Gerald Bracey is dead, but his voice lives on... So let's reread some vintage Bracey from 2003 and 2005 -- 'Bill Gates, If You’re So Rich, How Come You’re Not Smart?' (2005) and 'NCLB is a trap' (2003)

[The last time I heard Jerry Bracey's voice was Sunday evening, October 18, 2009, when he called the Substance office with a question and to chat. "Where did Arne get that number? Can it be true?" were the opening words of the conversation, after the Hellos.

Jerry was again preparing to point out another lie by Arne Duncan, just as he had pointed to the lies of the wealthy and powerful since the time of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. And like the best researcher in the USA that he was, he was checking every minute fact, as well as every outrageous claim.

Specifically last Sunday, Jerry was asking about a claim Arne Duncan had been making since the Derrion Albert murder in Chicago (September 24, 2009) that 'more than 50 percent of Chicago children 'voluntarily' attend school outside their areas. We went into the details of how that claim had come to be, how it might be true of Chicago's high schools (but certainly wasn't true of the system as a whole), and how we could check out the claim further.

As usual, Bracey was chasing a fact and examining a footnote with more vigor than most reporters have nowadays. He was also getting ready to write about another official lie, one of the thousands he had caught and exposed during his prolific career. Forced choice, we discussed; it might be true.

We talked about how in one way, Arne Duncan's claiming that Chicago kids were exercising 'choice' when they went to high school outside their home communities was like saying that young men chose to join the Navy or Marines in 1965 in the face of the Vietnam-era draft.

We went into some detail about how the word 'choice' is really dangerous in these contexts, especially when dealing with the choices that are forced on poor children in places like Chicago. As usual, the famous quote from Anatole France came up and then we went on with current events.

A forced and manipulated choice is not a 'choice' at all, as poor people everywhere know. Jerry laughed that fewer and fewer people would get the reference to channeling, the practice made explicitly by the Selective Service (draft) during the 1950s and 1960s, and that Arne Duncan probably wouldn't get the history or the joke.

We went on in some detail about who from among Duncan's 'Chicago Boys' would have provided Arne with the lines to read (that would probably be Peter Cunningham, Duncan's propaganda chief) and would would have cooked the data to narrow it to that point (that would be John Easton, Duncan's research propaganda chief). We also discussed the relationship of the three evil 'reforms' of the past 25 years — school reform, housing reform, and welfare reform — and how they had landed especially hard in Chicago and especially on the backs of Chicago's poorest black children in America's most segregated city.

We had occasionally talked about how Bracey's knowledge and writing about the last round of 'Chicago Boys' to force 'choice' and policies on a major nation had worked, so when we talked about Barack Obama's 'Chicago Boys' at the U.S. Department of Education we were talking about a specific event from history. Chile: 'education reform' from privatization and charter schools to vouchers. That was in Chile after the September 11, 1973 coup d'etat against the elected government of Salvador Allende. How the 'Chicago Boys' had descended on Chile to force free markets and educational choice (through privatization) on that country behind the bayonets and death squads of the Pinochet dictatorship.

He said he hoped I liked the recent piece he had written about one of Arne Duncan's many conflicts of interest. After a few family pleasantries, Jerry said he had to walk the dog and it was 'We'll talk again soon...'

It's impossible to believe that voice will never ring out again.

'Soon' will never come again, but Jerry Bracey's voice, both from the phone calls and in his writings, will live on.

Like everyone else who is getting the word about the death of Jerry Bracey, I have to take some time to think about Jerry, his family, and what the loss of Gerald Bracey means to all of us. But this is not a time to think and mourn in silence. Jerry Bracey's voice always rose against the hypocritical silence that meant acquiescence in the face of official lies. And so more than silence is demanded right now. While that voice is still in our hearts and can be heard in our minds... It's also appropriate that we read something by the man at this time. Gerald Bracey's voice was heard more loudly than many who spoke less clearly. He was an enemy of lies and of those in power who lied about public education.

Since research and writing of the highest quality were such a part of what he brought to all of us, and since there are hundreds of pieces by Gerald Bracey we can be reading now (a first brush through Google yields more than 200 different articles by Bracey; at the new Substance Website — at — there are dozens; others are on our old kludgy sites at a choice couple might serve best here. So here are two.

The first piece below exemplifies Bracey at his briefest best, the Bracey that wrote some of the most powerful 800-word Op Eds we've ever read.

