I just read an excellent piece by Jonathan A. Plucker, “Common Core and  America’s High-Achieving Students.”  It is on the Thomas B. Fordham Institute website.

For the most part, the piece uses terms appropriately–‘high achievers,’ ‘advanced.’ But, unfortunately, the terms, ‘gifted’ and ‘ high-ability’ also slip into the piece. Those are labels placed  on children.  Using those labels is not helpful in advancing the important argument of the piece–which is that we need to focus on the needs of advanced students in the roll-out of  Common Core.

As I see it, we go off the rails when we group students by ‘ability,’ or ‘giftedness’ as those concepts are fluid  and the labels create unnecessary divisions among students. Far better to group students by ‘current performance’ levels or by calling them ‘advanced.’  These terms relate to the academic tasks at hand.  They  are about the WHAT that is being studied and  mastered, not the WHO that the student supposedly has been labeled.

Terms related to current performance levels, skills and knowledge are also fluid and subject to change—which is a good thing. They don’t carry the baggage associated  with labeling children as gifted or not.

I just read this piece about needing a New Deal for testing… and add my voice to the conversation.
Using student test results to measure teacher performance is not just ‘starting to damage our schools.’  It is flawed in a far more basic way–it is invalid use of those tests.  These tests are designed to measure student performance against the Common Core–and to assess college and career readiness. They are NOT designed to measure teachers.  I’m afraid that using them for this invalid purpose (no matter how carefully the statistical model may be) invites litigation and further erodes support for education reform.


Who benefits from these laws?

Who benefits from these laws–the Common Core related testing, which is supposed to be implemented this spring,  and special education. I’m sure you can add many other laws that are presumably about schools and students but have huge unintended (or was it intended?) beneficiaries.

Without getting into the pros and cons of any specific law, we can all agree that it is intended to improve the education for students. Undoubtedly, the stated  mission. And surely, many students do benefit, BUT!

In my concerned–and cynical–moments, I see that two other groups benefit hugely!

About the Common Core tests, technology companies are now selling computers to ALL schools for these tests–whether the Partnership for Assessment Readiness for College or Career (PARCC) or  Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) or other tests.

About the special education law, that’s been around since 1975, lawyers (yes, like me) and others have created careers (and a huge cottage industry) around that law–with all its reauthorizations and parallel state laws.

Is this what we really want for our schools? Where are the students in these calculations?





The school year is starting, a good time to talk about favorite books and inspirations. 


My favorite book about children and education is Mindset—the New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychology professor.  She sets out the advantages of a growth mindset, instead of a fixed mindset. A growth mindset is based on effort, working hard, grit, believing that a student can learn, and, according to the book, even believing that a student who works hard can grow his/her brain!  A fixed mindset, on the other hand, is based on a label—you are smart. You are pretty. You are not smart. You are lazy. Whatever the label. Students get stuck there and believe their futures are pre-ordained. Even worse, smart kids don’t try new things where they might fail because then the grown ups will see that they are really not smart.  How liberating is the growth mindset—for all!  Praise children for the effort, not their adult-perceived label.  A great mantra for the start of the school year.


Some schools have adopted her approach, including, I believe, the Fieldston School in NY.  And see Salman Khan’s Huffington Post, “The Learning Myth:  Why I’ll never tell my son he’s smart.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/salman-khan/the-learning-myth-why-ill_b_5691681.html 


Carol Dweck’s book tells me pretty much everything I need to know about what we are doing wrong.  Let’s hope we get it right this year.

 What is your favorite book? Who is your favorite inspiration?



It’s been a long while since I blogged…. for loyal readers, I do apologize for my absence.

The great news is that I’ve been hard at work–with much support from friends and colleagues– on an exciting project–writing a new law for special education!  It’s current title is Education for All:  Reaching High for Generation 2.  

Its mascot is the giraffe–who always reaches high!

The project started back in January… at the cafe when I was talking to Dave and his teen-age son about the law. Dave inspired me to just do it. And so I did–with much help on the way–laying out the basic principles for a new law. It’s short and sweet, and….

…almost ready for prime time…. If you would like to learn more and how to get involved, please let me know. Email me at Miriam@schoollawpro.com. 

Happy new school year and happy Generation 2 !

If you live long enough, you can see it all—if you’re looking.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal in the Personal Journal section, ‘Never too Awkward to Ask:  Have You Washed Your Hands?’  Apparently only 50% of doctors do—and it’s dangerous to patients that so many don’t.  Who knew? I thought they had solved that one…

For me, I’ll have to change my presentations!  In speaking of the professionalism of teachers–that we need to honor–I used to  say that they are like doctors. We should not ask them ‘little’ things like have you washed your hands–or have you seated students where they will learn best (called ‘preferential seating’). We should assume they are doing what they are supposed to do–. Well, apparently not so fast. Fascinating.


My August 5  Wall Street Journal op-ed–that garnered many comments and letters–is all about getting everyone to the table–regular and special ed folks; teachers and parents and adminstrators; students and citizens.   We can’t just be talking to our friends and people who agree with us.  We need to talk to others, as well. In my view, we need to expand the national discussion.  In your  view?  Let us know!


CASE in Indianapolis

I’ll be speaking at 24th CASE Annual Fall Conference in Indianapolis tomorrow on “Fixing Special Education–It’s Time to Reinvent this Broken System.”

If you’d like a copy of the presentation material, please send a comment.


Fixing Special Education


Yesterday we were at a fancy Boston restaurant during Restaurant Week…. It hit home–all those cell phones going; peole together not really together. Photos, emails, texts. Nobody was actually there.

An now today’s NY Times. Same story on a national scale. What are we doing here?




Wow. Years ago I wrote a piece about the reality that the ONLY way to fix our public schools is the CLOSE all private schools.  Here is the link!http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/miriam-k-freedman-one-radical-idea-to-fix-public-schools/

WOW. Where does this go? I’m not into labeling parents as this Slate headline does. But, we can’t ignore the reality that there is a large kernel of truth in the reality that if all  people are not invested in our public schools they will not work.  Schools can’t be just for other people’s children.