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

Monday, February 29, 2016

Shameless Promotion Plus a 20 Percent Discount

Click the image to enlarge.  See promotion code in bottom right.  Thank you.  jh

Jay Mathews and KIPP Journalism

by Jim Horn

Before my book on teaching in KIPP Model schools went on sale yesterday, Jay Mathews and the “No Excuses” charter empire were already at work.  In fact, Jay had already delivered to his Washington Post editors a two-part response/review to my book.  Part 1 appeared yesterday.

Jay’s dubious assessment of Work Hard, Be Hard… may reassure KIPP’s corporate patrons, venture philanthropists, and the hedge funders that all is well in "No Excuses Land," but his remarks do nothing to shed light on the intent and content of my book, which was conceived and executed with the principal aim of allowing former No Excuses teachers to share their stories with the public. At the same time, I wanted to show that these grueling accounts of life inside "No Excuses" corporate charter schools reflect the realization of a paternalistic social vision and a hard-fisted privatization agenda that jointly constitute two of the greatest threats to democracy in our era.  

Because “No Excuses” charters are key to achieving this corporate-sponsored vision and mission, it is, indeed, important that Jay Mathews go all out to downplay my book and the importance of hearing former KIPP teachers’ shared experiences of life inside KIPP.  For if parents, policymakers, and prospective teachers come to understand the patronizing aims, draconian methods, and unhealthy outcomes of the KIPP Model charter schools, then a major tool of the education privatization and social control agenda could be jeopardized. 

Here is a the first clip from Jay’s Part 1 that requires a response:

I wish the book [Work Hard, Be Hard] were not so one-sided. In the great tradition of American polemics, Horn is entitled to his relentlessly anti-KIPP view. But he never satisfactorily explains how a charter network, if it is as harmful to teachers and children as he says, could attract nearly 70,000 students to 183 campuses in 20 states and the District.

I should first acknowledge my utter failure in this regard, for if there is anything I have learned from my years of sparring with the heavyweight champ of KIPP apologists, it is that there is no way to satisfactorily explain to Jay Mathews, at least, how the KIPP Model could reflect anything other than the spit-shined corporate image that he and the Washington Post editorial board have helped to carefully polish for the past decade. My book, however, explores in some measurable depth how we have come to fund thousands of these “No Excuses” charter schools that educate the brown and underprivileged in ways that the white and powerful have chosen for them.

And while Jay has remained steadfast in his support of the “no excuses” philosophy when applied to KIPP students and their teachers, he has found a litany of excuses for looking the other way when confronted with the kinds of abusive school practices that Jay would never, ever allow to be practiced on his own grandchildren. 

My book is not at all the first opportunity that Jay has had to use his position of trust to defend the indefensible.  When confronted, for instance, in 2009 with a detailed, formal state report of abusive and humiliating practices against children by one of KIPP’s school leaders (click here to read the Report in its entirety), Jay Mathews accepted the KIPP principal’s denial of the charges of abuse and illegal acts as fact. Having received an assurance from the alleged offender that student accounts, parent accounts, and school personnel accounts were all wrong, Jay was happy to pursue the story no further.

As blogger and public official, Thomas Mertz, observed in back in 2009 when the KIPP Fresno events unfolded, this kind of spin we may expect from public relations firms out to protect corporate clients, but we cannot accept this kind of unquestioning fealty from those represent themselves as journalists: “… the first step in spinning a story is to ignore any information that undermines your position; the second step is to include information that supports your biases, and throughout use every trick in the book to evoke sympathy for your cause…”

And here is a second clip that deserves comment:

…Having been refused access to KIPP Memphis two years ago, he [Horn] asked me for help. A KIPP spokesman told me the school’s staff had rejected the request because Horn had suggested in one piece that KIPP schools were like concentration camps.

I previously explained to Jay how this KIPP allegation is false in an email dated May 27, 2014, an email that followed Jay’s failed effort to get me permission from KIPP’s home office to visit a KIPP school:

KIPP’s well-financed meme that I called KIPP schools concentration camps has been around for a few years now, and it began when a KIPP fan in New Orleans asked me a question following a presentation at AERA.  I did not say at AERA or elsewhere that KIPP schools are concentration camps, even though I did reference concentration camps in response to the question as to whether or not I have ever visited a KIPP school. I said, no, in fact, I have not, nor have I ever visited a WWII concentration camp.  But the documentation is clear what it was like there in those camps (despite the Holocaust deniers), just as it is clear, thanks to evidence supplied by former teachers, what life is like in a KIPP school–despite the KIPP propaganda pieces.

