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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

New from CREDO: Charter Schools are No Better than Public Schools, and Don't Expect Them to Change

A slightly different version of this post appears at Common Dreams.

A new analysis of charter schools in the U. S. is out from CREDO, the Stanford-based outfit that found in 2009, when there were 4,700 charters across 40 states, that 17 percent of the nation’s charter schools were scoring better on standardized tests than the public schools they were created to replace:

While the report recognized a robust national demand for more charter schools from parents and local communities, it found that 17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, while 37 percent of charter schools showed gains that were worse than their traditional public school counterparts, with 46 percent of charter schools demonstrating no significant difference.
Thanks to billions poured into the segregated charter effort over the years from the federal treasury and from corporate foundations ($312 million from the Walton Foundation, alone), those peer-reviewed findings in 2009 were summarily ignored, so that now in 2013, there are 6,000+ charters in 42 states.  This may be referred to as the Fill-the-Hole-with-Money Strategy.
This new 2013 research from CREDO differs from the 2009 research piece by focusing primarily on charters that are part of charter management organizations (CMOs), which are corporate chains such as KIPP, Inc. or White Hat Management, Inc. This most recent study examined performance among 1,372 schools that belong to 167 CMOs. So independent charters were not a part of the most recent study.
There are a number of interesting takeaways from this CMO study, but the one that stands out is stated thusly in the Press Release:
In the aggregate, CMOs perform about the same as traditional public schools (TPS), but the aggregate masks the more interesting and important story of the distribution of performance around the average.
So with the exceptions of segregated chains like KIPP and Uncommon Schools, which can attribute their high scores to 1) creaming of top performers, 2) shoving out of low performers and discipline problems, 3) huge $$ advantages, 4) 10 hour school days, 5) laser focused test prep, etc., the rest of the CMOs can only say they are no better than the struggling public schools they were designed to replace. From the Executive Summary (all bolds in original):
Across the 25 states in the study, a sample of 167 operating CMOs were identified for the years 2007 - 2011. CMOs on average are not dramatically better than non-CMO schools in terms of their contributions to student learning. The difference in learning compared to the Traditional Public school alternatives for CMOs is -.005 standard deviations in Math and .005 in reading; both these values are statistically significant, but obviously not materially different from the comparison (p. 6)
But let’s look a little closer. 
The real story of CMOs is found in their range of quality. The measures of aggregate performance, however, mask considerable variation across CMOs in terms of their overall quality and impact. Across the 167 CMOs, 43 percent outpace the learning gains of their local TPS in reading; 37 percent of CMOs do so in math. These proportions are more positive than was seen for charter schools as a whole, where 17 percent posted better results. However, about a third (37%) of CMOs have portfolio average learning gains that are significantly worse in reading, and half lag their TPS counterparts in math (pp. 5-6).
Translation: Over a third of segregated CMOs are doing worse in reading, and 43% are doing better; over a third of CMOs are doing better in math, but 50 percent are doing worse in math. 
If these numbers reflected the results of trials for a new drug, would these trials lead to approval by the FDA?  Is this the best we can expect from charters after billions poured into this new hole in the ground that is being mined by ideologues, tax-evaders, corporate welfare schemers, profiteers, sold-out politicians, and hedge fund operators?
In fact, it is the best we may expect, for if there is another big takeaway that should cause Duncan and Gates to look the other way quickly, it is this, from the Press Release, that concludes that, like bad wine, low scoring segregated charters don’t get better with time:
“This report’s findings challenge the conventional wisdom that a young underperforming school will improve if given time. Our research shows that if you start wobbly, chances are you’ll stay wobbly,” said Dr. Margaret Raymond, CREDO’s director and the study’s lead author. “Similarly, if a school is successful in producing strong academic progress from the start, our analysis shows it will remain a strong and successful school.”
“We have solid evidence that high quality is possible from the outset,” Dr. Raymond said. “Since the study also shows that the majority of charter management organizations produce consistent quality through their portfolios – regardless of the actual level of quality – policy makers will want to assure that charter schools that replicate have proven models of success.”
What the study found, however, is that the unproven segregated models are replicating faster than the high flyers like KIPP:
. . .the lowest third of CMOs replicate more rapidly than middling or high-performing CMOs. Of the 245 new schools that were started by CMOs over the course of this study, 121 (or 49 percent) were begun by Organizations whose average performance was in the bottom third of the range. Another 19 percent (47 schools) were started by CMOs in the middle third of the quality distribution. The final 77 new schools (31 percent) were opened by CMOs in the top third of the distribution. This finding highlights the need to be vigilant about which CMOs replicate; CMOs with high average learning gains remain high performers as they grow and CMOs with poor results remain inferior.
The new Report concludes, too, that the RTTT policy of planning miracle turnarounds among the lowest performing schools to be another fanciful bit of public relations from ED.  Wonder how Kevin Huffman will respond to this.  After all, he has set TN with the task of making the state’s worst schools the best in five years!
The lessons of this study also include the notion of authorizer triage. Most authorizers have limited resources, so deploying them where they have the highest impact is desirable. The temptation to focus on the lowest performing schools is not supported by this analysis, but attention to the schools in quintile two (or quintiles 1 and 2 for elementary schools) holds out more promising effects (p. 8).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A comment about teaching the superbowl in class

