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

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Details of Allegations Against KIPP's Mike Feinberg

Do you remember Christine Blasey Ford's emotional and riveting testimony related to her decades-old sexual assault at the hands of Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, when he was a drunk, horny punk who enjoyed terrorizing and humiliating females? If you do, you're likely to remember, too, that institutional sexism functioned as it always has: it maligned the female victim of abuse so that the male perpetrator would never be held accountable for his criminal violence and cruelty.

You may remember, too, that Blasey Ford is a highly-regarded white middle class professional, whose testimony lacked only vital criterion required to establish its veracity: maleness.

Now picture what it must be like for a working class non-white female to go up against a privileged middle class male hero of the white male establishment, this time in a Southern state where discrimination and racism are even more systemic than in Washington, DC. 

This is what happened in April when a former KIPP student and her mother testified before two administrative law judges in Texas about a sexual assault that occurred twenty years ago when she was an 11-year old Mexican-American girl at Mike Feinberg's Houston KIPP middle school.

And even though Wilmer-Hale, the prestigious DC law firm hired by KIPP in 2017 to investigate the allegations, "found the alleged victim to be credible," the Texas judges have now concluded that they will recommend to the Texas Education Agency that the victim failed to "meet its burden to prove any such allegations," and that Feinberg, then, should retain his teaching license.

Here is the summary of the main allegation against Feinberg, who was defended during the hearing by some of the best defense attorneys money can buy.
As the factual bases for the present disciplinary action, Staff has accused Respondent of sexually abusing Student 1 during two incidents that would have occurred during the spring of 1999. At that time, Student 1 was completing the second of two years that she spent in KIPP Academy’s fifth grade while Respondent was serving as the school’s principal and as a teacher. In the first incident, according to Staff’s pleadings, Respondent “took [Student 1] into his officeat the school, ostensibly to conduct a “yearly check-up,” and then proceeded to reach under her shirt and run his fingers between her breasts and also along her back. The second incident allegedly occurred “[a] week or two later,” when Respondent “took [Student 1] back to his office,” this time under the pretense that he had “lost the file” from the earlier “check-up” and “would have to redo the exam.” Then, according to Staff, “Respondent asked [Student 1] to remove her clothing from the waist down,” “had [Student 1] sit on the desk and spread her legs,” then “approache[d] her with a Q-tip and inserted it into [her] vagina for a few seconds.”
The Texas judges did not hear the two charges against Feinberg's for sexual harassment against KIPP employees, and they did not hear allegations that Feinberg used KIPP computers to access porn.

It is be up to the State Board of Educator Certification to make the final call on whether or not Feinberg will keep his provisional middle school teaching license that he qualified for during his two year stint as a TFA recruit in the early 1990s.

Feinberg's lawsuit against KIPP, Inc. for defamation was dismissed earlier this year.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Wishing Away Goliath, Part 4

by Jim Horn
Parts 1-3 here, here, and here.

Before I get into Diane Ravitch's role in the suppression of the Sandia Report (promised at the end of Part 3) and her subsequent silence on the issue, I need to offer some more context for my critique of Ravitch policies.  Over the years, Diane has recruited a number of eunuchs to serve as the royal protectors of her Court, so that each time a critic of her policies emerges, he or she is set upon with lambasting and accusations of ideological purity, animus toward the Queen, and aiding and abetting the enemy.  Today is no different.

Diane Ravitch's new book, “Slaying Goliath. . .,” follows on two previous books written since the lucrative reformer conversion experience in 2007, when it finally became clear to Diane that her think tank cronies had no interest in disarming the public school time bombs ticking inside No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  Even though Diane had known at the creation of NCLB in 2001 that tens of thousands of schools and millions of children and teachers would be labeled failures because of an inability to meet NCLB's impossible proficiency targets, she waited until NCLB had become a highly unpopular toxic mess to make her move.  In fact, Diane's conversion was not much of a stretch from where she had always been. Let me offer a little bit of history.