And even if KIPP’s claim were true, is that enough to bar even the most skeptical researcher from access to a KIPP school?  What kind of exalted petulance are we witnessing? Or does KIPP want to keep out anyone who has looked underneath the KIPP “shine” that is reapplied with daily regularity to disguise some ugly truths?   

Even though I did not get to visit KIPP Memphis, I did find out subsequently that one Memphis KIPP school has test scores are low enough to put them repeatedly on the state's priority schools list (list here), which is comprised of the bottom five percent of test performers. Could a KIPP be shuttered for low performance?  Would the Washington Post cover the story?

Mathews ends his Part 1 with this, which cannot go unanswered:

KIPP teachers welcome into their classrooms students who have said worse things about them. KIPP schools have the power to invite Horn if they want to. Why not give it a try? The vibrant creativity of KIPP teachers refutes his dark perspective, and may persuade him to interview at least some of the many people who love those schools.

Did I say something derogatory about KIPP teachers that I missed?  What was it?  Mathews' feeble attempt to incite KIPP teachers to rush to the defense of KIPP, Inc. will surely fall short if those teachers come to read my book’s recorded accounts by former “no excuses” teachers, many of whom remain friends with teachers who are still in the “no excuses” schools. 

While many of the stories that these former teachers relate are difficult to read for their severity, there remains with most of those interviewed a solid appreciation and empathy for those who continue to struggle within a system that regularly grinds up teachers and spits them out.

Finally, despite Mathews’ clear suggestion that I intentionally avoided interviewing former KIPP teachers who had more positive accounts to share, let me repeat what I have told Mathews previously:  I interviewed every former “no excuses” teacher who contacted me and volunteered to be interviewed.  With one exception, those teachers chose to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from a system of corporate foundation influence that reaches into every corner of the educational ecosystem.  I will continue to respect that.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Moskowitz Sought "Compassion" for Abusive Teacher

The NYTimes has the latest on the Success Academy abuse story involving a video of a Success Academy teacher berating and humiliating a young student whose work did not measure up to expectations.  This clip offers details from the perspective of the the child's mother, Ms. Miranda:
In two lengthy interviews, she [Ms. Miranda] said that she did not know what was happening in her daughter’s classroom before she saw the video. She said that she was so upset by what she saw — and by the network’s rush to rally around Ms. Dial, while showing little concern for her daughter or other students — that she took the girl out of the school in late January.

Ms. Miranda said that while Ms. Dial had apologized to her, the teacher had never apologized to her daughter. She said that a public relations specialist for Success drafted an email for her, asking The Times not to publish the video, and that at a meeting Ms. Moskowitz held at the school on Jan. 20, Ms. Moskowitz asked the parents to support Ms. Dial and to defend the school to the paper. Ms. Miranda said that when she stood up, identified herself and objected that Ms. Moskowitz was asking parents to support the teacher without even showing them the video, Ms. Moskowitz cut her off.

“She’s like, ‘You had enough to say, you had enough to say,’ and she tried to talk over me,” Ms. Miranda said. “So I just really got frustrated, and I just walked out, and the parents that were concerned followed me, and the parents who were against me and for the teacher” stayed in the auditorium.

Ms. Miranda took her daughter home that morning and did not bring her back to the school. The next week, after confirming that there was a seat in the regular public school where her younger son is in prekindergarten, she withdrew her daughter and placed her in that school.

"back to the issues"

Tennessee Leads the Way

Senator Lemar Alexander's revision of  NCLB known as  ESSA: education::


 a)  magpie: Beethoven

b)  Velveeta: Camembert

c)  Republican debates: etiquette

d)  the  Barrett, .50 caliber rifle, the Tennessee official gun: sanity

AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File

  • Rounds from the Barrett .50 caliber rifle penetrate light armor, down helicopters, destroy commercial aircraft, and blast through rail cars.
  • Rounds from ESSA  destroy public education. 