The open letter to Bill Gates is something Jerry did back in 2005, when No Child Left Behind was riding high and the governors and Gates were in the middle of their attack on public education and especially on our public high schools.

The second is more vintage Bracey, a tightly argued and well researched piece, complete with footnotes that everyone can read and check. It came to us in April 2003, when Jerry Bracey was in Chicago for the AERA convention (where he was honored) and to speak at a forum sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union at Jones High School.

Finally, everyone needs the official Bracey, so let's read what Jerry wrote describing his own life and work for the Huffington Post. George N. Schmidt, Editor, Substance. Proud to have been a colleague, friend, and occasional honored publisher of Jerry Bracey.]

Bill Gates, If You’re So Rich, How Come You’re Not Smart?

Point of View Essay

By Gerald Bracey (Associate Professor of Education George Mason University)

Published by the Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU), Education Policy Studies Laboratory, College of Education, Division of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Box 872411, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411

March 2005


Education Policy Research Unit



Education Policy Studies Laboratory, Division of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

College of Education, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 872411, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411, Telephone: (480) 965-1886, Fax: (480) 965-0303 (E-mail:,

Bill Gates, If You’re So Rich, How Come You’re Not Smart? A letter to Bill Gates

March 9, 2005

Gerald Bracey

The “wealth clock” that tracks your net worth currently reads a little over $60 billion, but if

you had applied the same level of critical acumen to Microsoft’s 1975 business plan as you

recently applied to education while bashing American schools, Microsoft would have gone

belly-up in 1976 (your focus was the high school, but you kept jumping illogically around to

4th graders and 8th graders, too).

You and the governors were quite vague about what makes the schools obsolete or what to do about it. What is it, exactly, that schools are not teaching that they need to?

Let’s consider reading, math and science. Are schools obsolete because they teach these topics? International comparisons, I notice, assess…reading, math and science. You and the governors chose your statistics from these comparisons to put America in the worst possible light. I can’t imagine leaders of any other country doing that, but you were wrong in any case.

For instance, in the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, 11 of 24 nations scored significantly higher than the U. S. in math at the fourth grade, but only 3 scored higher in science. At the eighth grade level, only 9 of the 44 countries scored significantly higher than the U. S. in math and only 7 scored higher in science. If American schools are obsolete, many other nations’ schools are more archaic.

You claimed that our kids were at the top in fourth grade, but at the bottom by 12th. To make that statement, you had to uncritically accept one of the worst comparisons in education history, that from 1995’s Third International Mathematics and Science Study, Final Year Report. That study took extreme care to point out how very different that final year of secondary school is in different nations. Alas, the U. S. Department of Education presented this study as if it were an apples to apples comparison of high school seniors around the world. Apples to aardvarks is more like it. If you examine the scores of comparable students, U. S. students are average, as they were in eighth grade.

You said to the governors, “When I compare our high schools to what I see when I’m

traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow.” Really? My guess is that when you travel abroad, your hosts, wishing to impress you, do not take you to average or

below average schools. Visit some good schools here and your terror will abate.

Schools teach general knowledge and skills. Certainly that’s true in the college preparatory

curriculum you and the governors want for all children, but jobs require highly specific skills.

You have to teach these on the job. We often can’t even imagine what those skills will be in

the future. But advances in technology makes life simpler, not more complicated. Think

digital camera vs. the manually operated SLR of 30 years ago. In 1986, my secretary was ecstatic when I replaced her IBM Selectric III typewriter with a word-processing personal computer. Imagine being able to revise a manuscript without retyping the whole document!

Of course, for this change to go smoothly, we had to provide our clerical staff on-the-job training, something that American corporations are loath to do. Research in the Nineties found that compared to companies in other nations, when it comes to developing employees, American corporations are real cheapskates. And, in contrast to companies abroad, which developed low-skilled and high-skilled employees, American companies invested almost entirely in employees who were already highly skilled.

You say our workforce is at risk. The World Economic Forum, which you have addressed, doesn’t agree. Among 104 nations, it ranks the United States second in Global Competitiveness and sees no future decline. We used to be number 1, but the WEF has not been pleased with the Bush tax cuts, our ever-increasing debt, our ever-increasing trade deficit and the endless parade of indicted CEO’s (lowers our score on the WEF’s “corruption index”).

I do congratulate you for focusing some attention on economically deprived schools. Alas, you and the governors appear to think that school reform can, all by itself overcome their problems. But poor students arrive at school behind their middle class peers. As measured by tests, they learn the same amount during the school year, but lose the gains over the summer, leaving them farther behind. You and the governors should look for ways to eliminate the factors that cause poor children to lose ground during the months when the schools are closed.

