Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Value-added shouldn't be used at all.

Sent to the Seattle Times, August 30. 2010
Dan Goldhaber ("Getting ahead of the teacher-accountability curve," August 29) points out some of the problems with using growth on standardized tests (value-added analyses) to measure teacher effectiveness. He points out that small differences may not be statistically significant and that factors other than the teacher influence test scores. Goldhaber, however, still supports using value-added methods "as one means of judging teacher performance."
They shouldn't be used at all. Studies show that value-added scores are unstable and inaccurate. The same teacher can get very different scores from one year to the next, and different reading tests produce different value-added results. Also, test scores can be artifically pumped up by teaching test-taking strategies.
I am opposed to using student test scores as part of teacher evaluations, not because I am opposed to evaluation but because they are poor measures of teacher quality.
Stephen Krashen

Getting ahead of the teacher-accountability curve
Seattle Times, August 29
Among the issues in contract negotiations between Seattle Public Schools and its teachers union is a plan to include improvements in student growth as part of teacher evaluations. Guest columnist Dan Goldhaber supports the idea of using value-added methods as one means of judging teacher performance, but notes the importance of careful planning and implementation.
By Dan Goldhaber
SEATTLE Public Schools and the Seattle Education Association are currently engaged in high-stakes negotiations over a new contract.
A key sticking point in the negotiations appears to be whether student test scores ought to factor in to teacher evaluations, employment or compensation.
There are powerful reasons for thinking outside what has been a very narrow box in terms of teacher compensation. Teacher-policy systems in this country typically do not recognize or act upon the significant differences we know exist between teachers, nor do they recognize the different circumstances in which they teach. Teachers serve in very different schools and have different labor-market opportunities outside the classroom. And yes, they contribute differently to student learning in ways that show up in research studies and are obvious to parents and fellow teachers.
The pressure is on to get outside the narrow box now. Like it or not, we must face the fact that the horse has left the barn when it comes to teacher accountability.
This is perhaps best exemplified by a story that recently ran in the Los Angeles Times. The story focused on the effectiveness of teachers serving in the Los Angeles Unified School District and took the district to task for ignoring the huge disparities that exist in teacher effectiveness. Using the district's own data, the paper commissioned a value-added study (a statistical methodology designed to isolate the contributions that teachers make toward student achievement from other factors that we know affect student learning).
Moreover, the LA Times has promised in the future to publish the names of individual teachers and their value-added scores. This promised release of data would make the estimates of teacher performance very public, an idea that was just endorsed by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
I support the idea of using value-added methods as one means of judging teacher performance, but strongly oppose making the performance estimates of individual teachers public in this way.
• First, there are reasons to be concerned that individual value-added estimates may be misleading indicators of true teacher performance. Teachers may not, for example, be fully responsible for the learning of all the students in their classes. Pullout programs, migration of new students into classrooms, and other ways in which instruction is specialized in schools, make the attribution of students to teachers complex.
• Second, performance estimates that look different from one another on paper may not truly be distinct in a statistically significant sense. Addressing details like these is not an insurmountable hurdle, but it requires a commitment to building a performance-evaluation infrastructure.
• Finally, and perhaps most important, I cannot think of a profession in either the public or private sector where individual employee performance estimates are made public in a newspaper.
I do know there is frustration over the collective failure to act on differences in teacher performance. Unless there is greater willingness to experiment with reforms, I fear debates over teacher policies will grow increasingly contentious.
The situation that is beginning to be played out in Los Angeles shows the pitfalls of inaction that come out of polarization and political constraints, leaving school systems institutionally incapable of differentiating among teachers.
If schools and teachers unions do not get out in front of the teacher-accountability curve, they both may get run over.
We are at a crucial time in the teacher-accountability movement. Change, however, is not easy. Successful reform requires careful planning and implementation, and a willingness to engage in evaluation that leads to midcourse corrections.
Steady progress requires the education enterprise to become a continuously evolving system where it is common practice to learn from the policies that are enacted and make adjustments to them based on what is learned.
Dan Goldhaber is the director of the Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington Bothell.

Mindless Jay Mathews Declares DC Achievement Gap Mindless Measure

Yesterday:
The D.C. mayoral race is deeply split on most issues, but everyone agrees on one thing: We must reduce the achievement gap between minority and white students. It is too bad, then, that that the gap is such a mindless measure of school progress.
Obviously, Jay has joined other bold reformers such as the recently-fired Bret Schundler of New Jersey whose efforts to remake New Jersey schools in the corporate image led him to denounce New Jersey Public Schools as a “wretched system” and the state’s #1 national rankings on the NAEP in both 4th and 8th grade reading and math as “irrelevant.”  For bold reformers like Jay and Bret, or Arne and Michelle, if the facts don’t support your desired results anymore, those facts no longer matter. Poof.

Jay and the the new generation of reformers doing the same thing as the last generation (when will they become the status quo?) would rather look at test score growth over time, especially when big achievement gap closing claims by your favorite politicians do not materialize.  Focusing on individual gains makes the disparity between the haves and the have nots much easier to ignore, since this new value-added universe is not even interested in those troublesome group comparisons any longer that are based on poverty chasm.  Unless, of course, the reformers need to shut down your neighborhood school and turn it into a corporate-styled testing madrasah, i. e., charter school.  Then your percentile ranking becomes a crucial tool in deciding who is in that bottom five percent that just keeps replenishing itself as the last group is scraped off to become charterized.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Imagine Schools: PR Spin Hides Ohio Failure; FL, AZ Schools in Trouble

This is a recent PR piece from the Imagine Schools:

Three Imagine Community Schools Demonstrate Great Strides

Another Year of Focused Academics Produces Stronger Results
Aug 27, 2010 – Today, with the release of academic ratings for the 2009-2010 school year, the state of Ohio found significant academic improvement for three Imagine community schools. Imagine Harvard Avenue Community School, Imagine Clay Avenue Community School, and Imagine Academy of Columbus jumped two rankings attaining “Continuous Improvement,” meeting adequate yearly progress, and demonstrating value
added with “above” one year of learning gains.

Amy Buttke, Regional Director for Imagine Schools, said, “These academic achievements by Imagine community school students is a tremendous testament to the academic rigor of each school, especially considering that many of the students entered the school at least one grade level behind.”

Marlene Mills, Regional Director for Imagine Schools, commented, “These Imagine community schools demonstrated marked improvement over the last year and are on the right academic path. Parents also took notice of their children’s academic gains (on average 74% of the students gained more than 1 year’s growth in reading and math), which drove high re-enrollment (85% average) at all three schools. Parents know quality, not only for academic study but also for safety and positive character development integrated into every aspect of the Imagine community school.”

In addition to state testing, every Imagine school conducts fall and spring testing in order to measure how much each student learned in reading and math during the year. These same student learning gains allow assessment of how well a school helps students learn, as contrasted with year-end proficiency tests that measure only what students know at a point in time, which may be attributable to a former school where students have fallen behind grade level.

Imagine Harvard Avenue Community School opened in 2006 and serves nearly 600 Cleveland students in grades K-7. Imagine Clay Avenue opened in 2007 and serves over 350 Toledo students in grades K-6. Imagine Academy of Columbus opened in 2005 and serves 350 students in grades K-8.

# # #
Imagine Schools is an organization, comprised mostly of teachers, that operates 73 public charter schools in 12 states and the District of Columbia. Imagine Schools serves over 5,600 in 11 Ohio community schools.