Susan Ohanian

Friday, February 26, 2016

TNReady NOTReady, Again

From the Dickson Herald, via the Tennessean:

Dickson County Schools have delayed administering the paper version of the state’s new TN Ready standardized tests until March 7 after a delay in receiving the testing materials, the schools director said.
Schools Director Dr. Danny Weeks alerted parents to the issue in a SchoolReach phone message and he also discussed the matter with the county School Board on Thursday night.
Educators and parents had prepared for administering the paper tests on Monday. However, Weeks said the school system had not yet received confirmation the print testing materials had yet shipped Thursday.
The TN Ready tests were first delayed when the online exam version experienced a technology failure Feb. 8 – the first day that online testing platform was used.
About the paper testing materials, Weeks said “because shipping could take two or three days, the school system had no confidence that the test materials would arrive in time for (Monday) testing.”
“Additionally, tests must be unboxed, labeled, and organized once they arrive at schools,” he added. “Lacking any specific information regarding test delivery, school and district leaders decided to move back the testing window to March 7-11.”
Weeks went on to say that each change in date and testing method “further complicates the already difficult transition from traditional testing to TNReady tests.”
“With online testing, students expected to have a calculator built into the test program on the computer, so the school district made no investments in calculators and trained students to use technology-based tools,” Weeks said in a statement. “Now that the test has been moved to a paper version, Dickson County Schools has had to purchase $12,000 in new calculators to make sure that every student had the necessary tools to be successful.”
Weeks said that students with learning difficulties will not have “appropriate accommodations that would have been available had schools known about paper testing earlier in the year.”

More micromanagement than ever

Sent to The Hill, Feb. 26.

In " Lawmakers push officials on No Child Left Behind rewrite," Feb. 25) Congressman John Kline praises the new education law, saying that “If we learned anything throughout the process to replace No Child Left Behind, it’s that the American people are tired of Washington micromanaging their classrooms."
It looks like there will be more micromanagement than ever before. The new law, in sections 1201 and 1204, provides grants for the development of "innovative assessments" based on competency-based education.
Competency-based education (CBE) replaces regular instruction with online "modules" that students work through on their own. Students take tests in order to move to the next module. It is supported by the National Governor's Association, Pearson and now federal law without consulting educators and, admittedly, without a proper research base. 
It appears that the huge testing burden of the common core will be replaced with a perpetual cycle of working through packaged programs. It is possible that we will now have testing every day.

Stephen Krashen

original article: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/270795-lawmakers-push-officials-to-implement-education-reform-law

Computer coding fever in Florida

Sent to the Miami Herald, Feb 26.
Computer Coding Fever
Sen. Ring thinks that knowledge of computer coding is needed for "everything we are going to do." ("Florida Senate endorses making computer coding a foreign language," Feb. 24).
This is not true. What is needed is knowing how to use a computer. Very few professions require knowing how to program and design software.  Driving a car does not require a deep knowledge of auto mechanics. 
My daughter has pointed out to me that to learn how to use many programs, all you need is a good friend to show you how.

Stephen Krashen
original article: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article62291447.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

During Black History Month, Reconsider

A Twitter Call and Response

NY Public Library@nypl
Teachers and librarians, Michelle Obama has a message for you about @openebks, a free e-reader for children in need: http://on.nypl.org/1oH0g86 

Susan Ohanian@susanoha
@nypl @OpenEbks How nice children in poverty can read books on smart phones. 
Alternative: I just donated 100 new books to local Food Shelf

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Is there a shortage of STEM workers?

Sent to the New York Times
"A Rising Call to Promote STEM Education and Cut Liberal Arts Funding," (Feb. 21) repeats the claim that there is a "lack of skilled workers" in science and technology but does not mention the considerable amount of research concluding that this shortage does not exist.  In fact, several reports suggest that there is be a surplus.
In addition to published reports in scientific journals and books, articles describing this research have appeared regularly in the media. 
Readers may want to start with Michael Teitelbaum's thoroughly researched book,  Falling Behind? Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent, and Hal Salzman's journal paper, "What Shortages? The Real Evidence About the STEM Workforce," Issues in Science and Technology, volume 29(3), 2013. (http://issues.org/29-4/what-shortages-the-real-evidence-about-the-stem-workforce/)
Stephen Krashen

Original article: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/22/business/a-rising-call-to-promote-stem-education-and-cut-liberal-arts-funding.html?_r=0

Monday, February 22, 2016

In Education Policy, Language Abuse Begets Child Abuse


 by Susan Ohanian

I know better than to read wedding announcements in the New York Times but when an e-mail teaser identified the groom as  “a principal consultant to the education industry for Infinitive, a management consultancy specializing in digital marketing, ” I decided to take a look at what  these guys do.