Good luck.

Gerald W. Bracey

Alexandria, VA

Gerald W. Bracey is an educational researcher and writer in Alexandria, VA. He is author of

Setting the Record Straight: Responses to Misconceptions About Public Education in the U.S.

(Heinemann 2004) and On the Death of Childhood and the Destruction of Public Schools

(Heinemann, 2003).

The second article tonight was originally published in Substance in May 2003, following the AERA convention in Chicago and Gerald Bracey's contribution to Chicago's understanding of the issues through his participation in the Chicago Teachers Union forum at Jones High School during AERA. Bracey had just received a prestigious award from AERA in front of a huge audience. The next day, he was at a Chicago high school helping teachers and parents understand how No Child Left Behind worked against public schools. It was vintage Bracey, and the reason he received that AERA award.

NCLB: Just Say No! By Gerald Bracey

[Editor's Introduction: Gerald Bracey received the 2003 Interpretive Scholarship Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in Chicago on April 23, 2003 and spoke to a Chicago Teachers Union audience on the damage being caused by high-stakes testing and No Child Left Behind on April 24, 2003 at Chicago's Jones High School. The interpretive Scholarship award was “to stimulate and recognize outstanding contributions that individuals have made to increasing practitioner and lay-group understanding of the contributions of educational research to the improvement of educational practice...” No one did that better than Jerry Bracey. The following day, Bracey joined a number of critics and union members at Jones HIgh School to describe the pitfalls of “No Child Left Behind.” The following article was originally published in the print edition of Substance in May 2003. It is available on the old Substance web site ( at http://www.substance archive/May03 /after thoughts.htm). The same issue of Substance includes a report on the forum held at Jones High School in April 2003 on high-stakes testing.]

The NCLB is a trap. It is the grand scheme of the school privatizers. NCLB sets up public schools for the final knock down. Paranoia? Hardly. Consider that the Bush administration is de-regulating every pollution producing industry in sight while cutting Superfund cleanup money. It has rolled back regulations on power plants and snowmobiles and wants to take protection away from 20,000,000 acres of wetlands (20% of the total). President Bush’s response to global warming: “Deal with it!” by which he means, adjust to it while we make the world safe for SUVs. The president wants to outsource hundreds of thousands of government jobs to private corporations. [1] He wants to get the government out of government. Would an administration with such an anti-regulatory, pro-private sector policy perspective turn around and impose harsh, straitjacket requirements on schools, demands that would bankrupt any business? Of course not. Unless it had an ulterior purpose. Recall that the president’s original 2001 proposal provided vouchers to let children attend private schools at taxpayer expense. Congress, chastised by the massive defeats vouchers suffered in referenda in California and Michigan in the 2000 election (voucher proponents outspent opponents 2-1, but the measures went down in flames, 70-30, in both states), stripped the voucher provisions from the bill. They didn’t strip them from Karl Rove’s mind. After the 2002 elections, the Wall Street Journal declared “GOP’s Election Gains Give School Vouchers a Second Wind.” [2] They’ll be back. In fact, they already are. President Bush has put $75 million for vouchers for the District of Columbia in his 2004 budget proposal and some congressmen want to extend their use to other cities as well. [3]

Mission Impossible

There are any number of impossible-to-meet provisions in the NCLB, but let’s take just two of the most prominent: those for testing and for teacher qualifications.

The federal government cannot force NCLB on states, but any state that wants NCLB money must agree to test all children in grades three through eight every year in reading and math and, two years later, science as well. The tests must be based on “challenging” standards and schools must show “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) until, after 12 years, all of the schools’ students attain the “proficient” level. The school must demonstrate AYP overall and separately for all major ethnic and socio-economic groups, special education students and English Language Learners. And pigs will fly.

The massive testing requirements alone will force many states to spend massive amounts of money to develop, administer, analyze and report the test results and other data needed for mandatory “report cards” schools must develop and send to parents. Many states will have to abandon their own programs labored over for the last decade—or two. Their costs may well exceed what NCLB provides. An analysis by Rutland, Vermont School Superintendent, William Mathis, found that the state will receive $52 million dollars from NCLB, but that it will cost the Green Mountain State $158 million to implement the law’s provisions [4].

