"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Latest Grades on School Funding

Tennessee has been at or near the forefront of education reformers' thirty-year crusade to come up with a cheap and easily-measured scheme to gauge education productivity.  In 1992, Tennessee formalized its chosen "accountability" strategy by writing into state statute Bill Sanders' value-added algorithms, which the wizened tobacco-chewing agricultural statistician had sold to the State as a "good and cheap" way to convince taxpayers that schools, teachers, and students were being held accountable for the millions of pennies that state politicians were demanding for K-12 education.  

The incredible story of value-added modeling (VAM), first researched by Dr. Denise Wilburn, was a core part of The Mismeasure of Education, our historical survey of American educational malpractice in the 20th Century. 

In being focused solely on educational improvements that required the State to do nothing whatsoever about the vast structural inequity and inequalities that influence educational opportunity or lack thereof, Tennessee became the darling of the U.S. Dept. of Education when it came time to try out the latest miseducative reform thought disorder for bribing and extorting better school performance as measured by racist and classist standardized tests.  

As a result, Tennessee has come to depend upon a continuing stream of federal grants to keep the state's school doors open.  It is this diseased kind of symbiosis that led Sen. Marsha Blackburn to step forward and offer a new home for the U. S. Department of Education in Tennessee, if Republicans can finagle a way to dismantle federal departments and move them out of DC.

For the past few years, the Education Law Center in Newark, NJ has published research on state levels of education funding fairness.  Having done next to nothing over the past 30 years to establish state accountability for school finance, Tennessee, which has a student poverty rate of 19 percent, remains near the bottom in school funding.  

Below are two snapshots that illustrate the vast differences among states.  I highly recommend reading MAKING THE GRADE 2019: HOW FAIR IS SCHOOL FUNDING IN YOUR STATE?


See p. 4 for everything between "A" and "F."





Saturday, November 09, 2019

Feinstein and Other "Democrats" Supporting DC Vouchers

Got this email from Pete Farruggio:

Just got this letter from California senator Dianne Feinstein (below) defending her support for vouchers, and revealing that she intends to interfere with the school system in Washington DC by co-sponsoring a voucher bill with a Republican. With her billionaire husband, she represents to me the state of the Democratic Party as the biggest obstacle to real change in the US political/economic system, as long as so many misinformed Americans support it.

Here's a local DC story about charter schools:

A charter school chain is trying to open a middle school Washington, D.C.'s Ward 8 and has enraged nearby residents in the process. 


Dear Dr. Farruggio:

Thank you for writing to me to express your concerns about vouchers.  I  appreciate hearing from you, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

I understand that you do not support the reauthorization of the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act (Public Law 112-10), which provides funding to the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (DC OSP).  DC OSP provides scholarships for students to attend private schools and provides funding for D.C. Charter Schools and D.C. Public Schools that serve students from K-12th grade.

Like you, I believe that all students deserve access to high-quality education.  However, I believe that a one-size fits all approach to our children’s education does not always work and that different school models may work better for different students.  Parents should have an informed and meaningful choice in their children’s education.  

On January 24, 2019, I, along with Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced the “SOAR Reauthorization Act of 2019” (S. 213), which would allow families in the District of Columbia to continue to be able to choose their educational experience through the DC OSP program.  S. 213 would reauthorize funding for DC public schools, public charter schools, and DCOSP schools through Fiscal Year 2024.  The bill would also require an assessment of student growth and progress each year a child participates in the program.  S. 213 is currently awaiting consideration by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, of which I am not a member.

It is worth noting that I do not believe that our educational system should promote school choice at the expense of federal funding for students who attend public K-12 public schools.  You may be interested to know that when considering education reform through the Every Student Succeeds Act (Public Law 114-95), I voted against amendments that would have allowed federal funding to be used at private schools.

While we may have to agree to disagree on this issue, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind as the Senate considers S. 213.  I will continue to fight to ensure that students have all the resources they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Once again, thank you for writing.  Should you have any other questions or comments, please call my Washington, D.C., office at (202) 224-3841 or visit my website at feinstein.senate.gov.  You can also follow me online at YouTubeFacebook, and Twitter, and you can sign up for my email newsletter at feinstein.senate.gov/newsletter.

Best regards.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

College Board Is Selling Student Data to Selective Colleges

As a reward for his devotion to corporate power during the creation of Common Core, David Coleman was handed the plum job as CEO for the College Board, where his work to shape college applicants in the image desired by Bill Gates could continue, unimpeded.  

Now Coleman's greed has joined forces with the greed of America's richest universities and colleges to misuse student SAT data to enrich all participating parties. For just 47 cents each (payable to the College Board), colleges and universities can buy SAT records of Ivy League aspirants and invite them to apply, whether or not the students ever had a chance in hell to get in.

More applicants to say no to makes selective colleges look even more selective, thus raising the prominence of their brand, and it gives the College Board a half-buck per head, plus all the extra dough that rolls in from kids retaking the SAT when they find out that, oh, Columbia is interested in me??  

