Check out Joanne Jacobs’ blog about this research by Grover Whitehurst at the Brookings Center on Children and Families. Read it and weep.

My take on all of this?

Fascinating and oh, so sad for these children, their families, and our nation. And worse, these studies seem to confirm earlier ones about the lack of long term positive effects from preschools. Yet we continue to throw good money at these, while ignoring efforts that may actually be more effective!

While I’m not an early childhood expert, whoever that may be, I am a former teacher, school attorney, parent, and concerned citizen and have written about this issue in my book, SPECIAL EDUCATION 2.0.

If we are truly interested in closing these gaps in early childhood, we need to work with parents and guardians IN THEIR HOME–not wait till children are three or four years old to take them OUT of the home. The work needs to be done from birth onward, through language, singing, reading, working with hands, etc. We need to help parents be their child’s BEST first teacher.

It’s that early early childhood gap that schools and school-based programs cannot close and, unfortunately, that often continues to widen through the school years. Four year olds, even three year olds– is too late. There’s already that gap in learning.

Some programs with which I’m familiar include 10 Books a Home, An Ounce of Prevention, Zero to Three, Providence Talks, Too Small to Fail, Nurse Family Practice, and others.

Let’s put our money, love, and efforts into programs that work with families in their homes, not create more institutions out of the home. Let’s put our efforts into programs that have a good chance of working.

Do you get discouraged or frustrated that real and effective reforms are too slow and not enough people care about improving schools in meaningful systemic ways. And, that too often, when reforms are actually undertaken, they often go off the rails, even though well intentioned.

Yes, sometimes I do get discouraged. But now, thanks to reading The New York Times Book Review about Steven Brill’s new book, Tailspin—The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall—and Those Fighting to Reverse It—I have a more optimistic view.

The review by Daniel W. Drezner closes with a discussion of Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). He writes that her words stay with him most. And with me.

“When [Ms. Krumholz] is asked whether she gets frustrated that not enough people care about [CRP’s] focus on dark money in politics, she said: ‘We need to be here building the record so that when the opportunity arises, when people of good faith on both sides of the aisle decide that enough is enough, we will have armed them…The system has careened off the tracks, and everyone knows it. But I’m impassioned, not discouraged.”

While Ms. Krumholz focuses on dark money, my colleagues and I are focused on public education. Yet, the challenges and spirit are the same—the system is broken; everyone knows it; apparently people have not yet had enough; and we need to keep on keeping on, providing a platform for discussion, collecting data, encouraging innovation and promoting solutions.

I don’t know Sheila Krumholz or anything about the work of CRP. But, I feel better already. I’ll print out a copy and put it on the wall near my desk. I hope you feel better, too, and continue to work for common-sense true reform!

An interesting piece. And if it’s tracking, Joanne is fine with it–because it focuses on what students need, not their labels or economic status. Finally It’s about time. I think we’re finally getting somewhere.

My comment in her piece is this:

Check out schools based on proficiency and competency (competency-based education–CBE). Dare I say it–these schools and programs are on the right “track” because they focus on what students know and can do now and then teach them to move from that to higher achievement–not based on what class the child happens to be in but on what the child needs at the level he/she is now. Different areas of strengths are taught differently.

As I see it, the basic difference between CBE and what is discussed above is that CBE is NOT label-based (gifted, advanced, honors, etc.). Instead, it is subject/skills/ knowledge based. It takes kids from where they are and moves them forward–student by student, subject by subject, knowledge/skill by…. you get the idea! Check out Taylor County, Kentucky and Westminster, Colorado and Lindsay Unified School District in California–for starters.

Your thoughts?

The most inspiring news about improving public education for all students—general and special ed—comes from the new health care venture launched in Boston by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, investor Warren Buffett, and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase. It doesn’t come from education at all!

These three wealthy leaders hired a practicing surgeon and author, Atul Gawande, to lead an-as-yet-to-be named new approach to improving health care for employees at their companies–better services at lower costs. I don’t know about you, but I’ve enjoyed reading Atul Gawande’s New Yorker pieces and book, Being Mortal. They are wonderfully original and thought-provoking. Gawande a powerful thought leader–and practical, too. If/when these guys succeed, they hope their new approach will be a model for other companies and entities.

I actually love the fact that the venture is still unnamed, since they don’t know where they are headed. They do know their dream. They know their purpose. Yhey know their why.

Reading about this new venture has inspired me because it reminds me of what we’re trying to do with special ed. It’s fascinating. As I read articles about it, I just substituted the words, “special education” for “medicine.” It all rang true! The challenges, backlash, dream, second guessing, encouragement—it’s all a very familiar parallel for those of us trying to fix public education, including special education. I’m impressed by this venture and started thinking….

In education, who would WE hire as our Atul Gawande to lead a transformation? And who would be moved to fund it? Interesting questions worth pursuing.

What do you think?