The word “proficient” is a trap, too. According to the law, each state decides how to define it, but the word already has great currency in education circles as part of the lingo surrounding the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). It is one of the NAEP achievement levels, the others being “below basic,” “basic” and “advanced.” Not many children attain the proficient level on NAEP tests. Although in common parlance, the NAEP achievement levels have been rejected by everyone who has ever studied them: UCLA’s Center for Research on Evaluation, Student Standards and Testing (CRESST) [5] , the General Accounting Office [6] and the National Academy of Sciences [7] , as well as by individual psychometricians such as Lyle Jones of the University of North Carolina [8].

The studies agree that the methods used are flawed and, more importantly, the results don’t accord with any other data.

For instance, Jones pointed out that American fourth-graders were well above average on the mathematics tests of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), yet only 18% reached the proficient level and a meager two percent scored at the advanced level in the 1996 NAEP mathematics. Similar low percentages are seen in the 1996 NAEP Science assessment and TIMSS Science where American fourth-graders were third in the world among 26 nations. Finally, on the 2000 NAEP reading assessment, only 32% of fourth-graders attained proficient or better, but that American 9-year-olds were second in the world among 27 countries in the international reading study, How in the World Do Students Read [9] [10]? It makes no sense that American kids do so poorly on domestic measures such as NAEP but stack up well against the rest of the industrialized world.

When NAEP was first introduced, the enabling law forbade it to report at the state level. Congress revised the law in 1988 to make state reporting possible and currently about 40 states volunteer (and pay) to receive state-level information. Under NCLB, state-level NAEP goes from voluntary to mandatory. All states must participate in the biennial NAEP reading and math assessments to “confirm” their own results. Studies have already shown that a much smaller proportion of students reaches proficient on NAEP than on the various state tests. Because the NAEP levels are exceedingly high, Robert Linn, co-director of CRESST observed that even getting all children to even the “basic” level on NAEP would constitute a mighty challenge [11].

The NCLB bill contains incentives for states to start at a low level (to have any prayer of achieving AYP). This is why, on a preliminary analysis of “failing schools” in various states, Michigan, with high standards had 1513 failing schools, and Arkansas, with low standards, had none.

Yet on the fourth grade NAEP reading assessment in 2000, Michigan had 28 percent of its students at or above proficient while Arkansas had only 23. Differences like this will turn into discrepancies between what the state assessments say and what NAEP says about how many students in a state are or are not proficient. Critics and profit seekers will take the discrepancy between the state results and the NAEP results as evidence that the schools are still failing and that the states and districts are lying to their citizens about school quality. Districts and schools that fail to make AYP are subject to increasingly severe—and unworkable—sanctions. Their staffs can be fired, their kids sent to another district, the district abolished.

Using the original formulation, the White House’s own calculations revealed that had NCLB been in place for a few years, about 90% of the schools in North Carolina and Texas would have been labeled “failing schools.”

North Carolina and Texas? These are states that have been singled out in recent years for their progress on a variety of tests. If they can’t meet the standards, what hope is there for the rest? None—that’s the purpose of the law. The National Conference of State Legislatures estimated that 90% of all schools would fail while simulations by the Council of Chief State School Officers put the failure rate at only 88% [12]. As a consequence, some wags are beginning to refer to the law as LNSS: Let No School Succeed.

Greasing the Skids for Vouchers

In a move clearly aimed at greasing the skids for vouchers, the U. S. Department of Education put out regulations that make no sense at all. As a first step to quashing failing schools, children in those schools must be offered the option of going to a more successful one, successful defined solely in terms of test scores. It does not matter if the “successful” schools are already stuffed to the gills.

They must hire more teachers (where they will find them is something of a mystery), bring in trailers or build more classrooms (where they will get the money is something of a mystery). They must, in the words of Under Secretary Eugene Hickok, build capacity. Only if the arriving students would so crowd the schools as to violate fire or other safety and health codes, can they be denied access. Thus, in theory, we could face a situation in which virtually all students attend schools currently enrolling only 10% of students. In some places, one must truly wonder where kids will go. Los Angeles has enough classroom space for 145,000 high schoolers. The district currently has 165,000 with a projected 200,000 by 2005 [13].

There are more than a few technical problems with the concept of AYP. Researchers have found that test scores at the school level are quite volatile from year to year [14] . According to RAND researcher David Grissmer, the tests would not identify the good and the bad schools, but only the lucky and unlucky ones [15] . Not only are the test scores volatile, most of the volatility is associated with factors that have nothing to do with what goes on in the classroom.