In response to “Seven Super Bowl Lesson Plans and Resources for the Classroom” published in Edutopia: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/super-bowl-lesson-plans-matthew-davis#comment-118336

In the discussion of the superbowl in class, please also include the role of professional athletics in society. Noam Chomsky has pointed out that understanding of the details of athletics (eg points after touchdown, off-side penalties, linebackers, odds, details of players’ strengths and weaknesses …) is often more complex than politics, and that fans are usually capable of deep critical thinking involving many complex issues (pass or kick? punt on third down? kick the field goal or go for the touchdown?), but we are told that politics is too hard, and we should leave it to the experts.

He concludes that organized sports is a way of diverting our attention away from areas we could have an influence on to areas we can’t have an influence on.

I think the average citizen knows a lot more about the superbowl than the common core standards. To see what you know, please take our short quiz: http://www.progressive.org/test-your-public-ed-savvy

Stephen Krashen

Corporate Lobbying by Memphis BioWorks Buys Charter Renewal for MASE

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports this morning that the Shelby County School Board voted 18-1 to renew the local charter school, MASE, which has worse test scores than public schools that have been turned over recently for charter conversion.
But heavy lobbying by officials of the school operator, Memphis Bioworks Foundation, was evident in the split that developed on the board over the fate of the 10-year-old school.
Below is my letter to the Shelby County Board.

January 29, 2013
Open Letter to the Shelby County School Board:

Those of us who support the concept and mission of public education are trying to understand the Shelby Count School Board's decision last evening to renew the charter of the Memphis Academy of Science Engineering (MASE), even after ten years of marginal and substandard performance as measured by the same tests (TCAP and TVAAS) that are used to shut down public schools in Memphis for conversion to corporate charter reform schools.  There is enough irony here to make one dizzy.

The rationale that has been offered for renewing the MASE charter is that the school is showing improvement and that MASE, as a middle-high school has been mislabeled or unfairly compared to high schools. From Steve Bares, Chairman of the MASE Board:
“Because it’s both a middle and a high school they rank MASE not only with the three-year average but they aggregate that all into place and rank MASE against high schools, which inherently puts any school in that situation at a disadvantage,” he said.
We can find no evidence of unfair comparisons of MASE to high schools.  We do find evidence of slight improvement in value-added (TVAAS) scores from 2011 to 2012 at MASE, even though the state achievement (TCAP) scores are straight Fs in all four subjects.   MASE's value-added scores as reported on the State website are below:

Grades K-8 Value Added - Growth Standard?
(3 year average)*201120122012 State
CRTStatusMean GainStatusMean GainGrowth Std
Social StudiesC0.1B10

What is particularly puzzling about the Board's decision to renew MASE's charter, despite recommendations from Supt. Kriner Cash to the contrary, has to do with how MASE compares in performance to other Memphis public schools that have been turned over to the Achievement School District (ASD) for corporate charter conversion next year.  There are six schools that are being handed over to charter operators, and four of those schools have better value-added (TVAAS) scores than MASE, a charter school that has just received your vote of confidence by an 18-1 margin.