Imagine School at St. Petersburg (FL) was put on probation for their second consecutive F rating. This is the same school that is in heavy debt to Imagine ($963k in the red last year), and they've been paying over $800k for their building, which is owned by SchoolHouse Finance (Imagine's real estate arm). The district's charter supervisor called the situation a "death spiral." Enrollment dropped from 376 to 320 last year, and the district says the school needs 590 students to be financially viable. That enrollment threshold is unlikely to be met given their rating. What does the future hold for this school? Either Imagine forgives some of the debt, other schools make up for the budget shortfall, or the school closes. This is not a pretty picture.

The Imagine School at St. Petersburg utilizes the Project CHILD curriculum, which claims (italics are not mine):
Three teachers form cluster teams -- one teacher for reading, one for writing, and one for mathematics. Clusters teams work across three grade levels - K-2 for a primary cluster and 3-5 for an intermediate cluster. Teachers work with the same students for three years.
The principal's page on the St. Petersburg website says the school is expecting at least 13 new teachers (see August 17th posting). High teacher turnover, of course, means teachers are unlikely to stay with the same students for three years. One has to wonder how the Project CHILD curriculum can be implemented with fidelity given the high turnover among staff.

In Arizona, the elementary school at the Imagine School at Coolidge was labeled "underperforming" for their work in 2010. The state known as the Wild West for charter schools is home to 14 Imagine-run schools. Good luck finding financial information on the Coolidge school: they're operated by a subsidiary or affiliate of Imagine Schools Non Profit, Inc. The Florida State Board of Education clearly stated: "ISNP is not acting as a non-profit organization." And this "non-profit" does not have 501c3 status. Arizona, of course, is the only state to allow for-profit companies to hold charters, but the real point here is that financial information on this school simply isn't easily available to the public.

For one last Imagine tidbit, here's a document filed in April of 2010 - and bearing CEO Dennis Bakke's digital signature - that confirms (once again) that Imagine is a for-profit corporation (click to enlarge):

Imagine will still claim they do "not operate for profit," but they'll file legal documentation that specifically claims they're a for profit corporation. This is some very sneaky language: Imagine's FAQ page says they do not operate for profit, but that's not the same as being a nonprofit (although most readers would assume that not operating for profit means they're a nonprofit organization).

Value-added fever in Las Vegas

Value-added fever in Las Vegas
Sent to the Las Vegas Review Journal, August 29, 2010

Value-added tests, championed by the Los Angeles Times, gives teachers high ratings if their students make gains on standardized tests, low ratings if they don't. John Brummett thinks that those opposed to using value-added tests to measure teacher effectiveness are opposed to evaluating teacher effectiveness ("Thinking – it only hurts a little, August 29). Not at all.

There are serious problems with using value-added. Studies show that a rating done one year does a poor job of predicting next year's score increases, as research also shows that ratings appear to be test-dependent: A teacher's rating based on one reading test will not always agree with the same teacher's ratings based on a different reading test.

Also, it is easy to game the system when value-added is used: providing students with test-taking strategies results in higher scores without students learning anything.

LA Times reporters should have known about these problems. They didn't do their homework.

No serious educator is opposed to evaluating teachers. But value-added testing is a lousy way to do it.

Stephen Krashen


JOHN BRUMMETT: Thinking -- it only hurts a little
Las Vegas Review-Journal, Aug 29, 2010

Some of you can keep calling President Obama a left-wing radical and European socialist all you want. It spares any serious individual thinking, which might hurt.
But the teacher unions are apt these days to call Obama a right-winger and blankety-blank. It spares any serious individual This dichotomy is easily explained in three statements.
One is that Obama, as a new-generation progressive, harbors occasional nontraditional new thinking on occasional contemporary issues, most prominently on education.
Two is that our political labels have become tired and outdated among some of the myriad modern challenges, more valuable these days for incendiary name-calling and mindless polarization by the political self-preservationists than for legitimate definition of public policy differences.
Three is that teacher unions are marginalizing and isolating themselves on the left fringe by clinging to a status quo while the performance of American public schools slips in international ratings and while, year after year, our schools fail poor students, perpetuating an underclass and cycle of despair.
So it came to be a couple of weeks ago that the Los Angeles Times unveiled an initiative to do what the Los Angeles Unified School District would not do for fear of the union.
That was to take six years' worth of student scores on standardized tests in elementary grades and compile a publicly disseminated database of how teachers comparatively performed on a "value-added" basis, meaning in the improvement of their students on standardized test scores from the beginning of school years to the end.
The idea is that teachers ought to be compensated on a merit system crediting most those whose students improved over a designated instructional period by the greater amount on standardized tests.
The further idea -- the bigger and more relevant one -- is that such an inventory would give us an idea how to identify the poorer performers among teachers and get them improved.
So the local teacher union called a boycott of the newspaper, which was a splendid example to parents and students in how to engage in fair, civil and productive public dialogue.
The union said a faculty is a team and that one teacher with clever ideas for teaching fractions wouldn't share those ideas with another teacher if a monetary reward was at stake. Anyway, they said, you can't judge a teacher solely by a standardized test, because there's the matter of connecting with kids and inspiring them.
There's truth in that, of course. There's always nuance, subtlety and thinking-induced complication. But there's also a time-honored truth in taking a test to see what you've learned and in getting graded on the score.
The latest from the teacher union is that it might go along with a value-added assessment as a minor nonpublic component of teacher evaluations.
Obama, through his Chicago-based education secretary, Arne Duncan, gets off the typical liberal reservation here. He advocates these publicly disclosed value-added findings. Duncan had some ability in Chicago advocating similar reforms and keeping teacher unions reasonably calm. Naturally, the entire nation poses a bigger challenge.
Last week Duncan came to Little Rock to deliver a lecture at Bill Clinton's presidential library. States and school districts, he said, need to make public the kind of information the Times had published. "The truth is always hard to swallow, but it can only make us better, stronger and smarter," he said.
Then Duncan switched from preaching to meddling, saying, "If it was up to me and the law allowed it, I would put out student attendance data and hold parents accountable."
My goodness. Holding teachers and parents publicly accountable for the services to our children in our crisis-ridden public educational system -- what are we ever to call that in our quick-and-easy system of handy labeling along the American political spectrum?
Imagine: What if we thought about this blind to the angry preconceptions and divisions of our silly labels?
John Brummett (jbrummett@arkansasnews.com), an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock, is author of "High Wire," a book about Bill Clinton's first year as president.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

NOLA Regular Public Schools Outgain NOLA Charters Two to One


 The corporate charter school movement in New Orleans has cooked up a great deal of PR to coincide with the fifth anniversary of Katrina, and much of it has been swallowed and regurgitated by newspapers, blogs, and television news stories, all looking for something positive to write about in the continuing, sad saga of the Big Uneasy.  NBC’s Nightly News, for instance, has gushed in at least two separate pieces this week about the charterizing of New Orleans schools, quoting a Tulane University charter advocate in one segment who notes that test scores in New Orleans have risen every year since Katrina.  That statement has some good-sounding truthiness to it, but it really calls out for a closer look.

But first let’s look at pre-Katrina, since everything since has been universally acclaimed as better than what went before.  Since 2000, the Louisiana Education Assessment Program (LEAP) has been testing all children in 4th and 8th grades in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math.  Children must pass both parts of the test to move on to the next grade, so this is truly high stakes.  Now if all the newsy talk were to be correct about how the good schools of post-Katrina have replaced the bad schools of pre-Katrina, we would expect to see more progress, or “value-added,” on LEAP tests now than before.  In fact, what we find is that the rate of test score gains, or student growth, before Katrina represents a mixed picture when compared to post-Katrina, sometimes showing fewer gains than after the storm and sometimes more.  That’s right—more gains than after Katrina.