No one has given any consideration to student mobility. Nationally, 20% of American students change schools each year. In urban areas the figure is more like 50% and in some instances, the students in a building at the end of the year are not those who started there in the fall. How, then, can the school be considered failing or succeeding?

Similarly, nothing in the law takes into account the phenomenon of summer loss. This is critical. Disadvantaged students show substantial summer loss while middle class and affluent students hold their own in mathematics and actually gain over the summer months in reading. One study found that poor and middle class students gained the same amount during the school year, but, because of summer losses, the poor students fell farther and farther behind their middle class peers as they moved from first to fifth grade [16] . Thus schools that actually make adequate yearly progress during the school year will get labeled as failures because of what happens during the summer months.

Moreover, no one has given any attention to what happens when large numbers of children leave “failing” schools for more successful ones (the U. S. Department of Education has given large grants for publicity campaigns to insure that parents are aware of this option). Suppose the arriving students raise the average class size from 22 to 29 students. This alone could easily transform a successful school into a failing one.

And what kinds of test scores will the arriving students bring? The legislation demands that schools give priority to the neediest students—those with the lowest test scores. The arrival of large numbers of low-scoring students might well convert a successful school into a failing one. At the same time, since the departing students take their low scores with them, the sending school’s test scores will automatically rise. But if the sending school gets out of the failing category, it doesn’t get the kids back. It only gets to stop paying for their transportation, thereby turning NCLB into an unfunded mandate on parents.

The above problems present sufficient difficulties for schools, but their lives become more arduous because they must to disaggregate the data below the school level. We have mentioned already that school-level test scores show volatility from year to year. Imagine what kind of instability we’ll see when we have report by smaller units: blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, special education students, kids on free-and-reduced price lunches, and English Language Learners. And if one group doesn’t show AYP, the school takes the hit. When the pre-ordained high failure rate occurs, vouchers and privatization will be touted as the only possible cures.

Subsequent to the voucher defeats in Michigan and California, voucher advocates have stopped touting vouchers as a cure-all for the whole nation on market grounds and have started pushing them for poor people on civil rights grounds. They contend that middle class people aren’t interested in vouchers because they think their public schools are good (they’re right). But with the high failure rates guaranteed by NCLB, even those good schools will fail—51% of the schools North Carolina recognized for “exemplary growth” failed under NCLB [17] . Conservative school critic, Denis Doyle wrote that the NCLB means that the nation is about to be “inundated in a sea of bad news” and that the schools are going to get “pole-axed. [18] “

The privatizers will shout “The school system has proven it is an ossified government monopoly that can’t reform itself (Chester Finn shouted precisely this in 1998 in the Wall Street Journal [19] ). You’ve had your chance. We warned you. We gave you ‘Nation At Risk’ over twenty years ago. Nothing has changed. It’s time to apply American business expertise to education.” Right, as in Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing, Imclone, WorldCom, and the 993 companies that have “adjusted” their accounting reports in the last five years, and the myriad dot.coms that failed because their officers didn’t have a clue about how to run a business (How come no one ever criticizes business schools?).

Here Comes the Private Sector

Chris Whittle and his Edison Schools Inc. will likely be waiting. Edison stock has been as high as $39 a share, but in February, 2003 it was hovering around $1.35; in ten years, the company has failed to show a profit for even one quarter. Recall that Whittle announced his plan for a national system of private schools in 1991 when President George Herbert Walker Bush was riding high after the Gulf War.

So certain was a Bush re-election that the most likely Democratic candidates declined to run and left the certain defeat to the Governor of Arkansas. Whittle’s original grandiose plan prophesied 200 private schools by 1996 and 1000 by 2000 (he currently manages, not owns, about 130 public schools). He said it would require about $1 billion to create a prototype of his scheme and another $2 to ramp it up to a national scale. Where on earth would he get that kind of money? Whittle said it would come from bankers and investors. Three billion from investors who had already lost about $400 million on his earlier adventure, Channel One?

Whittle actually needed President Bush and Secretary Alexander to push their school voucher plan through Congress. Then children could use those vouchers to attend Edison schools. When the unthinkable happened and President Bush lost, Whittle had to fall back on managing a few public schools. Whittle no doubt already has an advertising campaign ready for when the failing grades start arriving. He will then portray the Edison “model” as the only means of consistently achieving AYP, even though evaluations have found Edison achievement results mixed at best and a dozen schools that Edison lists as showing “positive” trends have terminated their contracts.