As you can see below, Shannon Elementary, Klondike Elem., Whitney Elem., and Georgian Hills Elem. all have better improvement scores than MASE.  And yet all have been handed over for corporate charter conversion.

Shannon Elementary
Grades K-8 Value Added - Growth Standard?
(3 year average)*201120122012 State
CRTStatusMean GainStatusMean GainGrowth Std
Social StudiesA2.2A2.20

Klondike Elementary
Grades K-8 Value Added - Growth Standard?
(3 year average)*201120122012 State
CRTStatusMean GainStatusMean GainGrowth Std
Social StudiesD-0.8B10

Whitney Elementary
Grades K-8 Value Added - Growth Standard?
(3 year average)*201120122012 State
CRTStatusMean GainStatusMean GainGrowth Std
Social StudiesD-0.9B10

Georgian Hills Elementary
Grades K-8 Value Added - Growth Standard?
(3 year average)*201120122012 State
CRTStatusMean GainStatusMean GainGrowth Std
Social StudiesC0.1B1.10

Parents from these schools must wonder what is going on.  Did these four schools slated for charter conversion not have corporate lobbying on their side to keep them open?  Were they on the Gates Foundation hit list?  Did the TN Business Roundtable put out a contract on these four schools?  Did out-of-state hedge funds buy their way into the good graces of the State and local politicians?  Or do parents, children, and the future of publicly-controlled public schools no longer matter in areas of high poverty, or at least not matter enough to keep out profiteers and corporate welfare artists from taking over?

It would seem that some explanation is required, especially in light of the recent exposure of child abuse going on in Memphis charter schools.

Recruiting corporations to run awful schools with no public oversight or accountability, and to allow them to manhandle children at public expense, does not seem like a solution that can work in a democracy.  Perhaps you had something else in mind with the present scheme.


Jim Horn
Schools Matter

Simple Is As Simple Does

Have you seen "Simple English Wikipedia"?  This is a companion site for "Regular English Wikipedia."

Here is the description (my emphasis):
This is the front page of the Simple English Wikipedia. Wikipedias are places where people work together to write encyclopedias in different languages. We use Simple English words and grammar here. The Simple English Wikipedia is for everyone! That includes children and adults who are learning English. There are 91,451 articles on the Simple English Wikipedia. All of the pages are free to use. They have all been published under both the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0 and the GNU Free Documentation License. You can help here! You may change these pages and make new pages. Read the help pages and other good pages to learn how to write pages here. If you need help, you may ask questions at Simple talk.
When writing articles here:
  • Use Basic English vocabulary and shorter sentences. This allows people to understand normally complex terms or phrases. 
  • Write good pages. The best encyclopedia pages have useful, well written information.
  • Use the pages to learn and teach. These pages can help people learn English. You can also use them to make a new Wikipedia to help other people.
  • Simple does not mean short. Writing in Simple English means that simple words are used. It does not mean readers want basic information. Articles do not have to be short to be simple; expand articles, add details, but use basic vocabulary.
  • Be bold! Your article does not have to be perfect, because other editors will fix it and make it better. And most importantly, do not be afraid to start and make articles better yourself.
Slavoj Zizek on the word "Imbecile." (Condensed from his book Less Than Nothing.)

There are three levels of stupidity: you have idiots, imbeciles and morons: 
IDIOT-IQ of 0-25 : I think that idiots are people who simply don’t get properly the symbolic dimension. Absolute naivete 
MORON- IQ of 51-75 Morons are those who simply rely on the Big Other. Morons are the opposite of idiots. Morons are people who fully identify with the symbolic order 
IMBECILE- IQ of 26-50: Imbeciles are the most interesting. There is a theory that becile in Roman is a stick that you need to walk with. So IMBECILE is the one without a stick to walk, and insofar as this stick that you need while walking or here talking thinking is the Big Other so it’s a very nice position (lacanian) you know there is no Big Other IM-BECILE no stick but you still know that you must somehow relate to it.