With the Supreme Court appointment of Bush II as President in 2000, Tea Party conservatism was ascendant in the Republican Party.  As has been the history of Democrats since Jimmy Carter, the DNC, having already swapped principle for opportunism under Bill Clinton, rushed further right to claim the territory once occupied by Republican moderates.  Simply by standing still, then, Diane found herself aligned with the neoliberal Third Way Democrats, not because of any change on her part, but because the DNC’s rush rightward to fill the void left by Right flight moved backwards to where Republican moderates like Diane had always been.

With the DNC's rightward march, AFT and NEA, then, became the conduits for Clintonian education priorities such as charter schools, national standards (Common Core), testing accountability, performance pay for teachers, alternative teacher certification, computer technology, edu-preneurial privatizing of school services, and Business Roundtable policy priorities. 

By the time Ravitch was ready to ditch NCLB in 2007, the only K-12 education issue of substance separating Republicans and Democrats was school vouchers, which she quickly jettisoned as if she had never supported them.  Following her conversion, Diane became, and remains to this day, the chief apologist for awful policy positions by both AFT and NEA.

Her conversion, in short, was more transaction than transformation, with less pain and much more gain.  Even so, the fact that someone of Ravitch's status would publicly denounce NCLB and its poisonous outcomes as she did in 2007-08 made her an overnight hero to educators and policy progressives uninterested in her other policy positions. 

Since 2007, Diane's positions on Common Core, charter schools, performance pay and other corporate reforms have been all over the board, as she has simultaneously presented herself as a freedom fighter against CorpEd, while at the same time leading the propaganda effort to deflect and neutralize criticism of AFT-NEA's corporate collaboration with the DNC's Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), Stand for Children (SFC), and Save Our Schools (SOS).  

Ten year ago, AFT-NEA's embrace of value-added testing, Common Core, test-based teacher evaluation, charter schools, TFA, teacher performance pay, and big data fit pretty tightly with Diane’s policy preferences at the time she announced her opposition to NCLB.  In order to stay relevant to the real resistance to Corporate Education during the last ten years, Diane's NPE and AFT/NEA have been forced to shift away from or at least disguise some of their more odious alignments with the DNC's corporate education political hothouse, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

This has come as a result of the effective resistance work of teachers, parents, and students demanding change and making it happen.  For instance, the uncompromising dedication and fearless leadership of Long Island Opt Out and United Opt Out constrasted sharply with the tepid and ineffective gradualism of  AFT, NEA, and their new ally, Diane Ravitch.  Teacher and parent resistance to the Common Core, for instance, led corporate union leaders to muffle their earlier enthusiasm, and Diane went so far as to publish a revised edition of The Death and Life . . . primarily to walk back her previous support for the Common Core.

Over the past 15 years, a handful of critics have supported teachers' skepticism to CorpEd reforms by repeatedly ridiculing and exposing Diane's and corporate union leaders' acquiescence to performance pay, VAM, teacher evaluation based on value-added test scores, high-stakes testing, ESSA, and charter schools.   And one by one, their support for these corporate reform priorities have fallen by the way, moved underground, or have been shrouded in position statements that require careful explication to figure out what they mean.  NPE's position on charter schools is a prime example of a policy statement that appears on the surface to oppose charter schools when, in fact, it supports the continuation of racist charter schools, while blowing smoke about some amorphous and fantastic eventual absorption of charters by public education.

Within the small world of corporate education critics, Diane Ravitch has achieved a sort of demigod status.  She has many defenders, as I have discovered during the past decade of analyzing and critiquing her Janus-faced policy schizophrenia

By generously offering recognition and attention to her followers who desperately seek it and by marginalizing critics with ridiculous claims of personal persecution, she has inspired a hive of vigilant rhetorical activists, where loyalty is demanded and rewarded, criticism is vanquished, and the protection of the queen is paramount.  This political devise is on full display in Slaying Goliath, as Diane offers a catalog of attaboys to every activist who has carried her water without criticism or complaint.

I am not one of those.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Wishing Away Goliath, Part 3

Jim Horn
Last updated May 17, 2020

Parts 1 and 2 here and here.