At their website, I encountered language more curdled than month-old milk. Here’s a sample:

Get in the know and keep current with big-picture thinking and actionable insights.

And it gets worse.

                  Customer Intelligence. Activated

Today’s consumers expect businesses to engage with them seamlessly and personally, across an ever-evolving ecosystem of human and digital touch points. Companies seeking to improve their delivery of such omni-channel customer experiences must optimize the ways in which they manage and leverage first, second and third-party customer information. Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Customer Officers who master this domain make it possible to engage customers with tailored messages delivered in a timely fashion through the most relevant channels.

 Indeed: And here's how they activate intelligence.

  • ·         ever-evolving ecosystem of human and digital touch points
  • ·         omni-channel customer experiences
  • ·         optimize the ways
  • ·         manage and leverage information

Certainly, we wouldn't buy a used car from someone who talks this way, but collectively, more and more people in our profession seem willing to cede decision-making for what goes on in our classrooms to them. I think we must take back our language so that we can take back our classrooms.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Judge Refuses to Stop Unfair and Unreliable Value Added System

Not in the bolded section of this news story, the federal judge notes that the teachers have a strong case against the unreliable nature of the the Tennessee VAM system known as TVAAS.  He just refuses to do anything about it.
....TVAAS is a complex algorithm that aims to isolate the impact of individual teachers on their students’ learning, as measured by state tests. One of the nation’s first “value-added” formulas, it has inspired similar efforts in other states.

TVAAS scores have been calculated since the 1990s but started being used to help determine ratings, bonuses and tenure status only since 2011, when Tennessee overhauled its teacher evaluation law.

Under state law, TVAAS scores make up 35 percent of teachers’ ratings, with the rest based on in-person observations and “achievement measures,” which can include graduation rates, students’ AP or IB exam scores, or school-wide TVAAS scores.

The two teachers who filed the lawsuit, Lisa Trout and Mark Taylor, had strong ratings from classroom observations but TVAAS scores that were too low to make them eligible for bonuses from Knox County Schools. The district gives bonuses of up to $2,000 a year to teachers with strong ratings. Trout and Taylor charged that those scores should be discounted because only some of their students took the end-of-course exams used to generate the TVAAS scores.

Taylor’s rating was based on scores of just 22 of his 142 students, he said, rendering his TVAAS score meaningless.

Court documents reflect an exchange between William Sanders, the statistician who designed TVAAS, and Taylor’s parents, with whom he is acquainted.

Sanders was asked if a TVAAS score based on test scores of only a small fraction of a teacher’s students reflect a proper use of TVAAS. His answer: “For an overall evaluation of the effectiveness of the teacher to facilitate student academic progress, of course not.”

Mattice said in his ruling that he found the criticism compelling. But ultimately, the court ruled that Knox County had the right to hold back bonuses based on Taylor’s TVAAS. And he said the court did not have authority to tell the state legislature to come up with a different way to factor student learning into teachers’ ratings.

“It bears repeating that Plaintiffs’ concerns about the statistical imprecision of TVAAS are not unfounded,” the opinion reads. “However, this Court’s role is extremely limited. The judiciary is not empowered to second-guess the wisdom of the Tennessee legislature’s approach to solving the problems facing public education.”....

From Anti-Social Media to De-Personalized and Conformance Based Learning

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Political Pronouncement: Books for Kids

by Susan Ohanian

 Today I decided to make a political statement. I donated 100 NEW books to my town's Food Shelf.