As will be former secretary of education, William J. Bennett. Bennett now heads K12, Inc. After decades of warning people that computers offer no educational advantages, Bennett converted and is now CEO of this company that produces on-line curriculum materials. The “supplementary services” provisions of NCLB offer Whittle, Bennett and other private companies opportunities after the public schools “fail.”

The testing requirements alone are enough to consign the schools to failure. The requirements for “highly qualified” teachers simply hit the schools while they’re down. All current teachers in schools receiving NCLB funds must be “highly qualified” by 2005-2006, as must anyone who was hired after the 2002-2003 school year began. By “highly qualified,” NCLB means those who hold at least a bachelor’s degree, have full state certification (or have passed the state’s licensing exam), and who have not had any certification requirements waived on “an emergency, provisional, or temporary basis.”

There are nationwide shortages of people with such qualifications in mathematics, science and special education—and the cities. Chicago says 25% of the teachers in low-performing schools don’t meet the requirements [20] , while Baltimore put the figure at 31% [21] . A 2003 survey commissioned by Education Week shows that 22% of all high school students take a course from a teacher without even a minor in the subject. For high-poverty high schools, the figure is 32% and for high-poverty middle schools it is 44% [22] . These precise figures are recent but the teacher qualification problem has been known for some time. We can only assume that the framers of the legislation knew in advance that states could not meet the requirements. They just didn’t care.

Even classroom paraprofessionals must have completed two years of college and have an associate’s degree or have passed a state test on content and teaching skills. New hires must meet this requirement as of January 8, 2003; existing paraprofessionals have four years to ratchet up their credentials.

Paraprofessionals are low-salaried staff who often come from lower-income neighborhoods. Many urban education experts contend that they are the best possible candidates to become accredited teachers—they are familiar with the situation and know what they’re getting into and have shown that they can deal with it. But there is no federal money to assist them to their degrees and if they should attain one, they will no doubt find more attractive salaries outside of the school. And better working conditions—NCLB greatly restricts what services they can provide to children. They can’t teach, for instance unless, “directly supervised” by a teacher.

Harry Reid, the Democratic whip in the Senate is said to have gathered some education lobbyists together and asked, “How on earth could you have let this happen?” (“on earth” was not actually the phrase he used).

How, indeed? Well, money can be attractive and addictive. How else to explain why so many Senators and Representatives endorsed President Bush’s proposal? Senators Kennedy and Miller now say President Bush didn’t deliver the promised dollars—their versions contained $10 billion more than the $1.4 billion of new money actually appropriated [23] . Some states are already thinking that their costs—in dollars, not even counting hassle—might well be more than they get from NCLB. David Shreve of the National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that the cost of program to states could run as high as $35 billion [24].

Thomas Gaffey, a state legislator in Connecticut says, “I’m sitting here shaking my head. I knew this was loaded with problems, but what the heck was going through their minds?” [25] What indeed? States should look at the lucre-drug that Bush and the NCLB are offering them and just say “No!”

References and footnotes

[1] “Christopher Lee, “35 Senators Oppose Outsourcing Plan.” Washington Post, February 5, 2003, p. A21.

[2] Robert Tomsho, GOP’s Election Gains Give Vouchers a Second Wind.” Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2002, p. 1.

[3] Valerie Strauss, “President to Push Vouchers for D. C. Washington Post, February 8, 2003.

[4] Sally West Johnson, “Mathis Rips Feds Over School Act.” Rutland Herald (Vermont), February 5, 2003. The analysis can be obtained by emailing William Mathis at [5] Robert L Linn, “Standards-Based Accountability: Ten Suggestions.” Policy Paper, Center for Research in Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing, 1998.

[6] General Accounting Office, Educational Achievement Standards: NAGB’s Approach Yields Misleading Interpretations. Washington, DC: Author, June 1993, Report GAO/PEMD-93-12.

[7] National Academy of Sciences, Grading the Nation’s Report Card: Evaluating NAEP and Transforming the Assessment of Educational Progress. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999.

[8] Lyle V. Jones, “National Tests of Educational Reform: Are They Compatible?” Princeton, NJ: Policy Information Center, Educational Testing Service, 1997. Accessible at [9] U. S. Department of Education, The Nation’s Report Card: Fourth Grade Reading 2000. Washington, DC: Author, Report No. NCES 2001-499, p. 15.

[10] Warwick P. Elley, How in the World Do Students Read? The Hague, Holland: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, 1992. Available in this country through the International Reading Association, Newark, Delaware.