In Part 3, I probe Diane Ravitch's continuing neglect of the historical origins of NCLB, which was signed into law in 2002.  I also provide examples of her persistent soft-pedaling of the roles played by conservative think tank dwellers and education industry consultants with whom Ravitch worked during thirty years as a Republican education policy insider joined, as she was, in an aggressive, well-funded effort to sabotage public education in the United States.

Based on Diane's account from 2010, her support for No Child Left Behind "remained strong" until she attended an AEI conference on November 20, 2006, which Checker Finn and Rick Hess had put together to examine "whether the major remedies prescribed by NCLB — especially choice and after-school tutoring — were effective."

According to Diane, it was only when she left that meeting in 2006 that she had the dawning realization "that the sanctions embedded in NCLB were, in fact, not only ineffective but certain to contribute to the privatization of large chunks of public education."

She follows that recounted flash of insight with this: "I wonder whether the members of Congress intended this outcome. I doubt that they did."

Well, yes, many did intend that outcome, Diane, as has been documented in several books, numerous magazine articles, and ample policy analyses.  Congress did know about the NCLB's intended privatization, and to assure that outcome, a majority of legislators 1) approved the requirement that 100 percent of school children would be "proficient" in reading and math by 2014, and 2) included charter school conversion as a central remedy for failing schools.

As George W. Bush's Assistant Secretary of Education, Professor Susan Neuman, told Time Magazine in 2008, NCLB was a "Trojan Horse for the choice agenda — a way to expose the failure of public education and 'blow it up a bit'."

During the months leading up to NCLB passage, a number of hair-on-fire warnings were issued.  Did education policy maven, Diane Ravitch, miss the Staiger and Kane op-ed in the New York Times in the late summer of 2001 prior to Congressional passage of NCLB?  Doubtful, since Diane edited a volume in 2002, which included this piece that echoed the 2001 op-ed:
Thomas J. Kane and Douglas O Staiger, "Volatility in School Test Scores: Implications for Test-Based Accountability Systems."  In Diane Ravitch (Ed.), Brookings Papers on Education 2002.  Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2002.
Two clips from that Kane and Staiger NYTimes op-ed:
The central flaw is that both versions of this bill place far too much emphasis on year-to-year changes in test scores. Under either, every school in America would have to generate an increase in test scores each and every year or face penalties like having to allow its students to transfer to another public school, being converted into a charter school or being taken over by a private contractor.

Both bills would be particularly harsh on racially diverse schools. Each school would be expected to achieve not only an increase in test scores for the school as a whole, but increases for each and every racial or ethnic group as well. Because each group's scores fluctuate depending upon the particular students being tested each year, it is rare to see every group's performance moving upward in the same year. Black and Latino students are more likely than white students to be enrolled in highly diverse schools, so their schools would be more likely than others to be arbitrarily disrupted by a poorly designed formula.
As we noted not so many years back, academics weren't the only people worried about what was about to unfold in 2001:
As White House staff, congressional aides, and a small contingent of think tank insiders huddled in Washington during the summer of 2001 to compile the final version of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA), state policymakers worried about new accountability demands that the legislation was to include.  In July, Missouri’s assistant commissioner of education, Stephen Barr, had described the 12-year window for achieving 100 percent student proficiency in reading and math as “an impossible dream,” and in the same article from The New York Times, Pennsylvania’s secretary of education, Charles Zogby said, “It’s unrealistic to think that in some places where 90 percent of the children are below basic that we’re going to turn this around in 10 years. And then everybody is going to throw up their hands and say none of this is possible” (para 29).
Elizabeth Debray's (2006) excellent ed policy history notes that two months earlier in April 2001, Dr. Joseph Johnson, who served as compensatory education director for the Bush Administration,
. . .  told the National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators in April 2001: "People are looking at the data and saying, 'This is going to be catastrophic because there are going to be so many low-performing schools and this isn't going to work'." Though Johnson himself urged a more positive response, by June he had submitted his resignation.
Even with an abundance of proof to the contrary, all of Ravitch's three books written since 2010 have essentially recycled the same gloss on No Child Left Behind, which repeatedly depict NCLB advocates as innocently misguided, strategically shortsighted, and/or naively well-intentioned individuals. 