Which is more simple: Torture or Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.

Does a grasp of the "simple" lead, progress, to one seeking out the complex?  Or is the complex denigrated for not being put simply.  Laotse might have said it best: those who know don't speak; those who speak don't know.  And here we are at "the rest" via Hamlet.  (Did I do enough "Common Core" work there?  And if so, did I muck it up with unclear or complex analogies?  Likely.)

Perhaps a "jargon-free" Wikipedia devoid of the biases of "experts" would be interesting...but "simple"?


This column in The Guardian by George Monbiot crosses the Atlantic quite nicely.  It also makes understanding the way we are being managed very simple.

A few decades earlier, the role of such schools was clear: they broke boys' attachment to their families and re-attached them to the institutions – the colonial service, the government, the armed forces – through which the British ruling class projected its power. Every year they released into the world a cadre of kamikazes, young men fanatically devoted to their caste and culture. 
By the time I was eight those institutions had either collapsed (in the case of colonial service), fallen into other hands (government), or were no longer a primary means by which British power was asserted (the armed forces). Such schools remained good at breaking attachments, less good at creating them
It should be posted on Simple English Wikipedia post-haste (sorry!), I mean, more simply, as soon as possible, quickly, now.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Poverty and the “achievement gap”: Some new data

Carnoy and Rothstein (2013) compared US performance with Korean, Finland and Canada on the PISA 2009, given to 15-year-olds. All three of these countries generally score about 1/3 of a standard deviation better than the US in reading and math on international tests; Arne Duncan refers to these three countries as the three “consistent high-performers” (Carnoy and Rothstein, 2013 p. 10). In the PISA 2009 reading test, Korea had the highest score of all OECD countries (539), Finland was second highest (536) and Canada third (524). American students scored 500, 33 points behind the average of 533 for the three top countries.

A larger percentage of students in the US live in poverty, as compared to the top-scoring countries, and poverty level is consistently associated with school performance. Carnoy and Rothstein attempted to control for this.

They calculated that if the US had the same social class distribution as the average of the top three countries, the average US reading score on the PISA would be 518 (Cornoy and Rothstein, table 3A, p. 13). Social class (poverty) thus accounts for about half the reading gap, as measured by the PISA. Carnoy and Rothstein also concluded that social class accounts for a about a third or more of the math gap table 1B, p. 14).

Carnoy and Rothstein point out that they may have underestimated American students’ scores. They note that the US has a higher percentage of high poverty students enrolled in schools that have high concentrations of high poverty students, which also depresses academic achievement.

This data suggests that dealing with poverty, at least protecting children from some of the effects of poverty, will have a strong impact on achievement.

From Carnoy, M. and Rothstein, R. 2013, What do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute, p. 82. http://www.epi.org/).

MASE, First Memphis Charter, Up for Renewal or Closure: Where the Oxymoronic Meets the Moronic

When the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering (MASE) opened 10 years ago, it was supposed to herald a new day of great achievement in Memphis schools.  Now ten years and millions of wasted dollars later, what was to be the solution to low test scores has now achieved its way to the bottom of the barrel in test score accountability.  Here's the latest from the State website:
Grades 3-8: TCAP Criterion Referenced Academic AchievementView Chart ?
(3 year average)2010201120122012 State
Social Studies41D38F38FNC54BNC

Steve Bares
That's the oxymoronic.  Now here's the moronic, as expressed in the news article below, which includes the following thought disorder from Steve Bares, MASE's Chairman of the Board, who is also a fixture among the power elite of the local Chamber of Commerce:
“Any decision to close MASE has to take the students in mind. … Eighty percent of those middle school students that would now have to go find a school would go back to their zoned school and would be lower-performing schools than MASE,” said Steve Bares, chairman of the school’s board of directors. “One of the first rules is do no harm. We don’t believe that is logical in any way.”
Really?  Can any of the public schools that are being shut down to benefit the corporate elite of Memphis be worse than straight Fs???  

