: What do you see as the future of EdPost? Will there be a moment in time when the conversation has gotten so much measurably better that you can fold up your tent and move on?

Cunningham: That would be great. Were funded through the middle of 2017. If we get to January 2017 and the reform landscape is in a different place, everyone takes a breather and we have a new president who is at least broadly aligned with the broad policies and states havent really retreated, I think that I would then go to my funders and propose that we really spend a lot more time educating parents, which is a much more expensive thing to do. Maybe educating is the wrong wordI think its engaging them and spending a lot more time elevating their voice, letting them tell us what they really want and then figuring out how to do it. From a process standpoint most education leaders just dont invest in that effort. Id love to see a true national engagement effort with parents that says *these are your schools, these are your kids, this is your future and we really want you to have the ability to shape it.*

Id love to see a true national engagement effort with parents that says *these are your schools, these are your kids, this is your future and we really want you to have the ability to shape it.*

EduShyster: Last question. StudentsFirst pays bloggers to promote its particular brand of education reform on social media. How is what EdPost does any different?

Cunningham: I dont know that it is. We hire bloggers and we subsidize bloggers who are already out there and who we want to support or give more lift. I think its fine. As you know, I have all this money. I have to spend it.

Peter Cunningham is the Executive Director of Education Postand served as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama Administrations first term.



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