In Slaying Goliath, which represents Diane's latest retelling of the story to save public schools from the onslaught of corporate education reform, she continues to proclaim a weird kind of erroneous innocence for those front-line ideologues in the No Child Left Behind school privatization scheme.  In an unfortunate example of self-plagiarism in Slaying Goliath, Diane recycles a paragraph from a letter she wrote to Lamar Alexander, originally published at Huffington Post in 2015:
. . . . I remember a panel discussion in early 2002 at the Willard Hotel soon after NCLB was signed. You were on the panel. I was in the audience, and I stood up and asked you whether you truly believed that 100% of all children in grades 3-8 would be “proficient” by 2014. You answered, “No, Diane, but we think it is good to have goals.” Well, based on goals that you knew were out of reach, teachers and principals have been fired, and many schools — beloved in their communities — have been closed.
In the recycled version that ends up (without citation) in Slaying Goliath, Ravitch writes: 
At the time, I attended an event in Washington, D.C., at the Willard Hotel, sponsored by the conservative Hoover Institution, where my former boss in the George H. W. Bush administration, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, was on a panel discussing the new law.  I stood up in the audience and asked whether he truly expected that 'every student' would be proficient by 2014.  He responded, 'No, Diane, we don't expect that, but it's good to have goals.'  Little did he know that many school would be closed and many teachers and principals would be fired because they could not accomplish what was patently impossible (p. 20).
Little did he know?  Lamar Alexander has long served as providing the "velvet gloves" for handling bare-knuckled policies developed by the likes of Checker Finn, Bill Bennett, the Manhattan Institute, and the Bush family. (As Thomas Toch recounted in 1991, one of Alexander's aides once told a reporter, "Finn's ideas are a lot more palatable in Lamar's velvet gloves.")

There are a couple of things that are striking about Ravitch's recollection of the Willard Hotel incident from 2002. The first is Diane's acknowledgement that she knew in 2002 that NCLB was setting schools up for failure with impossible proficiency targets.  The second is that, even though Diane knew this in 2002, she continued to support NCLB until late 2006.  And third: Diane is on the record in her 2010 book as saying that she only figured out in 2006 that the sanctions written into NCLB would lead to "privatization of large chunks of public education." 

Is that clear?  I know--it makes my head hurt, too. 

What is clear, however, in the 10 years of publishing since the Ravitch conversion is Diane's repeated attempt to portray the crowd she once ran with as having failed in well-intentioned efforts to improve education. What she ignores are the facts that 1) corporate education reform has not failed, and 2) corporate education reformers' initiatives were never intended to improve public schools but, rather, to make them weaker and more susceptible to the disease of corporate parasitism.  Rather than having failed to achieve the good, corporate education has succeeded in achieving the bad.

By continuing to miss this crucial distinction, Diane persists in a charade that has the effect of protecting the purveyors of privatization and, thus, her own complicity in their evil schemes, both past and present.  And by whitewashing the past, Diane denies history its purgative power, thus assuring that her salvation remains as incomplete as her heavily-edited confessions. 

Meanwhile, Diane's readers are left with bad information and false hopes for illusory victories built upon erroneous impressions. 