The question now for Shelby County Board members:  Do they care about low performing schools if they are being run by their cronies, or is their concern for the children expressed only when low test scores occur in schools with teachers who don't treat kids like prisoners?  We will know the answer later today.  Stay tuned.

From The Daily News:

Countywide school board members make a decision Tuesday, Jan. 29, about the future of the first charter school in the city as well as in the state.
The Memphis City Schools administration is recommending the board not renew the charter of the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering for another 10 years.
The school opened in 2003 with a seventh grade and is currently a grades 6-12 school drawing several hundred students from across the city.
The board’s debate and decision is likely to hinge on the specifics of MASE’s drop in math scores at a time when state student performance standards began to change. MASE fell to the state’s bottom 5 percent schools by those standards.
Based on last week’s school board discussion at a work session, where the students from the charter school would go if it were closed also probably will be a factor.
“Any decision to close MASE has to take the students in mind. … Eighty percent of those middle school students that would now have to go find a school would go back to their zoned school and would be lower-performing schools than MASE,” said Steve Bares, chairman of the school’s board of directors. “One of the first rules is do no harm. We don’t believe that is logical in any way.”
School system administrators admit that the academy improved its math achievement test scores and has showed growth. But so did conventional schools.
“The charter schools should be leading the way in innovation and excellence. It’s a failing school. They made nice growth, but so did the whole district,” said Memphis City Schools superintendent Kriner Cash. “It needs to be oxymoronic to be a charter and be a failing school.”

“Any decision to close MASE has to take the students in mind.”

–Steve Bares, chairman of MASE board of directors
Cash tried to convince the state-run Achievement School District to take over MASE.
Bares acknowledges the academy had a rough transition three years ago that it could have handled better.
“We lost a lot of teachers, had a big transition and there were some personnel issues that were all at one time that had to be overcome. All that occurred for us in 2008,” Bares said. “We didn’t handle it perfectly in 2009. The question is, do we get up and fix it and turn it around? And that’s what we did. We didn’t wait for somebody to tell us.”
The changes include a faculty who are all levels 3-5 teachers by state evaluation standards, which are the four highest ratings.
Bares also argues that just as the school conquered its “average yearly progress” deficiencies and “blew the doors” off those student achievement standards, new standards began to apply and judged MASE as a high school instead of a combination middle and high school.
“Because it’s both a middle and a high school they rank MASE not only with the three-year average but they aggregate that all into place and rank MASE against high schools, which inherently puts any school in that situation at a disadvantage,” he said.
Cash was unsympathetic saying he believes MASE is likely to remain in the bottom 5 percent and that is not acceptable for a charter school.
But some board members are undecided.
“To me, the mark of a good teacher is not in the number of children or entities that don’t succeed,” said school board member Sarah Lewis. “It is what you do to help them succeed. Where would these children go so they could get this same kind of focus and instruction? Right now, I am conflicted about this decision. I’m not certain what else could have been done.”
“These test scores seem to reflect good leadership, great teaching and good student achievement,” said school board member Oscar Love.
School board member Mary Anne Gibson also gave MASE credit for acting on a problem.
“We have to respond, I do believe that,” she added. “But I don’t want to set a precedent for 80 percent of those students who would have to go to underperforming schools.”

After Cornerstone Charter Abuse Scandal Deepens in Memphis, NAACP Demands Accountability from State and Charter Operators

Cornerstone CEO Sippel
What began last fall in Memphis as the corporate reform schoolers' grand experiment to turn over public schools to white charter operators with no accountability for how children are treated, has turned into a nightmare for parents of children at Cornerstone Prep and other less publicized charter chain gangs for black and poor children in Memphis.