Between 2002 and 2005 (based on numbers from the Times-Picayune), test score growth in 4th grade among all NOLA public school children was 18 points in ELA and 16 points in Math. Between 2007 to 2010 test score growth among NOLA children was 19 points in ELA and 10 points in Math.

In 8th grade between 2002 and 2005, NOLA students gained 21 points in ELA and 8 points in Math.  Between 2007 and 2010, 8th graders gained 13 points in ELA and 11 points in Math.  So the real story is not nearly so clear cut as the corporate foundations’ glossy brochures proclaim.

In 10th grade, Louisiana students take the Graduate Exit Exam (GEE).  There, the gains since Katrina are more aligned with the public relations messaging.  Before Katrina, English and Math gains were 1 point and 9 points over three years, respectively.  Since Katrina, English gains are 15 points and Math gains are at 18 points.  Signficant, indeed.

Another surprise is in store for those who believe the charter schools are clearly the panacea for urban schooling in NOLA and, therefore, appropriately destined to replace the regular public schools there.  However, whether operated by the Recovery School District or the Orleans Parish School Board, the charters are getting trounced in terms of test score growth by the regular public schools.  Based on figures from the 2010 Cowen Institute Report, the regular public schools had higher student test score growth in 8 of the 12 categories measured, for an growth advantage of exactly 2:1.  Do download the Report, and have a look for yourself on page 27. Click chart below to expand:



Even with these impressive gains across the board by the regular public schools, The Times-Picayune reported this week that “the remaining 20-some district-run schools have been called ‘schools of last resort’ by some critics and as a group are performing significantly worse on standardized tests than the charters.”  In fact, there are 33 RSD-run regular publics and 4 OPSB-run regular publics, for a total of 37.  And as is demonstrated in a recent report by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Race and Poverty, the organization and operations of NOLA’s tiered school system is stacked against the poor, the immigrant, and the disabled, whose numbers are disproportionately large in the remaining public schools that still accept these children.

When I called The Times-Picayune to ask how the reporter arrived at her conclusion that these remaining public schools are “performing significantly worse,” I was lucky to have the reporter herself, Cindy Chang, answer the phone.  I thanked her for the story and told her why I was calling.  Chang responded by saying that the schools with the highest test scores are the best schools, regardless of how much progress is being made by the others whose test scores are not as high.  When I explained that the regular publics have students that the charters won’t take or have ejected, plus more special education and ELL students, she was un-swayed and most certainly unapologetic for her position. In fact, she told me that she had a story to write and hung up abruptly.  I did not get a chance to say that it is simple-minded and unfair to say that the schools with the most challenging students are worse than those that recruit the academically precocious.

The lack of special education services offered by the NOLA charters has become a scandal unto itself, with the Orleans Parish School Board regular schools now enrolling 9.3% special education students, compared with 5.2% special ed among the OPSB charter schools.  Among the Recovery School District (RSD) regular publics, the percentage of special ed students is 12.6, compared to 7.8 percent special ed student in the RSD charters. Yet even with these academic disadvantages to which may be added the fact that the regular publics must absorb ELL students and the behavioral and academic casualties from the charter schools, these “schools of last resort,” are, nonetheless, out-performing the charters in terms of student growth in 8 categories, compared to 4 for the charters. We may safely conclude, I think, that the charterites and the charter industry have much better public relations than they do pedagogy.

Why are the charters getting their butts kicked?  That’s a good research question that none of the neoliberal or conservative think tanks appear interested in thinking much about.  Could it have something to do with significant differences in experience between teachers of charters and publics?  Could it have something to do with the difference in job satisfaction between schools with benefits and some semblance of job security, as compared to schools where teachers may be fired at a moment’s notice by a CEO intent upon not providing benefits for a staff whose majority turns over every two to three years?  We don’t know, but what we do know is that, even with some KIPPs in the NOLA charter mix, the charters overall are taking a drubbing from the poor old public schools “of last resort” when it comes to growth in student test scores.



Tulane's Cowen Institute Misleads the Media While Charters Get Their Butts Kicked by Regular Public Schools

 Last updated at 6:50 pm, August 29

The NOLA corporate ed reformers have set up an important shop within Tulane University.  Their outfit is called The Cowen Institute, and they produce some mighty fine glossy reports on the New Orleans school scene.  Part of their business is make the emerging charter system in New Orleans the inevitable solution to educating New Orleans children.  In preparation for marking the 5 year anniversary of Katrina, they have prepared a special, and especially glossy, report for the media to use in writing wonderful stories about the work of the charterites in New Orleans.  From their website:
In August 2010, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast will commemorate the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  The Cowen Institute is pleased to release The State of Public Education in New Orleans: Five Years after Hurricane Katrina to provide journalists, policymakers, community leaders, and the public with information, context, and thoughtful analyses about the reform efforts that have taken place in the K-12 public education system in the five years since the storm devastated our city.  Click here to download the report.
For this commemorative report, the Cowen Institute folks use lots of info from their 2010 Annual Report entitled 2010 State of Public Education in New Orleans.  But they don't use all of the beautiful and informative charts from the 2010 Report in their . . . Five Years after Hurricane Katrina report that is intended for "journalists, policymakers, community leaders, and the public."  For if they had, they would have included this chart from page 27 of the 2010 Annual Report, which shows clearly and incontrovertibly that the charter schools they celebrate are having their butts kicked, at a rate of 2: 1, by the remaining regular public schools when measuring student test score growth.  The regular public schools have greater growth 8 categories, compared to 4 categories where charter schools have higher gains.  Seems like an important piece of information if your intent is to inform, rather than mislead.  Click chart to enlarge it, and then click it again when it pops up to make it larger still.

More Evidence Against Using Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers

Last year it was the Division of Behavioral and Social Science from the National Academies of Science that wrote Arne Duncan a long, long letter waving the red flag on the Oligarchs' idea of using test score gains to make high stakes judgments on teacher hiring and firing. (Look to the top right on this page for the link).

Now another prestigious group of scholars has weighed in, offering another warning message with some increased urgency built in.  Here is the list of scholars:
EVA L. BAKER is professor of education at UCLA, co-director of the National Center for Evaluation Standards and Student Testing (CRESST), and co-chaired the committee to revise testing standards of the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education. 
PAUL E. BARTON is the former director of the Policy Information Center of the Educational Testing Service and associate director of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. 
LINDA DARLINGHAMMOND is a professor of education at Stanford University, former president of the American Educational Research Association, and a member of the National Academy of Education. 
EDWARD HAERTEL is a professor of education at Stanford University, former president of the National Council on Measurement in Education, Chair of the National Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment, and a former chair of the committee on methodology of the National Assessment Governing Board. 
HELEN F. LADD is professor of Public Policy and Economics at Duke University and president-elect of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. 
ROBERT L. LINN is a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Colorado, and has served as president of the National Council on Measurement in Education and of the American Educational Research Association, and as chair of the National Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment. 
DIANE RAVITCH is a research professor at New York University and historian of American education. 
RICHARD ROTHSTEIN is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute. 
RICHARD J. SHAVELSON is a professor of education (emeritus) at Stanford University and former president of the American Educational Research Association. 
LORRIE A. SHEPARD is dean and professor, School of Education, University of Colorado at Boulder, a former president of the American Educational Research Association, and the immediate past president of the National Academy of Education.
Download the document here.