Diabolical? You bet. The Wall Street Journal has the story:
Jori Johnson took the practice SAT test as a high-school student outside Chicago. Brochures later arrived from Vanderbilt, Stanford, Northwestern and the University of Chicago.
The universities’ solicitations piqued her interest, and she eventually applied. A few months later, she was rejected by those and three other schools that had sought her application, she said. The high-school valedictorian’s test scores, while strong by most standards, were well below those of most students admitted to the several schools that had contacted her.
“A lot of the rejections came on the same day,” said Ms. Johnson, a 21-year-old senior film major at New York University, one of three schools that accepted her out of 10 applications. “I just stared at my computer and cried.”
The recruitment pitches didn’t help Ms. Johnson, but they did benefit the universities that sent them. Colleges rise in national rankings and reputation when they show data suggesting they are more selective. They can do that by rejecting more applicants, whether or not those candidates ever stood a chance. Some applicants, in effect, become unknowing pawns.
Feeding this dynamic is the College Board, the New York nonprofit that owns the SAT, a test designed to level the college-admissions playing field.
The board is using the SAT as the foundation for another business: selling test-takers’ names and personal information to universities. . . .

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Again, NAEP Shows Failure of Testing Reforms

The new NAEP scores are just out, and, per always, the hand-wringing has already begun.  Compared to 2017, scores disappoint, especially for reading.  

Below are charts showing the trajectory of scores over time for 4th and 8th grade students in Math and Reading.  Below the charts are a few observations.





When we look at these NAEP scores over time, one thing that stands out is the general tendency for scores to improve, however gradually.  When you look at the NAEP scores beginning in the early 70s to early 19990s through today, that trend is consistent--a gradual improvement over time, with bursts of punctuated improvement or decline.

A second aspect that stands out is that the rate that NAEP scores increased was greater before testing accountability became mandated by federal law than it was after.  From 1990 to 2002, before NCLB's testing accountability regime was passed or took hold, the rate of NAEP score growth for almost all grade levels and percentile rankings was higher than it was after 2002, when the NCLB testing madness began in earnest.

Also note that the longer that NCLB remained in effect, NAEP score growth slowed or even declined for some categories.  

NAEP score growth during the first 7 years of NCLB was greater than the last seven years of NCLB.

And when we look at the struggling students (10th and 25th percentiles) who were specifically targeted by NCLB testing accountability reforms, we see even more graphic examples of NCLB ineffectiveness in raising academic performance as measured by test scores.  

Without exception, 10th and 25th percentile students in 4th and 8th grade Math and Reading show declining NAEP scores from 2009 to 2019.  In fact, scores for 8th grade Reading students in the 10th and 25th percentiles actually declined over the past 20 years, from 1999 to 2019.  

We cannot forget that these sharp declines in Reading accompanied a growing focus on direct instruction and phonics as the officially sanctioned approach to reading.  We should not forget, either, the decline of school libraries in public schools during the past 20s and the near total absence of libraries and, certainly, of librarians in the 7,000+ charter chain gang schools across the U. S.


Friday, October 25, 2019

Judge Finds Contemptible Betsy DeVos Guilty of Contempt

from Salon:
A federal judge on Thursday held Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education in contempt of court for violating an order on student loans. 
The judge had previously ordered the Department of Education to stop collecting on loans owed by students of a now-defunct for-profit college. But, despite the order, the department admitted it had erroneously collected on the loans of more than 16,000 borrowers — and many of those payments garnered from borrowers' federal tax refunds or wages, according to a court document obtained by Politico. . . . .

Monday, October 21, 2019

Warren Releases Solid New Education Plan

Spoiler Alert: Unlike in 2016, DFER is not happy!  We shall see what the Dem platform eventually looks like, but if Warren is the candidate, it will look nothing like 2016.
I am going to do several posts on Warren's new education plan, which kicks in the ass anything released so far by the other candidates.  
The first thing I checked out in the new plan was the charter school section.  Among the best news is the promise to eliminate the half-billion federal dollars a year being handed out to corporate charter operators under the Charter Schools Program (CSP).
From The Intercept:
Warren’s new education plan sends a strong signal of how her administration would think about not only charter schools but also other forms of school privatization. 
Her plan calls to end the diversion of tax dollars from traditional public schools through vouchers and voucher-like tax credits. A campaign spokesperson clarified that this means both working to stop the expansion of voucher programs and working towards ending existing ones. 
Biden and Sanders’s plans do not mention vouchers or tuition tax credits, though Sanders told The Washington Post that he would not support using public money in the form of vouchers or tax credits for private or religious school education, which he has a long record of opposing. Biden did not answer the same question when he was asked. 
In her plan, Warren frames her opposition to the 2016 charter school ballot initiative as an example of “fight[ing] back against the privatization, corporatization, and profiteering in our nation’s schools.” 
She pledges to “go further” and now calls for eliminating a federal grant program used to promote new charter schools. She pledges to see if there are any other federal programs that subsidize new charters and would “seek to limit the use of those programs for that purpose.”
Warren pledges to fight to ban for-profit charter schools, which represent around 15% of the sector. But she also goes after nonprofit ones, promising to end a federal program that provides funding for new schools and opposing provisions that allow them to sometimes evade the same level of transparency and accountability as traditional public schools. The plan seeks to ban nonprofit charters that employ or outsource operations to for-profit service providers and calls for the IRS to investigate these schools’ nonprofit tax status.