[11] Robert L. Linn, Eva L. Baker, and Damian W. Betebenner, “Accountability systems: Implications of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.” Educational Researcher, August/September 2002, pp. 3-16.

[12] Information can be found at the organization’s websites,, and [13] Randy Ross, “School Choice Where None Exists.” Education Week, December 4, 2002, p. 37.

[14] Thomas J. Kane and Douglas O Staiger, “Volatility in School Test Scores: Implications for Test-Based Accountability Systems.” In Diane Ravitch (Ed.), Brookings Papers on Education 2002. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2002.

[15] Lynn Olson, “Study Questions Reliability of Single Year Test-Score Gains, Education Week, May 23, 2001 p. 9.

Author’s note: It might seem that David Grissmer made his remark a year before the Kane and Staiger research appeared. Dave made his comment when the Kane and Staiger paper first appeared in 2001, but it was not published formally until 2002. [16] Karl L. Alexander, Doris R. Entwistle, and Linda S. Olson, “Schools, Achievement and Inequality: A Seasonal Perspective.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Summer, 2001, pp. 171-191.

[17] Tim Simmons, “U.S. Standards Perplex N.C. Schools.” Raleigh News & Observer, June 2, 2002, p. A1

[18] Denis P. Doyle, “AYP Revealed, Now What?” The Doyle Report, June 4, 2002. “AYP Once More Once,” The Doyle Report, June 13, 2002.

[19] Chester E. Finn, Jr., “Why America Has the World’s Dimmest Bright Kids.” Wall Street Journal, February 25, 1998, p. A22.

[20] Catherine Gewertz, “City Districts Seek Teachers With Licenses.” Education Week, September 11, 2002, p. 1.

[21] Kate Walsh, Teacher Certification Reconsidered: Stumbling for Quality. Baltimore, MD: The Abell Foundation, 2001.

[22] Education Week. Quality Counts 2003: If I Can’t Learn from YouÉEnsuring a Highly Qualified Teacher in Every Classroom. Bethesda, MD: Author, January 9, 2003.

[23] Erik W. Robelen, “Democratic, GOP Education Plans Differ by Billions.” Education Week, March 27, 2003, p. 1.

[24] Robert a. Frahm, “Lawmakers Hear Criticism of Education Reform Law.” Hartford Courant, February 8, 2003, p. 1.

[25] Ibid.

© 2003, Gerald W. Bracey, all rights reserved. The author may be contacted at .

Third, Bracey's bio from Huffington Post, where he contributed during his final years.

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Gerald W. Bracey is currently an associate of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, a fellow at the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and a fellow at the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He maintains a website, the Education Disinformation Detection and Reporting Agency, dedicated to using the real-time power of the Net to debunk dis- and mis-information about public schools.

Bracey is a native of Williamsburg, Virginia and attended the College of William and Mary there before going on to obtain a Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University. After serving as a Research Psychologist in the Early Childhood Education Research Group at Educational Testing Service, Bracey became the Associate Director of the Institute for Child Study at Indiana University in Bloomington.

In 1965 and 1966, Bracey lived for a year in Hong Kong and traveled widely in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe, then returned to finish his doctorate. After this experience of living abroad and traveling, he held a strong desire to travel without itinerary until the money ran out. In 1973, he resigned his post at Indiana University and traveled the world for four years. Returning to Virginia, he became the Director of Research, Evaluation and Testing for the Virginia Department of Education and, nine years later, moved on to a similar position with the Cherry Creek, Colorado, School District near Denver.

Since 1984, Bracey has authored monthly “Research” columns for Phi Delta Kappan, reporting educational and psychological research studies that are of interest and use to practitioners. This column garnered him the Interpretive Scholarship Award from the American Educational Research Association in 2003.

In September, 2005, Bracey began a new “myth busting” column for Principal Leadership, a publication of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

In 1991, a policy-oriented article, “Why Can’t They Be Like We Were?” drew the attention of the New York Times, Washington Post, Education Week, and USA Today, along with the wrath of the first Bush Administration.

When Bracey submitted a follow-up in 1992, the editors renamed it “The Second Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education” and asked that it be an annual event. The Sixteenth Bracey Report appeared in the October, 2006 Phi Delta Kappan.

In 1994-95 Bracey was the first Distinguished Fellow for the Agency for Instructional Technology. His researches that year produced a 1995 book, Final Exam: A Study of the Perpetual Scrutiny of American Education. The book provides a century-long history of educational reform as well as histories of educational assessment, educational standards, and educational outcomes.