D.C. Voters Poised to Send Historic Message to Oligarchs Who Manage Fenty/Rhee

Does it come as a surprise that the wealthy districts of DC are the only places where Fenty is polling ahead of Gray?  If your entire arrogant administration has been executed to serve power and privilege and to arrogantly throw a few crumbs elsewhere, could it not be predicted that the chickens would come home to roost in a city short on privileged voters?  A few clips from WaPo's piece today:
. . . .With early voting beginning Monday in the Sept. 14 primary, Gray is clearly ahead, leading Fenty 49 to 36 percent among all Democratic voters surveyed. Gray's advantage swells to 17 points, 53 to 36 percent, among those most likely to vote in the primary. . . . .

. . . .Education is the top voting issue in the poll and one that works toward Fenty's advantage, particularly among whites. White voters overwhelmingly see the District's schools as better than they were four years ago. But black voters are as apt to say schools have deteriorated as improved.

Talk of Rhee's performance and future is a constant on the campaign trail, but the deep polarization over the chancellor does not give either candidate a clear advantage. In the latest poll, 41 percent of Democrats say her record is a reason to vote for Fenty; 40 percent say it is a factor against Fenty. Among white voters polled, 68 percent say Rhee is a reason to support Fenty, but 54 percent of African Americans consider Rhee a strike against him.

Marilyn Barrette, 43, a Capitol Hill resident with three children in public schools, said she will vote for Fenty because of the work he has done on education. "I've seen some improvements in the facilities themselves. As far as the curriculum and bringing in Michelle Rhee, things are moving in the right direction," said Barrette, an elementary school teacher in Prince George's County who has taken time off to be with her children.

But McDonald said Fenty lost her vote after Rhee fired 266 teachers and gave what she considered a misleading reason for their dismissal. "He really plucked my nerves when he messed with the schools and fired the teachers," said McDonald, who holds Fenty and Rhee responsible for the firings.

Beyond the schools, Gray wins among voters who emphasize most other issues, including the economy and jobs. . . .

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rhee's Hard Data or "Single Data Points" Depends on Whose Value Is Being Added

Just a few short weeks ago Michelle Rhee and her lawyers announced the firing of a whole bunch of tenured teachers based on first year evaluations under the new IMPACT "value-added" scheme that pays and punishes teachers based on student test scores.  From WaPo:
Rhee, and like-minded leaders in other school districts, contends that the best way to overhaul schools is to intensively monitor the performance of every adult, including janitors, and measure it by multiple yardsticks. For teachers, that includes evidence that their students meet or exceed predicted rates of growth on standardized tests, a metric known as "value-added." School districts have experimented with value-added for many years but generally employ it as a diagnostic tool to assess weaknesses or determine bonuses. . . .

. . . .Value-added constitutes 50 percent of their evaluation. Twenty-six of the 165 dismissed teachers fell into this category. . . . At the end of the school year, the teachers' overall performance was converted to a 100-to-400-point scale. Teachers with scores below 175 are subject to dismissal. Teachers scoring between 175 and 249 are judged under the system to be "minimally effective." Scores between 250 and 400 are considered "effective" or "highly effective." 
According to Rhee and the Oligarchs who built her, one-shot tests appear to be perfectly valid when it come to firing teachers and making decisions on teacher pay and job security.  However, when it comes to Rhee's own accountability to do what she identified in 2007 as her top priority as schools chief (to close the achievement gap), such tests are only isolated data points that should be looked at over time.  You see, the gaps are not closing as Rhee's raging arrogance had led her to predict.  From Rhee's spokeswoman, Jennifer Calloway:
. . . She also cautioned against forming broad judgments on the basis of a single year's data.

"Change does not happen overnight," Calloway said. "Any one single data point - or change in a single data point over one year - is not sufficient to make overall conclusions about progress on this goal. To only consider one year would not accurately portray what has happened during this administration." . . .
Which Rhee to believe depends upon whether you are a former DC teacher looking for work or one of Rhee's stooges who will be looking for work after this year's elections dump the vaguely beige mayor, Adrian Fenty.   But surely Rhee will now re-think her hair-trigger firings of all those teachers based on "a single data point."  About as surely as Arne Duncan making school integration a top federal policy priority.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Beck's Crime Against Decency

Perfect.

990 Forms and "The Lottery"

Here's an image from the 2008 990 tax form filed by the Bouncer Foundation (apologies for the size):


Since this is an education blog, you might safely assume I'm interested in the donations to the two school choice advocacy organizations (Alliance for School Choice and BAEO), the Codman Academy Foundation, or the Business Roundtable. Those might be the safe bets, but I'm not really interested in those donations (for the sake of this post).

I'm mighty curious about the $6,000 donation to the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures (NBRMP). Here's where the Bounder Foundation's funders/directors come into play: Jonathan Sackler (President/Director) and Mary Corson (VP/Secretary/Treasurer) are the parents of Madeleine Sackler, the director of "The Lottery." Jonathan is also on the Board of Directors of Achievement First, but that's not really the focus here.

I looked through the past 990 forms filed by the Bouncer Foundation, and there's no record of the Sackler/Corson family showing a great interest in supporting films of any kind. Mary Corson, however, is on the board of NBRMP.

Six thousand dollars is hardly enough to bribe the NBRMP - they pulled in over $600,000 in 2008 - but it might be a way to curry some favor. And, it probably doesn't hurt to have your mom on the board of a relatively influential movie review board when you're releasing a new flick.

Disaster Capitalism Collects from FEMA: Why NOLA Charterites Have 1,800 Million Reasons to Celebrate, Part II

Paul Vallas and the New Orleans charterites have used the same exclusionary policies that have been used elsewhere by the "choice" charter movement to push up test scores and, thus, be viewed by a clueless and non-curious media as the solution to urban schooling.  The plan by the Oligarchs and ed industry to skim the healthiest, wealthiest, and highest-scoring students into charters, and then to dump the most challenging students into the public schools has worked like a charm, as evidenced by the mindless meme that charter schools have saved New Orleans children from the failed public schools.

Here is a clip from a report from PBS last year on the NOLA charter movement, a clip that demonstrates a problem that even John Merrow, charter advocate, could not ignore:
Charter movement 'hurts children'

JOHN MERROW: But not everyone believes that charters are the answer. Principal Cheryllyn Branche turned down Vallas' offer of a charter for her school.
CHERYLLYN BRANCHE, Principal, Benjamin Banneker Elementary School: We have remained as we are. We think we're doing an incredible job with some of the most challenging children.

JOHN MERROW: Benjamin Banneker Elementary was one of the most improved schools in the district last year. Its progress makes Branche skeptical of Vallas' grand plan.

CHERYLLYN BRANCHE: I think there are good charters and bad charters. I really do feel that there's room at the table, but I don't think to designate that an entire city be charterized makes any sense. Good schools make sense for every child.

JOHN MERROW: National studies support Branche. Although there are many outstanding charter schools, reports show that overall charter success is mixed.

Branche has further reason to be wary: She says some charter schools are being unfair to disadvantaged children.

CHERYLLYN BRANCHE: Parents are seeking places for their children who may have physical handicaps, mental or emotional handicapping conditions, and they're not being accepted by charters. I get referrals from specific principals of charter schools. "Go to Banneker. Tell Miss Branche I sent you. Go to Banneker."