This list is a combination of selections of middle-grade favorites compiled by my local children's bookstore and also some golden oldies for which I have fond kid connections. Kid stories travel with these books. I figure you can never go wrong with Junie B. Jones and Miss Nelson. And if you haven't read Owl in Love: Schoolgirl by day, owl by night, do it!

NOTE: None of these books appears in the Common Core retinue of sacred writings, but I'd testify that any one of them could help a child become college and career ready.

"New" is a critical element here. It does not refer to the date of publication but to the fact that these books are sparkling and shiny. Untrodden.  I set off on this effort when I heard that the Food Shelf does have a few volumes--tattered and torn. Leftovers.  I figure that making sure every local child has at least a handful of new books  is the best contribution I can make to the well-being of our country

Think about it: How many times have you heard "the needs of children" mentioned in the very noisy political campaign? I say "children's needs" start right here.

Right now.
  • War of the Werelords
  • The Wolf Princess
  • Phantom Tollbooth
  • How to Catch a Bogle
  • Beyonders 01: World Without Heroes
  • Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
  • UFiles #1: World without Heroes
  • Lionboy3: The Truth
  • Clementine01
  • The Bad Beginning: Or, Orphans!
  • Where I Belong
  • Shug
  • Giver 1
  • Long Road to Freedom
  • Madman of Piney Woods
  • Secondhand Magic
  • Star Rise
  • Lemonade War 01
  • Flat Stanley's Worldwide Adventures: Great Egyptian Grave Robbery
  • A Hippopotamus Ate the Teacher
  • Encyclopedia Brown Carries On
  • Amber Brown Is Not a Crayon
  • Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse
  • Wayside School: Sideways Stories
  • The Magic Finger
  • Koya Delaney and the Good Girl Blues
  • Punished!
  • 10 Turkeys in the Road
  • Mrs. Lane is a Pain
  • The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids: Skeletons Don't Play Tubas
  • Underpants for Ants
  • The Family Under the Bridge
  • Stone Fox (3 copies)
  • Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus
  • Miss Nelson Has a Field Day
  • Horrible Harry Goes to Sea
  • National Geographic Readers: Trucks!
  • Black Lagoon Adventures: Back-to-School Fright from the Black Lagoon
  •  Mrs. McNosh and the Great Big Squash
  •  Hatchet: Brian's Winter
  •  Silly Street: Selected Poems
  •  Radio Fifth Grade
  •  Cam Jansen Mysteries: The Scary Snake Myster7
  • Now Everybody Really Hate Me
  • The Truth About Cats
  • Wanted: Perfect Parents
  • Tarzan
  • Tarzan: Always in My Heart
  •  CrookJaw
  • Joe on Sunday
  • Mudigush
  • What If. . . .
  • Oh say can you Say?
  • Invitation
  • Chicken
  • Busy Buzzing Bumblebees
  • Night/Knight
  • On Grandpa's Farm
  • Twice Upon a Time: Rapunzel: The One with All the Hair
  • Fat Fanny, Beanpole Bertha, and the Boys
  • A Big Fish Story
  • The Clothes Horse and other stories
  • Belli's Deli 
  • Aesop's Fables
  • Cat Up a Tree
  • Ellsworth's Extraordinary Electric Ears and Other Amazing Alphabet Anecdotes
  • Frog in a Bog
  • Up in the Mountains and other poems of long ago
  • The Rainbow Hand
  • Hello Mr. Chips! computer Jokes and Riddles
  • The Good Little Girl
  • The Voyage of Odysseus 
  • Aesop's Fables
  • Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth Century Art
  • Pinocchio
  • Words with Wings:a Treasury of African-American Poetry and Art
  • Ride a Purple Pelican
  • A Chair for My Mother
  • Monday's Troll
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay: Poetry for young people
  • A Thousand Cousins
  • Something on my Mind
  • Chickens! Chickens! 
  • Tales of Tails
  • Peacock and Other Poems
  • Someone could win a polar bear
  • The Something
  • Daddy-Long-Legs
  • Noah's Ark
  • Bad Kitty
  • Red Dog Blue Fly: Football Poems
  • Owl in Love: Schoolgirl by day, owl by night
  • Are all the giants dead?
  • Library Lion
  • Baby See, Baby Do!
  • Fly with the Birds
  • I Spy on the Farm
  • What Will You Wear, Claude