In Part 4, I will examine the real story behind the suppression of the Sandia Report in 1991, which occurred when Diane was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education, Lamar "Velvet Gloves" Alexander.  Diane was at the original briefing when researchers at the Department of Energy shared their findings on the condition of American public schools, which ran contrary to the lies and distortions that Reagan/Bush insiders had manufactured to beat down public schools and open the door to school vouchers and other forms of privatization and monetization.  In Slaying Goliath, Diane finally comes as close as she ever has yet to acknowledging the lies and deceit for which she earned the designation as the conservative talk show host of the corporate education reformers.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Wishing Away Goliath, Part 2 w/updates

Jim Horn
Part 1 can be found here

Updated May 3, 2020

Just over ten years ago when Diane Ravitch signaled that she was about to leave the corporate ed reform ship and walk ashore as an apostle of the Resistance, I and many others were hoping to read The Death and Life of the Great American School System as a roadmap to the inner workings of the corrupt education reform establishment.  Finally, I thought, if the world was ever to know the full story of the seminal events that had misshaped, corrupted, and, otherwise, damaged public education over the three prior decades, an insider-backslider like Diane Ravitch might be the one who could spill the beans.  After all, as an historian, wouldn't she want to set the record straight as part of her redemption plan?

What was the inside scoop, for instance, on the manipulations of NAEP cut scores to make American students appear underprepared and their schools grossly negligent in preparing them?  Diane was on the scene when those cut scores were set in stone by Checker Finn, who served as President of NAEP's Governing Board in 1989:

In an article titled "A Test Everyone Will Fail," the late Gerald Bracey (2007/2011) wrote this about the manipulated NAEP cut scores and why nothing has ever been done since 1989 to make them realistic metrics of American student achievement:
. . . these numbers are useful as scare techniques and bludgeons. If you can batter people into believing that the schools are in awful shape, you can make them anxious about their future and you can control them. In the 1980s the schools-suck-bloc used such numbers to make us fearful that Japan, now emerging from a 15-year-long recession-stagnation was going to take away all of our markets; today India and China play the role of economic ogres.
Diane served on the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), from 1997 to 2004.  During her tenure, she did nothing to change the cut scores, which the National Academy of Science described in 1993 as "fundamentally flawed."  

In fact, at a Hoover Institution press briefing in 2001, Koret Task Force member, Diane Ravitch, bragged:
The National Assessment of Educational Progress has gotten, I think, much stronger. When Checker [Finn] was chairman of the NAGBE Board, the governing board, they created real standards so that now we are able to report periodically to the nation about where American kids are in terms of learning different important subject areas in their school studies.
And to this day, Diane has said nothing in any of her three books written since 2010 about this ongoing scandal. The same scandalously high proficiency levels remain scandalously high and "fundamentally flawed," and they are the same unreachable proficiency targets that "reformers" use to hammer schools whenever new NAEP results are published.

And so it quickly became clear even in my initial reading of The Death and Life . . . that Ravitch was much less interested in blowing the whistle than preaching a message of redemption to her former allies.  Rather than sharing the facts about the NAEP scandal or the two other prominent scandals that will be the focus of Parts 3 and 4, Diane has offered the education reform establishment homilies, tsk-tsks, and finger wagging. 

Meanwhile, the real history American education policy's greatest manipulations remains untold by someone with all the facts to tell it.  To this day, Diane regularly presents the education reform establishment as simply misguided and misinformed individuals and organizations with good intentions, rather than as an ideologically and cash-driven movement to monetize and privatize public institutions.  

Monday, April 20, 2020

As Data Becomes "New Oil," Your Mind is for Fracking

I urge you to read the results of Alison McDowell's latest investigations into the new Silicon Valley money fronts, as Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. angle to become the 21st Century equivalents of the early 20th Century oil barons.  As Alison points out, "[d]ata is the new oil and the electrical engineers and innovative financiers of Silicon Valley have teamed up to devise a plan to frack it from our minds and from our bodies while framing it as a social good."

Here's an example below of a patent request (click it to enlarge) that Microsoft filed this year.  I think it offers a pretty clear picture of efforts of a new capitalist model based not on "pay to play" but, rather, "get paid to play." Of course, the crypto-crumbs to be collected by human data-fuel sources will be insignificant in comparison to the real money saved by efficiency-seeking governments dependent upon Silicon Valley's social steering contractors. 

Certainly gives the term "social capital" a whole new meaning!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Wishing Away Goliath

Wishing Away Goliath
Jim Horn
Part 1

Diane Ravitch’s Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America's Public Schools is the latest of the Good Diane’s three books written since the Bad Diane departed the corporate education reform ship around 2009, just as it was running into stiff headwinds from a fierce storm front developing over No Child Left Behind, which at the time was devastating thousands of public schools and threatening tens of thousands of others. 