From the Warren Plan:
To keep our traditional public school systems strong, we must resist efforts to divert public funds out of traditional public schools. Efforts to expand the footprint of charter schools, often without even ensuring that charters are subject to the same transparency requirements and safeguards as traditional public schools, strain the resources of school districts and leave students behind, primarily students of color. Further, inadequate funding and a growing education technology industry have opened the door to the privatization and corruption of our traditional public schools. More than half of the states allow public schools to be run by for-profit companies, and corporations are leveraging their market power and schools’ desire to keep pace with rapidly changing technology to extract profits at the expense of vulnerable students. 
This is wrong. We have a responsibility to provide great neighborhood schools for every student. We should stop the diversion of public dollars from traditional public schools through vouchers or tuition tax credits - which are vouchers by another name. We should fight back against the privatization, corporatization, and profiteering in our nation’s schools. I did that when I opposed a ballot question in Massachusetts to raise the cap on the number of charter schools, even as dark money groups spent millions in support of the measure. And as president, I will go further: 
  • Ensure existing charter schools are subject to at least the same level of transparency and accountability as traditional public schools: Many existing charter schools aren’t subject to the same transparency and accountability requirements as traditional public schools. That’s wrong. That’s why I support the NAACP’s recommendations to only allow school districts to serve as charter authorizers, and to empower school districts to reject applications that do not meet transparency and accountability standards, consider the fiscal impact and strain on district resources, and establish policies for aggressive oversight of charter schools. Certain states are already starting to take action along these lines to address the diversion of public funds from traditional public schools. My administration will oppose the authorization of new charter schools that do not meet these standards. My administration also will crack down on union-busting and discriminatory enrollmentsuspension, and expulsion practices in charter schools, and require boards to be made up of parents and members of the public, not just founders, family members, or profit-seeking service providers.
  • End federal funding for the expansion of charter schools: The Federal Charter School Program (CSP), a series of federal grants established to promote new charter schools, has been an abject failure. A recent reportshowed that the federal government has wasted up to $1 billion on charter schools that never even opened, or opened and then closed because of mismanagement and other reasons. The Department of Education’s own watchdog has even criticized the Department’s oversight of the CSP. As President, I would eliminate this charter school program and end federal funding for the expansion of charter schools. I would also examine whether other federal programs or tax credits subsidize the creation of new charter schools and seek to limit the use of those programs for that purpose. 
  • Ban for-profit charter schools: Our public schools should benefit students, not the financial or ideological interests of wealthy patrons like the DeVos and Walton families. I will fight to ban for-profit charter schools and charter schools that outsource their operations to for-profit companies.
  • Direct the IRS to investigate so-called nonprofit schools that are violating the statutory requirements for nonprofits: Many so-called nonprofit schools – including charter schools – operate alongside closely held, for-profit service providers. Others are run by for-profit companies that siphon off profits from students and taxpayers. The IRS should investigate the nonprofit status of these schools and refer cases to the Tax Fraud Division of the Department of Justice when appropriate. I would also apply my plan’s ban on for-profit charter schools to any of these so-called “nonprofit” schools that actually serve for-profit interests. And my plan would ban self-dealing in nonprofit schools to prevent founders and administrators from funneling resources to service providers owned or managed by their family members. 
  • Expand enforcement of whistleblower actions against schools that commit fraud against taxpayers: Our federal laws allow whistleblowers to bring actions to expose fraud and retrieve stolen federal money. The Department of Justice should expand its enforcement of these whistleblower actions to address fraud that appears all too common in certain charter schools, including online charter schools that falsify or inflate their enrollment numbers.

The Naked Truth about the National Reading Panel Reading Panel Report

From 2012 Schools Matter: The Naked Truth about the National Reading Panel R...: Stephen Krashen's letter to Ed Week in the previous post has motivated me to post the following review here for all those young teachers who are reading the deceptive, revisionist crap by those who want to impose another generation of the mind-scrubbing literacy tactics based on ideology rather than pragmatic practice grounded within good research and sound principles. ...

Sunday, October 20, 2019

When Artificial Intelligence Equals Real Stupidity

Algorithms grading student essays?  What could go wrong?
“The algorithms are prone to a couple of flaws. One is that they can be fooled by any kind of nonsense gibberish sophisticated words. It looks good from afar but it doesn’t actually mean anything. And the other problem is that some of the algorithms have been proven by the testing vendors themselves to be biased against people from certain language backgrounds.”