What began as a charter school abuse story that the local media in Memphis tried to ignore has erupted into deep rage among parents who previously were sweet-talked into sending their children to the total compliance charter schools where children are treated like dangerous inmates.  See latest accounts here on former mayor's call for Governor to intervene.

This from local ABC affiliate:
A child's words can be powerful.

"I started to urinate on myself and I started crying,” said 7-year old Cornerstone student as she addressed the crowd at the podium. 

That power is multiplied when repeated by other children.

"One time I urinated on myself and I had to go really bad,” said another elementary student.

"I soiled on myself because I tried to raise my hand and he (my teacher) said no,” said another student.

Parents are outraged at Cornerstone teachers. The state took over low performing Lester Elementary this year. Since then, student grades are up and they're making the honor roll. That's not the problem. It's teachers not allowing enough bathroom breaks. The school says they've corrected the issue and the kids are allowed 5 bathroom breaks. Parents say that's not true.

"It's going beyond saying no, they’re getting physical,” said a parent Lashanna Rogers. “They (teachers) physically stopped her (my daughter) instead of walking with her to the restroom."

All of this is taking place as a result of years of Business Roundtable efforts to turn poor public schools over to corporate interests, and today in urban America test scores are used to shut down public schools so they be run for the benefit of corporate welfare artists who are free to operate schools like private prisons, with no accountability to the public.

Clips below from the Commercial Appeal four days ago. Note that parents must now provide their own transportation if they decide that they do want their children to attend this chain gang school:

After weeks of complaints about Cornerstone Preparatory Academy in Binghamton, the state NAACP will ask legislators to pass a law allowing charter schools to be closed for more than financial instability and poor academic performance.

"There needs to be some other options for the ways we hold charters accountable," said Rev. Keith Norman, president of the Memphis branch of the NAACP.

The issue is on the state NAACP agenda and will be presented to lawmakers in February, Norman said. "You can't allow charters to exist in our community, to come in and set up shop and not be accountable beyond fiscal and performance-related issues."

Cornerstone Prep, a ministry of Christ United Methodist Church, opened this fall in Lester School in Binghamton under the authority of the state-run Achievement School District. It serves children in pre-K through third grade. Next year, it will take over the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. In 2014-2015, it will run the entire pre-K-8 school.

In the last month, Binghamton parents have cited instances of children wetting their pants because they were not allowed to use the restroom. Others have said teachers took children's shoes as punishment.

The most recent incident happened Thursday, according to mother LaShanna Rogers. "My daughter said one teacher said yes, she could use the restroom, but the other teacher in the room stopped her. She physically grabbed her. That is when she urinated on herself. She was scared. And then, she was so embarrassed, she was crying hysterically."

Rogers and unified Shelby County Schools board member Sara Lewis met Friday with Cornerstone executive director Drew Sippel. Lewis said she is "deeply concerned" about the lack of "cultural competency" among the staff and "in the routine kinds of things that should be done and are not."

"The administration and the school operators should be humane and focused, respectful and humane. From things I have been told, it is neither, simply because the people in charge don't know. They have no clue."

Sippel did not respond to e-mail questions about the latest incidents Friday.

. . . .
School boards have authority to close charters after two years of poor test scores, for insolvency and for violating conditions of their charter. The law says nothing about what happens when school leaders clash with the community.

Until the Achievement School District started assigning charters to run schools last fall, parents had the option to send their children to them. Under ASD rules, Cornerstone is now the neighborhood school in Binghamton. If parents wish to transfer, they can expect to drive their students to a new school.

Charter schools also do not have publicly elected boards, an issue for Norman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Binghamton. "We don't just want to make allegations and throw stones. We want a clear pathway for healing."

"When you reach out to help and serve, it helps not to send the signal that we are giving because they are broken. Our dignity is not to be exchanged for your dollars. Our dignity is for not for sale."

High-tech tots?

Science education: No reason to panic
Sent to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, January 27, 2013

The Hopkins District has introduced science education into preschool (“Hopkins School District takes science ed down to the next level,” Jan 27), apparently under the impression that the US is experiencing a shortage of science and technology experts.
Hopkins administrators may want to consult research done by Rutgers Professor Hal Salzman, who concludes that there are two to three qualified graduates for each science/tech opening: There is a surplus, not a shortage.