JOHN MERROW: It's what school administrators call "dumping," transferring those with special education needs or just kids who are behaving badly to other schools.

You're getting kids who are being pushed out of charters...

CHERYLLYN BRANCHE: Correct.

JOHN MERROW: ... more special-ed kids than you...

CHERYLLYN BRANCHE: Correct. Yes, exactly right.

JOHN MERROW: So the charter movement is hurting you.

CHERYLLYN BRANCHE: It is hurting children.


A question of exclusion
JOHN MERROW: District-wide data indicate that Vallas has a problem. The average special education population in traditional schools is 12 percent, but at charter schools, it's less than 8 percent.
Are your charter schools somehow excluding special needs kids?

PAUL VALLAS: No. No, not at all. Charters are generally much smaller than regular, traditionally run schools. You know, so charters may not have the capacity to have the various special education specialties like the speech therapists, et cetera. A parent's going to ask, "Do you have these services?" And if a charter doesn't have those services, the parent's going to look for another school.

KARRAN HARPER ROYAL, Parent Advocate: That's discrimination. That's discrimination. You can dress it up however you like to, but it's really discrimination.

JOHN MERROW: Parent advocate Karran Harper Royal has a child with special needs attending a New Orleans public school. She says Vallas needs to slow down.

KARRAN HARPER ROYAL: He needs to appoint a staff person or a few staff people who review the admissions of these charter schools, because clearly something is going wrong here. I want to see objective evaluation of the charters we have before we move forward with trying to charter everything.

JOHN MERROW: Aren't you asking an awful lot? This is early in the game.

KARRAN HARPER ROYAL: I'm not asking an awful lot; we're talking about our children. I have a child in this system. Why would I want less from a charter board than I would expect from a school board?

JOHN MERROW: While Vallas admits to no wrongdoing, he promises to hold charters accountable.

PAUL VALLAS: As more of our schools convert to charters and as more of our schools are granted charter-like independence, we're going to be doing more policing, we're going to focus more on accountability. If you are deliberating discouraging people or turning people away, that would be breach of contract. You can lose your charter.
So if your policies and practices can less overtly exclude or push out those who don't produce the needed results to maintain the illusion of success, then we may conclude that this is not a breach of contract, yes?  With lawyers and marketing majors aplenty to perfect the elusive lie, and now with the most substantial chunk of the 1,800 million dollars of FEMA cash, who needs educational expertise?  After all, a Masters in Poli Sci from Western Illinois got Vallas to the top of the heap of corporate edu-kingpins.  With such bona fides, who else would be considered for the job of educational savior for the most ravaged and needy nation of Haiti

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Does "value-added" have any value?

Does "value-added" have any value?
Sent to the Los Angeles Daily News, August 25, 2010
Ramon Cortines and Arne Duncan are convinced that using increases in standardized test scores for evaluating teachers is a good idea ("Cortines: LAUSD's success depends on continued embracing of reforms," August 25).
But these "value-added" evaluations are unstable. Teachers' ratings based on previous years are weak predictors of test scores at the end of a year with new students; a teacher who succeeds in boosting scores with one group will not necessarily succeed with others. Also, different tests result in different value-added scores for the same teacher.
In addition, there are ways of pumping up test scores without student learning, including teaching test-taking strategies and making sure weak students don't take the test.
We all want accountability. Value-added ratings are not the way to get it.
Stephen Krashen

Sources:
Not stable: Kane, T. and Staiger, D. 2009. Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation. NBER Working Paper No. 14607 http://www.nber.org/papers/w14607
Different tests result in different value-added scores: Papay, J. 2010. Different tests, different answers: The stability of teacher value-added estimates across outcome measures. American Educational Research Journal 47,2.


Cortines: LAUSD's success depends on continued embracing of reforms
Los Angeles Daily News, August 25.
An emotional Ramon Cortines delivered his last "back to school" address as head of Los Angeles Unified on Wednesday, urging principals, parents and district officials to embrace reforms as the district faces increasing outside pressure to improve schools.
In a 30-minute speech at Hollywood High School, Cortines celebrated gains made by local students in the last few years and outlined programs he plans to launch in his final months at LAUSD, including the use of student test data in teacher evaluations.
Cortines plans to step down in the spring. Deputy Superintendent John Deasy is expected to replace him.
Cortines spoke hours before U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan chided LAUSD for failing to give teachers and parents more data on student achievement exam scores.
However, Cortines stressed his need to support employees as district officials work to negotiate controversial changes to labor contracts with union leaders.
"This is a time of transition ... but we all have much to be proud of and we must continue working together to continue improvements on behalf of our children," Cortines said.
"Thank you for the opportunity to work for you ... and with you," a teary Cortines added.
Cortines said he plans to include the controversial value-added analysis of exam scores, but only as one of several elements in district teacher evaluations.
Value-added, which compares a student's test score with his or her performance on previous tests, has received increased attention this month in the wake of stories published by the Los Angeles Times, which used the method of analyzing test scores to rate the effectiveness of some 6,000 elementary teachers.
A database of the teachers and a ranking of their effectiveness using the value-added method is expected to be released later this month by the newspaper.
Cortines said the district is developing a plan to use these scores as one of several pieces of a re-vamped teacher evaluation system. Parents can also expect "value-added" scores for all LAUSD schools in the next few months, including charter schools.
On Wednesday, though, Duncan criticized LAUSD for taking too long to release data and urged school officials across the country not to make the same mistakes.
"Los Angeles illustrates the problem. Like school systems throughout our nation, the L.A. Unified School District has years of data on its students, yet most administrators never shared that information with teachers in a useful way," Duncan said.
"Every state and district should be collecting and sharing information about teacher effectiveness with teachers and – in the context of other important measures – with parents."
Cortines and other LAUSD leaders have said that they believe teacher effectiveness information should remain, largely, a personnel issue that should not be public.
On Wednesday school board member Steve Zimmer said he thinks the data could be used in evaluations, but should not be public.
Board member Richard Vladovic, on the other hand, said "to deny accountability is to deny you make a difference."
Vladovic said while parents should have access to the information, reporters and other members of the public should not.
Board President Monica Garcia said she will push for the board to move quickly on the issue.
"I think we are all in agreement that we have an evaluation system that is flawed," Garcia said.
"But I am interested in being effective here."

Kaplan and Phoenix: Make Way for Stephen Colbert "University"

href='http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/351585/august-25-2010/stephen-colbert-university---andrew-hacker'>Stephen Colbert University - Andrew Hackerwww.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

Disaster Capitalism Collects from FEMA: Why NOLA Charterites Have 1,800 Million Reasons to Celebrate, Part I

In light of the 1,800 million FEMA dollars that will likely go to Paul Vallas and the charterites to build the perfect segregated charter school system in New Orleans, it is high time to revisit the educational apartheid infrastructure that corporate charterites began and that Obama has chosen to complete. 

The following is from an explanation of the unfair, unethical, and anti-public school reality on the ground in NOLA schools.  It is from the Executive Summary of THE STATE OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN POST-KATRINA NEW ORLEANS: THE CHALLENGE OF CREATING EQUAL OPPORTUNITY by the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota, a report released in February 2010:
Rebuilding of the public school system in post-Katrina New Orleans has produced a five “tiered” system of public schools in which not every student in the city receives the same quality education.

In the new system, public schools operate under five distinct governance structures that serve different student populations: Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) traditional public schools (which educate 7 percent of the city’s students); OPSB charter schools (20 percent); Recovery School District (RSD) traditional public schools (36 percent); RSD charter schools (34 percent); and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) charter schools (2 percent).