BTW, Part I is my piece at

YUP! It all started in 2003, when these companies, the SAT (the College Board) and the ACT decided to no longer let readers know that a test was given in a nonstandard way to a student who had an accommodation for that nonstandarized testing. See my article at the time, disabling the SAT,

The rush to get accommodations (especially for more time) started then and has continued to grow and expand– especially among those who can play the game of getting a diagnosis, make a demand for an accommodation, etc., etc.

The current system is a mess. For starters, these tests are now invalid because they are no longer standardized (what are they then, exactly?). They don’t provide honest and comparable data. They are also unfair to all students, unequal among students, and do leave some folks with a troubling sense of immoral advantage.

It’s a mess. For starters, I urge these powerful companies to clean up their process to make these tests valid again. Joanne’s piece cites the proposal I’ve made for that.

Thank you for airing this very important issue.

Check it out. Very sad for our colleges and standards, as I see it. But not surprising for those of us who have watched the troubling and unfortunately, predictable dive from standards, starting in 2003 when the SAT and ACT stopped “flagging” tests given with nonstandard accommdations. See my piece at the time,

What are we doing as a nation? Whither standards?

As we all know, we have standardized tests because they allow us to evaluate and compare students with one measure, whether students are from cities or rural areas, public or private schools, the USA or other countries.

BUT, if the SAT and ACT are no longer standardized, then what are we paying all this money for? What’s the point? Who are the winners and losers here? I believe our country loses when standards are no longer standard. We lose faith in our colleges. Trust is killed. It’s not a good path forward.

My concern is with these mega testing companies, the SAT and ACT, that went off track 15 years ago and led us astray, not so much with students or parents who take advantage of that open back door. These testing companies need to fix this! NOW!

There are many options for fixing this. Perhaps the SAT and ACT can bring back the notification to readers (colleges, students, parents, taxpayers) when a test is taken under nonstandard conditions, either because a student has a disability or because a student chooses to take the test that way–disabled or not. Or they can stop timing the tests for everyone. BTW–why are these tests timed? Is it just administrative convenience? Test proctors need to be paid more?

What a sad mess they have created for our country. I’m sure there are other fixes. Your thoughts? They need to fix these tests NOW!

Thank you, Mike Schmoker, for this important and necessary Commentary. You are so right! We need more (objective, not-agenda-or advocacy-driven) researchers and educators to speak up for effective educational practices and results.

What’s missing, though, is any mention of special education–the arena filled with agenda-driven, faddish, mandated, and yet, unproven approaches. Beyond differentiated instruction, which is mentioned here as “popular”, but not evidence-based, how about the use of 1:1 aides, the push for technology for “personalized instruction”–whatever that term means (it is still not defined), the overuse and misused of so-called accommodations, the mandate for “inclusion” even when it does not work for all students–just for starters!

When education is driven by Washington and state capitals–instead of by honest researchers and classroom teachers and, even, common sense–can we be surprised that it is not evidence-based? We need more teachers to speak up and pursue what works. Thanks for getting the conversation going.

When will this ever end? What will be the tipping point? How unfair can we be?

Testing companies need to preserve test validity– that’s the product they are supposedly selling–tests that are STANDARDIZED to measure all students fairly and in the same way. So, they have a choice. Either stop timing these tests for everyone or bring back notification that the extended time test results were obtained through NON STANDARD test administration.

When will this ever end? When will they ever learn?

Silicon Valley –where so much technology, which we now realize can be very addictive, is created, is often for other people’s children.

Many parents in SV don’t allow their OWN to use it, or very much limit their children’s use, and choose schools (private, of course), where technology is not used–even as they keep on selling this stuff to public schools across the US.

In fact, more low-tech private schools are popping but, even as tech sales to public schools for other people’s children grow and grow.

Is this just hypocracy? A double standard? Lack of knowledge? Good business practices? Or something else?

All I know is that it’s scary.

Check out this TED talk also–how these gadgets are DESIGNED to be addictive.

And yet, public schools keep on buying more and more technology for kids. Tests now DEMAND IT!!! See recent NAEP reports.

In the schools, this article cites Google’s push with Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Classroom.


Yes, really scary. The earlier kids get hooked, the more they will be loyal customers for life. Not bad, at tax payer dollars!

Yet, SV (for other people’s children) thinks of itself as being “good” and being for the “good.”


Yes, really scary. Read Joe Clement and Matt Miles’ book, Screen Schooled. This article states, “the co-authors make the case that technology does far more harm than good, even when it’s used to boost scores in reading and math.”

Yet schools continue on their buying spree.


Yes, really scary.

The author speculates that Steve Jobs would have opted his kids OUT of using this stuff.

And the article gives examples of some parents trying to stem the tide for their children.

Where’s the outrage? It’s really scary.

Thank you, Diane, for posting and James Harvey of the Superintendents’ Roundtable, for reminding us. We don’t live in Lake Wobegon where all kids are above average. Honestly, can all kids will be proficient?

Raising false expectations leads to a loss of trust in our schools. Remember 2014 when the NCLB mandated (?) that all kids were to be proficient. How did that work out for us?