In this third installment of the Good Diane’s recurring mea culpa and political distancing exercise from the Bad Diane’s 30 years of service to the corporate education reform agenda, the Good Diane makes a consistently-shaky case for the imminent victory of the “Resistance” over the “Disruptors,” of good over evil, of educators over the edupreneurs, of the informed over the clueless, of Davids over Goliaths, and, most importantly, of Diane Ravitch over her own past.

The first book, The Death and Life of theGreat American School System, was the Good Diane's first attempt to undo with words what she had spent her adult life doing with policy implementation and carefully crafted “free market” propaganda aimed to increase testing accountability, merit pay, phonics, school vouchers, national standards/curriculum, and corporate steering of public education. 

She explains in The Death and Life . . . that the harmful effects of the policies she previously spent so much effort pushing became clearer to her only when she descended from her flyover view as a high-rolling policymaker and edu-elite, where she had used her positions of power “looking at schools and teachers and students from an altitude of 20,000 feet and seeing them as objects to be moved around by big ideas and great plans” (p. 10).

As the emerging Good Diane explained, sort of, in The Death and Life. . . , it was around 2008 when the Bad Diane began to notice a negative aspect to the privatization of the public schools, which she had actively supported since the Reagan Era.  Yet even as the Good Diane inside the Bad Diane grew more worried that her privatization agenda might finally be realized, she continued to cycle from one conservative think tank to another, discussing abstractions such as “choice,” “national standards,” and “accountability” with the likes of Paul Peterson,Terry Moe, and Checker Finn.

Finally, when it became clear that her think tank pals planned to do nothing to alter the original timing device on the bunker-busting bomb buried in No Child Left Behind, which, by 2008, had become a toxic mess that was increasingly unpopular, the Bad Diane began to flounder for real.  A political esthete with a preference for debate over bomb making, the Good Diane says that, by 2009, her “basic conservatism about values, traditions, communities, and institutions” finally forced her to see the light: 

It remains a little unclear as where those “values” had been stored during the Bad Diane’s 30-year membership in the Privatization and Testing Accountability Club. When I now read the excerpt just above from The Death and Life. . ., it seems as likely as it did 10 years ago when I first read it that the Bad Diane knew from the beginning that the NCLB bomb to blow up public schools was armed even in 2002, when the 100 percent proficiency timer started ticking. 

Was it her "basic conservatism" that led her finally to salvation, or was it a realization that she had become a callous careerist on the wrong side of history? We'll probably never know, even though Ravitch is still making the distinction between the Bad Diane of her past and the Good Diane of the present. Just last week, for instance, in an interview with Education Week, she said, “In the last 10 years, I’ve become an activist on behalf of public schools and the importance of public education in a democracy, and this is a big change in where I was before then.”  (By the way, the five minute clip of the interview is worth watching, as it fits the corporate union version of the "Resistance" comfortably within the Clintonian boundaries that Joe Biden's candidacy demands.)

What we do know is that every other insider knew that, from the get-go, NCLB was a device to blow up public schools. That's where Part 2 of this meditation will begin.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Some Notes on Commercial Language Teaching Progams

S Krashen. April 9, 2020

As noted in “Amid coronavirus, students flock to Kahoot! and Duolingo. Is it the end of language teachers?”  (USA Today, April 7) online language teaching companies are advertising their products aggressively these days. A look at the published research on the independent use of the most popular programs, however, shows mixed results. 

Rosetta Stone appears to be is about as effective as traditional language instruction, which is nothing to brag about. The results of the studies do not support Rosetta Stone’s advertised claim that it is “The fastest way to learn a language.”

About 80% of former Duolingo students said they were “satisfied” with the course, but only 66 out the 156 who started the program finished it and responded to the questionnaire. I calculated that it would take Duolingo students about 60 hours to achieve what regular college students do in one semester .(45 hours of classtime). 