Public schools in this tiered system do not compete on a level playing field because schools in each sector operate under different rules and regulations.

The “tiered” system of public schools in the city of New Orleans sorts white students and a relatively small share of students of color into selective schools in the OPSB and BESE sectors, while steering the majority of low-income students of color to high-poverty schools in the RSD sector.

 In 2009, 87 percent of all white students in the city attended an OPSB or BESE charter school, while only 18 percent of black students did so.

 In contrast, 75 percent of black students attended an RSD school (charter or traditional public) in 2009, compared to only 11 percent of white students.

 Although nearly all schools in the city were high poverty, OPSB and BESE charters showed the lowest shares of high-poverty schools—67 and 50 percent—in the city. In contrast, nearly all RSD schools were high-poverty schools.

Racial and economic segregation hurt even the limited number of students of color who are in the OPSB and BESE sectors.

 Students of color were much more likely to attend a high-poverty school than white students in these two sectors. For instance, in 2009, students of color in OPSB charter schools were nearly 12 times more likely to attend a high-poverty OPSB school than white students. 

PERFORMANCE OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN THE NEW ORLEANS METROPOLITAN AREA:


The “tiered” system of public schools in the metro creates a tiered performance hierarchy and sorts white students and a minority of students of color into higher performing schools while restricting the majority of low income students of color into lower performing schools.

 School performance varies significantly across OPSB, RSD, BESE and suburban schools but not so much between charter and traditional schools.

 OPSB schools rank highest for the most part followed by BESE and suburban schools, with RSD schools lagging behind.

School performance varies significantly across sectors because schools in each sector do not compete on a level playing field.

 OPSB and BESE schools in the city provide some of the most advantageous educational settings in the region. However, they do so mostly by skimming the easiest-to-educate students through selective admission requirements that allow them to set explicit academic standards for incoming students. They also shape their student enrollments by using their enrollment practices, discipline and expulsion practices, transportation policies, location decisions, and marketing and recruitment efforts. These practices certainly contribute to the selective student bodies and superior performance of these schools.

 Suburban public schools—charters and non-charters—also provide good educational settings and outcomes. Suburban traditional schools are less likely to be segregated by race or income and test scores reflect this.

 RSD charter schools still skim the most motivated public students in the RSD sector despite lacking the selective admission requirements OPSB and BESE charters have.They do so by using their enrollment practices, discipline and expulsion practices, transportation policies, location decisions, and marketing and recruitment efforts. These practices almost certainly work to increase pass rates in RSD charters compared to their traditional counterparts.

As a result of rules that put RSD traditional schools at a competitive disadvantage, schools in this sector are reduced to ‘schools of last resort.’ This sector continues to educate the hardest-to-educate students in racially segregated, high-poverty schools. 

School performance varies much less between charter and traditional schools in each sector.

 OPSB and suburban charter schools do not outperform their traditional counterparts.  RSD charter schools do outperform RSD traditional public schools but the margins are modest and are narrowing for fourth graders.
Keep in mind this last point.  Despite the actively-racist fixing, finagling, recruiting in and pushing out, the charters are having a tough time holding on to their test score advantage over the public school dumping ground they have created for purposes of unfair comparison.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

For-Profit or "Investor Funded," It's the Same Diploma Mills

While the Washington Post is on life support financially, and even more so now that the for-profit diploma mill, Kaplan U. has been implicated in the loan repayment scandal, WaPo has the audacity to offer Robert Silberman, the dissembling CEO of Strayer University, a big op-ed space to make the case for the college profiteer cause.  "For-profit" has become such a toxic label that Silberman, whose own diploma mill is in the low 20s in repayment rates of federally-insured studetnt loans, has come up with a substitute for "for-profit."  How about "investor funded educational institutions?"  Does that make these crooked scammers sound any more respectable, even though their exploitation of the poor remains their ticket to fabulous wealth while offering worthless degrees?  Didn't think so.  A taste from WaPo:
. . . .Taxpaying, investor-funded universities can provide underserved students with high-quality education and prepare them for personal and professional success. Recently, some policymakers and commentators have questioned the value of investor-funded educational institutions. They claim that such institutions are systemically incapable of meeting their academic missions. In fact, regionally accredited, investor-funded universities that offer bachelor's and master's degrees are already a critical part of our nation's higher education fabric. . . .

Which Politiicans Want a Hundred Dollars From Me?

I know, a hundred bucks is a drop in the big corporate bucket, but if the 35,000+ souls who signed the Educator Roundtable petition would make a similar commitment, then we could be talking some serious contribuing power. 

The new PDK/Gallup Poll is out, and it has some good information for any politician who cares about what the public thinks.  We know that the Oligarchs don't care--they would not be trying to privatize public education and the teaching profession if they cared what the public thinks.

Here is the deal that I will make with the first ten politiicans aspiring to win or retain a U. S.  House or U. S. Senate seat who are willing to support the following positions.   An email from your office with your signature in support of these postions gets a $100 check from me.  Ready?

 
SCHOOL TURNAROUNDS
While only 13% of Americans surveyed would choose to close a poor-performing school in their neighborhood and reopen it as a charter school, 54% would "keep the school open with existing teachers and principal and provide comprehensive outside support."  Would you work to advance federal education policy that is consistent with these positions? 

NATIONAL CURRICULUM AND STANDARDS
While 28% and 19% of Americans surveyed would have the federal government set education standards and decide what is taught, respectively, 69% and 80% would have education standards and what is taught decided at the state or local levels.  Would you work to advance education policy that is consistent with these positions?

NCLB
While only 22% of Americans surveyed view No Child Left Behind as helping the public schools in their communities, 73% believe NCLB is hurting their local schools or making no difference in their local schools.  Would you work to advance education policy that is consistent with these positions?

SUPPORT FOR LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS
While 23% of Americans surveyed would grade the school they know most about, the one their oldest child attends, with a C, D, or F (only 1% F), the corporate reformers who run the U. S. Department of Education have declared an education crisis that requires turning public schools upside down or privatizing them.  Even so, 77% of Americans would give the public school their oldest child attends an A or a B.  Would you work to advance education policy that is consistent with these positions?

HOW SCHOOLS COULD EARN AN "A"
While only 6% of Americans surveyed view the implementation of standardized testing/grading as the way school could earn an "A," 34 percent believe the best way for a school to earn an A is to improve teaching. Last year in 2009, when the PDK poll asked Americans if they believed in "relaxing  teacher education and certification plans so more people could qualify to teach these subjects," 71% said NO.  Would you work, then, to advance education policy that is consistent with these positions?

VIEWS ON TEACHING AND TEACHERS
In 1990, 51% of Americans surveyed would like to have a one of their children to become a teacher in the public schools. In 2010 that 67% of Americans would like to have a child "take up teaching."  Today 71% " trust and confidence in the men and women who are teaching children in the public schools."  Despite the fact that the corporate education reform machine that runs ED spends overtime bashing teachers, criticizing their professionalism, and trying to embarrass them, would you work to advance education policy that is consistent with these positions offered by the PDK/Gallup survey?

TEACHER EVALUATION
While only 13% of Americans surveyed see the primary purpose of evaluating teachers as "establishing their salaries based upon their skills," 60% of Americans believe the primary purpose of teacher evaluation is "helping them improve their ability to teach." Would you work to advance education policy that is consistent with these positions?