Bracey summarized most of his findings in a 1997 book, Setting the Record Straight: Responses to Misconceptions About Public Education in America. Published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the book debunks 20 common myths about American schools. Designed for practitioners, each chapter begins “What do I say when people say________?”, filling in the blank with a myth. Each chapter then provides the data needed to refute the myth.

In 2004, Bracey revised and updated the book, now published by Heinemann. Heinemann also published his 2003 collection of essays, On the Death of Childhood and the Destruction of Public Schools: The Folly of Today’s Education Policies. A booklet, “Understanding Education Statistics: It's Easier (And More Important) Than You Think” was published in early 1997 by Educational Research Service and a revised edition appeared.

In 2003. Phi Delta Kappa published a companion book Put to the Test: An Educator’s and Consumer’s Guide to Standardized Testing 1998 with a revised edition in 2002. Another book, Bail Me Out! Handling Difficult Data and Tough Questions About Public Schools was published in April 2000. He has expanded materials in these three publications and addition more material in a book to make people smarter consumers of statistics.

His latest book is Reading Educational Research: How to Avoid Getting Statistically Snookered. The book was published February, 2006 by Heinemann.

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Final edited version of this article posted at October 21, 2009, 6:00 a.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms — or you can take out a subscription to Substance (see red button to the right) and make a donation. We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.


October 21, 2009 at 9:22 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Please post something about Jerry Bracey here...

If you wish, please post something about Jerry Bracey's life and career here and it will help us produce the special section of the November 2009 print edition of Substance that will honor Jerry's life, work, and fierce commitment to public schools and to the truth. We want this series of pages to do the most we can for Jerry and his memory.

If you have digital photographs of Jerry's work in recent years, could you please attach them to an email and share them with us and our readers as well. Again -- attach -- attach your photographs to an e-mail and send it to Csubstance@ Other methods of sending digital graphics to Substance often muck up in our aging hardware and software systems.

To post your comment here at all you need to do is click on the word 'comment' and you will be given a section to complete. We prefer, especially in this case, that all comments be made in your own name and that your own email address be given. In other words, no blogger pseudonyms and no blogger phony email addresses. Jerry's voice rang out because he had the courage of his work and his convictions, and the least we can do to honor him is to publish words that show the same commitment.

October 21, 2009 at 7:37 PM

By: Jay Rehak

Thanks, Mr. Bracey

Although I did not know him personally, I read much of his work and ideas via Substance. As a teacher, I say a prayer of thanks for the work Jerry did. It is often not lauded, but it is the work of truth.

The pursuit of truth is, in my opinion, a life well lived.

October 21, 2009 at 8:56 PM

By: JS Whitfield

Gerald Bracey "presente"

The resistance lives on, and one would hope to continue to see Bracey's work appear in Substance.

Peace to you Gerald Bracey!

October 21, 2009 at 10:18 PM

By: Sharon Higgins

A Fitting Tribute to Gerald Bracey

This is an enormous loss. Jerry was an extraordinarily clear and independent thinker.

The modern education reform establishment desperately needs to read his recently released book, "Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality."

So perhaps we can all pay tribute to Jerry's life work by purchasing a copy of "Education Hell" and send it with a loving note to our favorite ed deformer-type.

Here are some people to start with:

- Arne Duncan and his entire staff at the DoE

- Democrats for Education Reform (Joe Williams, Whitney Tilson, Newt Gingrich, Al Sharpton, etc.)

- Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg

- Bill Gates and his entire staff at the Gates Foundation

- Eli Broad and his entire staff and the Broad Foundation

- Any Broad-trained superintendents or residents in your local school district

- Jay Green and his staff at the U. of Arkansas Department of Education Reform

- etc.

October 22, 2009 at 3:24 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Bracey November Substance memorial shaping up

A four- or eight-page section devoted to some of the work of Gerald Bracey will be published in the November 2009 issue of Substance (print edition). Please share your thoughts by email to Csubstance@ or with Substance National Resistance editor Susan Ohanian through her website. We are on deadline now. We will especially appreciate digital photographs of Jerry at work during the past four years, since most of our 'vintage' photographs are still in film form from the late 20th Century and the first could of years of the 21st Century.

I will post more here and elsewhere as this project develops. The November print edition of Substance will be mailed November 4, 2009 from Chicago to all of our print subscribers.

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