We are all in favor of high-quality science education, but there is no reason to panic.

Stephen Krashen

Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1034801
Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.
Salzman, H. 2012. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12) http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-foreign-stem-graduates-get-green-cards/no-shortage-of-qualified-american-stem-grads.
See also:
Teitelbaum, M. 2007. Testimony before the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, November 6, 2007

Original article: http://www.startribune.com/local/west/188615271.html?refer=y

Monday, January 28, 2013

Florida Boondoggle

Posted on http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/content/time-hardwire-florida-schools-senate-ed-chairman-says

Florida Boondoggle

The Florida Board is eager to spend nearly a half billion dollars to buy and set up equipment primarily so that children can take tests online.
There is zero research support for this kind of testing program. Nor is there any demand for a pilot study to be done.
As soon as the equipment is set up, it will be declared obsolete.
It will not improve student performance, so a more full-proof and expensive computer system will be developed.
The result: A permanent boondoggle, an ever-increasing drain on the budget that will profit only testing and computer companies.

(Hat tip: Bill2)

Original article:
Time to hardwire Florida schools, Senate ed chairman says
The days of all-computerized state testing are fast approaching for Florida schools. The push toward digital textbooks and instructional materials also is moving quickly.
But many schools built more than five years ago lack the infrastructure to make the move. They don't have adequate electrical wiring or internet Wi-Fi capability to handle the load.
The Florida Board of Education has proposed a 2013-14 budget of $441.8 million to outfit schools with internet bandwidth, wireless capacity and other technology tools. There's some talk in Tallahassee that the request will get serious consideration among lawmakers, who already have been asked by Gov. Rick Scott to give all full-time classroom teachers a $2,500 raise.
"We've got to put resources in that area" of technology, said Sen. John Legg, chairman of the Education Policy committee and a member of the Education Appropriations committee. "The Senate proposal we're putting together is pretty aggressive to do that."
He expected a bill to emerge in the next few weeks that will look at a two-year plan to improve schools' computer capabilities. The bill also will include other overarching issues including more closely connecting education standards to college and employment demands.
Legg told the Gradebook that he hoped to keep the discussion tightly focused on "real reform" such as these ideas, with a longer-range impact, and away from politically-tinged diversions
"It's my desire to get these long-term policy initiatives up and out early in session," he said, noting that some heated debate could surround the proposals. "It's my desire not to get distracted."

Why John DeBerry, Jr. Is Helping Michelle Rhee Create Mob Rule for Memphis Schools

If you want to see what corporate education smells like at the local level, smell no further than Rep. John D. DeBerry, Jr., the Memphis state rep who raked in more funds ($112,113.00) from the corporate ed reform schoolers than all other members of Tennessee legislative education committees, combined.

And Rhee's generosity is paying off handsomely, as DeBerry has become the loyal lap dog of the charter reform school movement in the state.  Sensing that time is running out before the public wakes up to the charter scam, the charter industry has pulled "parent trigger" in Tennessee to turn over public school decision making over to local mobs with pockets stuffed with corporate cash.

DeBerry's last move for the benefit of Rhee and her oligarch patrons would allow 51 percent of parents at any school in the bottom 20 percent of test scorers (the poor schools) to decide to shut down a school and turn it over to corporate charter operators.  Not only would this power grab make local school boards irrelevant, but it would narrow the decision-making process to a handful of parents at a particular time under the particular influence of particular corporate charter operators.

How's that for taking the politics out of education!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bubble Bursts for Pennsylvania Charter School Scores

Ron Tomalis is Secretary of Education for Pennsylvania.  He holds a Bachelors Degree in Political Science, which makes him at least as qualified as Margaret Spellings was for her job as former Secretary of Education for the U. S under Bush II.  Before Margaret Spellings, there was Rod Paige, whose leadership during fraudulent Houston Miracle era earned him a spot as W's first Secretary of Ed.