PAYING STUDENTS
The vast majority of Americans, 76% reject the notion of paying students for good behavior or grades.  Would you work to advance education policy that is consistent with these positions?

CHARTER SCHOOLS
The history of public attitudes in the PDK poll toward charter schools has been up and down and then up again. This year support has edged up to 68%.  Even so, what the public knows about charter schools remains wildly uncertain.  Last year in the 2009 PDK survey, for instance, a majority of 51% believed that charter schools are not public schools and 57% thought that charter schools charged tuition.  Almost half (46%) believed charter schools are free to teach religion.

So it is clear from what Americans say that there is widespread confusion about the nature and function of charter schools.  That being the case, would you work to educate the public about charter schools and how they affect public school funding, and would your advance education policy that is consistent with the most reliable research findings on the value of charter schools when compared to student performance in public schools and when the negative social and pedagogical effects (segregation and test prep) of charter schools are taken into account?
Click chart from 2009 PDK survey to enlarge.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Race to the the What?

Duncan's "Thank God for Katrina" Charter System of NOLA Irrelevant to PTSD Needs of Storm Victims 5 Years Later

Arne's old boss, Paul Vallas, is the CEO in charge of the Charterites' shining city in a bowl, the Big Uneasy.  How appropriate for Dunc's mentor, Vallas, now to be the recipient of his pro-charter protege's largesse to create the most unfeeling, inhumane, and anti-cultural system of behavioral lockdown schooling in the United States of America.

Where else can you find the largest concentration of PTSD children in America with schools that don't even have special education teachers, much less social workers or school psychologists.  The corporate education solution has no room for such niceties, since it is a revenue-draining and corporate-building system of exploitation design to segregate and to control and miseducate the poor. Where is our ostensibly-Aftrican American President?  Who will stand in the breach for these children whose needs go unmet while the federal bureaucracy turns a blind eye to the segregation and neo-eugenic ministrations of businessmen pretending to be educators?

A clip from an AP story on the untold traumas that remain untreated by racists who could not care less:

A startling number of Gulf coast area children displaced by Hurricane Katrina still have serious emotional or behavioral problems five years later, a new study found.

More than one in three children studied — those forced to flee their homes because of the August 2005 storm — have since been diagnosed with mental health problems. These are children who moved to trailer parks and other emergency housing.
 
Nearly half of families studied still report household instability, researchers said.

"If children are bellwethers of recovery, then the social systems supporting affected Gulf Coast populations are still far from having recovered from Hurricane Katrina," the researchers said.

. . . .


The study was published online Monday in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.

Lead author David Abramson of Columbia University said researchers were astonished by the level of distress.

Children are "a bit of canary in a coal mine in that they really represent a failure or a dysfunction of many, many other systems in the community," said Abramson, who is with Columbia's National Center for Disaster Preparedness.
About 500,000 people, including more than 160,000 children, weren't able to return to their homes for at least three months after the storm hit on Aug. 29, 2005.
 
At least 20,000 of those children still have serious emotional disorders or behavior problems, or don't have a permanent home, the report suggests.

"Five years after Katrina, there are still tens of thousands of children and their families who are still living in limbo with a significant toll on their psychological well-being," said co-author Irwin Redlener, also with the Columbia center. In addition, he is president of the Children's Health Fund, an advocacy group that paid for the study.

Without significant government help, Redlener said, these children are likely to have even greater problems as adults.
Psychologist Joy Osofsky of Louisiana State University's Health Sciences Center agreed, but said it was important to note that children in general are much more resilient than those from the extremely poor families Redlener is studying.
Osofsky, who has been working with children at St. Bernard, Plaquemines and Orleans parish schools since the storm, said Redlener's study shows the effects of poverty, the trauma of Katrina trauma and what followed.

Redlener's group has been periodically studying 1,079 families in Louisiana and Mississippi since February 2006, six months after the storm struck. The latest interviews, from November 2009 through March, involved families with children between ages 5 and 18.

Over the five years, 38 percent out of 427 children have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression or a behavior disorder since Katrina. That's almost five times more likely than children from similar families evaluated before the hurricane.

The percentage of newly diagnosed children has declined in each round of interviews but the numbers are still almost double the national average, Abramson said.

Almost half of the households either were living in transient housing or had no guarantee that they'd be in their current quarters for more than a year.

In separate research, Osofsky has looked at about 5,000 fourth- through 12th-grade children screened last year in St. Bernard, Plaquemines and Orleans parish schools. Of that group, 31 percent showed some symptoms of depression or post-traumatic stress, but only 12 to 15 percent asked for individual or group counseling. The school-based program doesn't diagnose children, she said.
 
Redlener wants more mental health services available to children, government action to get the families into safe and stable housing, and more support for the families. He also says governments need to quickly collect information about children and families hurt by disaster and to ensure they can be helped as long as they need it.

"We know governments, state and federal, are dealing with a very deep recession...," he said. On the other hand, he said, "It's pay now or pay later — and the 'later' is extraordinarily expensive."
___
AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner contributed to this story from Chicago.
___
Online:
Children's Health Fund: http://www.childrenshealthfund.org/
Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness: http://www.ncdp.mailman.columbia.edu/
Source: AP News

MA Judge Rules State "blatantly violated" Law in Gloucester Charter School Process

If you were only reading headlines at the Northeast's unofficial organ of the charter schoo movement, the Boston Globe ("Judge Clears Way for Gloucester Charter School to Open"), it would seem like the Charterites have prevailed in the Gloucester case brought by parents trying to preserve their public schools.  Nothing could be further from the truth, however. 

For the full story, here is solid piece of reporting (my bolds) from the Gloucester Times by Patrick Anderson:
A Superior Court judge Monday denied a bid by 15 local parents and the city to stop the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School from opening this fall.

But, in a ruling that turns the spotlight back on state officials, Judge Richard Welch III refused to dismiss the parents' lawsuit and wrote that the case presents "considerable evidence" that the state education commissioner and Board of Education "blatantly ignored and violated state law when granting the GCA charter for political reasons."

And while he denied the plaintiffs' preliminary injunction to stop the charter school from opening, Welch rejected the argument that charter schools movement bring only benefits and no financial harm to public schools systems where they are located, an axiom of the Massachusetts charter movement.

Welch suggested that by January, when the city is working on a budget for next year that will not include full state reimbursement for charter school expenses, another preliminary injunction might be successful.

"As the court stated at the hearing on this matter, the calculus regarding preliminary injunctive relief changes markedly during the next academic year," Welch wrote in the decision. "At that time, the traditional Gloucester public schools will suffer significant financial harm. The GCA cannot claim any justifiable reliance regarding financial commitments/staffing if this court reconsiders the injunctive request early enough to allow planning by both sides for the next academic year."

"Likewise, any student who chooses to attend GCA this September will be aware of the inherent uncertainty involving the next academic year," Welch added.


In his final remarks during oral arguments before Welch last Thursday, charter lawyer Tad Heuer called the awarding of a charter in Gloucester, or any other community in the state, a "windfall" for the city because of state reimbursements during the first several years of each new school's arrival.

But while the question of who would suffer the most from a shutdown was decisive in the preliminary, the strongest language in Welch's decision was targeted at co-defendant Mitchell Chester, the state education commissioner, who endorsed the Gloucester charter against the advice of his own Charter School Office staff, which conducted a close review of each charter application.