Babbel did better. Based on the results of two months of Babbel study, researchers estimated. that Babbel users could accomplish about one semester’s progress in 21 hours of Babbel. Nearly all users said they liked Babbel.  

In all the studies I examined, conclusions are based on performance of the WebCAPE examination, and unfortunately we don’t know much about this test, other than that it is multiple-choice: As far as I could tell, sample questions are not available. 

Few other evaluations of commercial programs were available. 

Rockman, et. al. S. 2009. Rosetta Stone Evaluation Report. resources.rosettastone.com/.../Rockman-Evaluation-Report.pdf 
Vesselinov, R. and Grego, J. 2012. Duolingo effectiveness study. Final Report. static.duolingo.com/s3/DuolingoReport_Final.pdf 
Vesselinov, R. and Grego, J. 2016. The Babbel efficacy study. https://press.babbel.com/en/releases/downloads/Babbel-Efficacy-Study.pdf
Vesselinov, R., 2008, Measuring the Effectiveness of Rosetta Stone. http://resources.rosettastone.com/CDN/us/pdfs/Measuring_the_Effectiveness_RS-5.pdf.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Please consider reading, signing, and sharing SaveIDEA.org today!

Betsy DeVos is trying to use the current crises to impose IDEA waivers, robbing students with disabilities of their right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Students with disabilities, their families, educators, special education (SPED) advocates, and SPED organizations are encouraged to read and sign.

The organizers are also looking for testimonials and anecdotes from parents.

Please consider reading, signing, and sharing SaveIDEA.org today

Also featured here: Save IDEA! Sign This Petition to Betsy DeVos!

John Prine - Angel From Montgomery (with lyrics) - HD

Monday, April 06, 2020

Mike Petrilli: Fail All the Poor Kids and Pass the Affluent

The headline writers at WaPo couldn't quite bring themselves to put in bold print what Mike Petrilli is advocating in today's opinion piece.  

Their headline leads the reader to believe that Dr. Mike is talking about everyone returning to the same grade in the Fall:

Schools should consider keeping kids in the same grade this fall

But only some kids:

Perhaps middle and high school students can overcome these challenges, given their ability to work and read independently. But most low-income, low-performing elementary students will struggle mightily, almost surely falling even further behind [link is to Kevin Huffman's op-ed that I blogged on March 29: http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2020/03/mutual-parasitism-coronavirus-and.html]. Thousands of Title I schools nationwide, serving upward of 10 million students, are full of kids fitting this description.
The routines, indeed.  After 6 months away from No Excuses corporate charter schools and the urban public schools that emulate them, the children of the poor will require new rounds of social, emotional, and mental booster shots to further strengthen their immunity against any autonomous thought and action that they might have encountered while away from chain gang schooling. 

According to the Petrilli plan for next Fall, children who are held back in their current grade levels in the Fall should then be administered a standardized test to determine their levels of deficiency.  Those who should have been passed to begin with will then move ahead. (Never mind the logistical nightmares of re-leveling classes after school begins).

And, of course, Dr. Mike has a prescription for instruction in these failed groups next Fall: more homogeneous grouping, more tutoring, and more "personalized" screen time (just in case another pandemic hits, even though these same children won't have any more internet access then than they have now).
The next step would be for teachers to develop plans for each pupil to make progress, aimed at getting them to grade level by June. The plans should involve as much small-group instruction as possible, with kids clustered according to their current reading or math levels, plus some online learning opportunities in case schools are closed again. Those who are furthest behind could get regular one-on-one tutoring from specialists.
If Dr. Mike's pedagogical solution sounds remarkably similar to the corporate welfare charter school planning book, you would be right.  And even though failure-for-the-poor plan sounds and looks and smells like repeating the same grade, which research shows is counter-productive, Dr. Mike says we should not think of it that way: "This would be different from just 'repeating the grade,' which, research shows, rarely helps students catch up."