Paige had a Deputy Secretary from Pennslyvania by the name of Eugene Hickok, who was put in charge of passing out $75,000,000 dollars in federal discretionary grants to Bush Administration cronies.  This is where Bill Bennett's K-12, Inc. was born and other education industry kingpens got their nest eggs laid, including Lisa Keegan and Andy Rotherham, both with the Education Leaders Council that produced nothing to show for the $16 million in federal tax dollars they received.  Since then, Rotherham has emerged as an education "thought leader" who spend s lot of time in Sun Valley skiing and leading thoughts, I suppose.

Below is a chart done by PFAW that shows where much of the federal money went that Hickok handed out (click chart to enlarge).

Eugene Hickok left ED when Paige departed, and soon thereafter he was forced to pay a $50,000 fine to avoid criminal charges for conflict of interest accusations.

Ron Tomalis was Hickok's assistant at ED, and when Hickok left for Dutko Worldwide to share his expertise with other bottom feeders, Tomalis went with him.

After PA elected to Republican, Tom Corbett, as Governor, Corbett chose Tomalis as the next best thing to Hickok for privatizing Pennsylvania's schools.  Below is a news story from last week that offers a clear picture of how these operate, which hinges on the kind of ham-handed crookedness that we have come to expect from the corporate reform schoolers.  The story from The Morning Call:
The number of charter schools hitting testing benchmarks plummeted after the federal government said the state Education Department graded them too leniently.

At first, nearly half of the state's 156 charter schools whose students took the 2012 PSSA math and reading tests made so-called Adequate Yearly Progress under a new grading system Education Secretary Ron Tomalis implemented last summer.

The new system, which Tomalis initiated without federal approval and at the behest of a charter school lobbying group, made it easier for charter schools to reach federal standards than traditional public schools. It classified charters, no matter their size, as school districts, which are measured on a broader scale than individual schools.

The U.S. Department of Education, however, shot down that change in November. It ordered Pennsylvania to recalculate the charters' AYP status on the school level and publicize the results by January. So under the federal order, charters must have the school-level and district-level grades.

Under Tomalis' system, 77 charter schools — or 49 percent — made AYP when they were measured as school districts. But when tabulated as individual schools, only 43 — or 28 percent — made AYP, according to a Morning Call analysis of state data.

By comparison, 49 percent of the state's public schools made AYP and about 61 percent of the state's 499 school districts that administered the PSSAs did, too.

Of the seven charter schools in Lehigh and Northampton counties, only the Lehigh Valley Academy Charter School was affected by the change. It made AYP as a district, but dropped to warning status as a school.

Roberto Clemente in Allentown and Seven Generations in Emmaus made AYP on both grading scales.
Lincoln Leadership in Allentown, and The Lehigh Valley Performing Arts High School, Vitalistic Therapeutic and Dual Language, all in Bethlehem, missed it on both levels. (Vitalistic will close Friday for financial reasons.)

That equates to about 29 percent AYP success rate on a school-level basis and a 43 percent success rate on the district level for Valley charters, The Morning Call's analysis shows.

Pennsylvania had long graded charter schools, which are funded with tax dollars, as individual schools. Under such a system, a school achieves AYP if a percentage of its students in each tested grade scores proficient or advanced through straight or curved scores. Student scores are further broken down by student demographics. If at least one demographic group in any grade level fails, the whole school fails.

A school district is measured on a broader scale that uses grade spans: 3-5 for elementary schools; 6-8 for middle schools and 9-12 for high schools (though only 11th-graders are tested). Only one of the three grade spans needs to hit the testing targets for a district to make AYP.

Tomalis did not announce he had switched over to a district-based system for charter schools when he released 2012 PSSA results in September. But he did blame the drop in statewide PSSA scores on tighter testing rules he instituted in response to what he said were episodes of cheating.

Tim Eller, Department of Education spokesman, declined to answer questions about the disparity The Morning Call's analysis showed between the two types of charter school results.. . .