While he dismissed the parents' argument that the commissioner is legally bound to follow the recommendation of his Charter School Office, Welch — echoing state Sen. Bruce Tarr and state Inspector General Gregory Sullivan — said there is no evidence Chester made any attempt to independently judge the application against the established criteria.

"... There is a strong factual showing that the Commissioner, despite his affidavit to the contrary, did not perform his own independent evaluation of the GCA application but, to the contrary, ignored the state regulations and caved to political pressure to recommend the project to a Board eager to approve at least one charter application regardless of its merit," Welch wrote.

If the plaintiffs press forward with the case as expected, the judge's opinion that the scales "appear to tip in favor of the plaintiffs" on their case against Chester could put the onus on the commissioner to explain his endorsement of the Gloucester charter in a way he hasn't addressed to date.

"Among many things the judge has done wisely, he has zeroed on the fact that there is nothing on the record that answers why the school was approved," Tarr said Monday. "A lot of what the judge has said has validated the parents' claims."

Welch also wrote that the failure of any member of the Board of Education to attend the public hearing in Gloucester charter was a "clear cut" violation of state regulation.

After the board retroactively waived the attendance requirement, Chester and education department lawyers, have argued that hearings in other communities on the 2009 round of charter school applications satisfies the regulation — including before an oversight hearing of the state Joint Education Committee.

Attempts to reach Chester's office for comment late Monday afternoon were unsuccessful.

On top of signalling that the allegations against Chester may have merit, Welch went against the state bureaucracy in ruling that the parents even have the standing to bring a case against a charter award in court.

Representing Chester, lawyers from Attorney General Martha Coakley's office had argued that no matter how egregious the violation or injustice, the Board of Education's authority to award charters is absolute and cannot be challenged.

"The parents are thrilled with the judge's decision and we look forward continuing to prevail in the next phase of the case," said Ian Roffman, the lawyer representing the parents in the case.

On the other hand, Welch did rule that the city does not have standing in the case and dismissed the city from the case.

Despite seeing his firm's prediction of a swift end to the lawsuit go by the boards, Gloucester Charter Arts school attorney Heuer also claimed victory in the judge's ruling, especially the denial of the preliminary injunction and finding that the internal charter school office opinion was not binding on the Board of Education.

"I think that it is unfortunate that, due to the late filing, (Welch) ruled faster than he wanted," Heuer said. "We are pleased that the judge agreed with the vast majority of our arguments, and the school will not be prevented from opening on time."

It's unclear whether Welch's opinion will increase either the state or charter school's incentive to try to negotiate a settlement, something on which there had been little progress previously.

If the case continues on to trial, the last possible deadline for a ruling is June 2013.

Patrick Anderson can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455, or panderson@gloucestertimes.com.

School Turnaround Blitzkrieg Mires Down

With nothing but the element of unthinking movement and uninformed force to support them, the U. S. Education Department's army for the Oligarchs is grinding to a temporary halt as citizens begin to draw lines in the sand on whether or not they want to exchange a thousand public schools each year for phony remedies that have no empirical basis to recommend them.  A page from the feds' own report in 2008 shows how much research is behind any of the strategies in the turnaround grab bag (click p. 8 to enlarge):

Do we want to put hundreds of schools each year in the hands of ed industry leeches and corporate foundation tax shelter experts who have nothing to recommend themselves except their glaring ignorance about education in all of its many facets?  The same people, by the way, who have destroyed free enterprise and the American economy?

From NYTimes:
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan set an ambitious goal last year of overhauling 1,000 schools a year, using billions of dollars in federal stimulus money.

Pacific High School was supposed to be converted into a charter school.
But that effort is off to an uneven start. Schools from Maine to California are starting the fall term with their overhaul plans postponed or in doubt because negotiations among federal regulators, state officials and local educators have led to delays and confusion.

In this sprawling district east of Los Angeles, for example, the authorities announced plans earlier this year to use the program to convert Pacific High, one of California’s worst-performing schools, to a charter school, involving a comprehensive makeover. . . .
The Gates/Broad team had planned to throw the Bush privatization plan into high gear when they bought, not a seat at the Obama Fed ed table, but the table, itself.  Now it looks as though their embrace of segregated, corporate testing madrasahs for the poor may be on the examination table by civil rights and human rights advocates, and everyone else with a grain of common sense.

A story today by NPR has the following piece about the shortcomings of corporate ed reform to deal with the children who need the most help, children like John Baumbach who must walk the line of one of penal pedagogy schools of the new New Orleans, where special needs just mean a quicker pace within the school to prison pipeline:

The loss of the uncle he idolized [he caught a stray bullet meant for someone else]  is just one of the challenges John faces. Before the storm, he had behavior problems at the neighborhood school he attended. John evacuated to Morgan City, La., just before the storm, and says he liked his school there.

But when the family returned to New Orleans a year later, Ronald McCoy says John's old neighborhood school was suddenly full of security guards and metal detectors.

"And you go in other neighborhoods besides urban neighborhoods, and you don't go through this," McCoy insists.

This is a common complaint — that the post-Katrina school system has relied too heavily on security guards and harsh discipline in the relentless quest to boost test scores.

The new school system is supposed to give parents choice — a menu of charters, magnet schools and traditional public schools.

But Ronald McCoy says that everywhere they turn, his grandson John's issues are neglected. A KIPP charter school, like the one Donnell Bailey attended, recruited them. But they say John never got the individual attention they were promised.

Other parents complain that New Orleans schools have ignored special education issues like John's — that led to a recent legal complaint by a civil rights group.

Samuel J. Green Charter is John's third school since Katrina. As he begins eighth grade, his future is uncertain.

John takes us into the hall of the school to show us its latest addition: The halls have narrow lines of tape along each side of the hallway. Kids must stay on the tape, even if it doubles the distance to the next classroom.

Ronald McCoy, who inspects schools for an activist group, shakes his head. "This walking the line?" he says. "I have been incarcerated, and that's where I learned about walking behind those lines and staying on the right-hand side of the wall." . . . .

There is nothing in Arne's bag of turnaround tricks that addresses the problems that are born of poverty, disability, and malignant neglect of the brown and the poor.  Until there is a plan put in place to address these underlying issues, the corporate reformers may continue their charades and parlor tricks that draw attention away from the corporate crimes, malfeasance, and lack of accountability of an economic system that is rotted from the core out.  Meanwhile, our children will continue to sacrificed into a system of miseducation that leaves them unprepared be adults of any use to themselves.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Backing Basil

One important race to keep an eye on is the battle for a NY State Senate seat between Basil Smikle and Bill Perkins. Earlier this year, Perkins drew the ire of the pro-charter crowd for his hearings on various issues related to charter schools. Opponents promised to raise funds to unseat him.

They have a candidate (Smikle), and they've provided him with over $100,000 in donations. Carl Campanile of the NY Post reported that "hedge fund managers and other charter-school financiers have donated about $60,000 of the $150,000 raised by Smikle." Well, Campanile is off by only $40,000 or so. Need proof?

I tallied the donations to Smikle's campaign over at DFER Watch. You'll noticed a number of DFER supporters are tossing in some cash, a donation from a Scholastic VP/Deputy General Counsel, a thousand dollars from the Executive Director of TFA-NY, and a donation from Jonathan Sackler. If the name Sackler rings a bell, it's because Jonathan's daughter, Madeleine, is the director of "The Lottery" (Jonathan is also on the board of directors of Achievement First). Another $25k or so comes from real estate moguls. Norm Scott over at EdNotesOnline says only $4,100 has come from people residing in the district.