Petrilli ends his op-ed by reminding us that we could have avoided all this confusion if schools had already adopted the latest public education demolition plan, "personalized learning:"
It would have been far better if U.S. schools had embraced “personalized learning” long before the crisis hit — whereby kids move at their own pace, rather than in lockstep with their peers.
But, but, what would happen to homogeneous grouping!?


Saturday, April 04, 2020

Self-Selected Fiction: The Path to Academic Success?

Self-Selected Fiction: The Path to Academic Success?
Stephen Krashen
CATESOL Newsletter, in press

The Common Core emphasized nonfiction and the use of “informational” texts in order to prepare students for academics. But there is exciting news: there is evidence showing fiction might do a better job. And the best kind of fiction may be the fiction students select themselves, not “assigned reading.”

All this comes from recent research. 


Studies done with speakers of English as a first language not only show that reading fiction a better predictor of vocabulary size among adults than nonfiction (Sullivan and Brown, 2014. Centre for Longitudinal Studies, University of London), but also that the vocabulary used in fiction is what young readers need for academic success: 
*  McQuillan (Reading Matrix, 2019) examined the vocabulary used in 22 novels written for young people (e.g. Nancy Drew, Twilight) and reported that the texts included 85% of the words on academic vocabulary word lists, and many appeared frequently enough to make acquisition of these words likely: 44% appeared 12 times or more.  
* Rolls and Rogers (English for Specific Purposes, 2017) found that if a person read one million words of science-fiction (about a year’s worth of pleasure reading), the reader would encounter nearly all of the 318 science words that appear on a list of words that appear in different areas of science, with nearly half (445) appearing ten or more times.
* Green (Lingua, in press) examined over 5000 contemporary novels, and concluded that they contained more than 90% of the academic vocabulary in students’ high school textbooks in a variety of subjects.

Self-selection helps makes sure the reading is interesting; In Lee (RELC Journal, 2007), university level Taiwanese students of English as a foreign language who did self-selected reading made superior gains in general vocabulary compared to comparisons who did assigned reading, and gains for “academic” words were not significantly different, confirming that self-selection is helpful for academic language development. The books read by both groups were largely fiction. 


Fiction is not only a good source of academic vocabulary, it is also an important source of academic knowledge. Studies (e. g. Stanovich and Cunningham, Cognition, 1992) show that those who read more know more about history, literature and science. 
Among adults who are regular readers, a large percentage of what they read is fiction; about half of what women read and about one-third of what men read (National Endowment of the Arts, 2015; p. 86) is fiction.

Does fiction do a better job teaching content than study? Maybe. Filback and Krashen (Knowledge Quest, 2002) found that frequency of voluntary reading of the bible was more closely related to biblical knowledge than years of formal “bible study.”

It may be the case that we can best prepare our ESL students for academic success not with painful drills and exercises and demanding (and sometimes boring) informational texts but by providing them with easy access to reading material that they find extremely interesting. 
It may be the case that path of pleasure is more effective than the path of pain.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Mutual Parasitism: Coronavirus and Charter Virus

When Kevin Huffman left Tennessee after four years of running down the State's public schools the way his ex-wife, Michelle Rhee, did prior to being run out of Washington, DC, Tennessee's teachers and superintendents were overjoyed.  Under Huffman's toxic reign as Commissioner of Education,
[m]ore than 50 superintendents . . . publicly questioned his leadership, several teachers unions expressed "no confidence" . . .; and . . . a group of 15 Republicans . . . called for his resignation.
Many believed that Huffman's poisonous reputation among schoolmen and schoolwomen in Tennessee would guarantee him a leading role in the ongoing efforts by billionaires to monetize and privatize public education.  And sure enough, just like the vastly unpopular Chris Barbic, who mismanaged Tennessee's charter school hothouse, the Achievement School District, before he left under a cloud, Huffman landed a leading role as Partner with City Fund.  

City Fund is generously supported by the same group of oligarchic high rollers who have been working to destroy public schools for the past twenty years:
. . . the [Reed] Hastings Fund, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Dell Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were funding the effort. The Walton Family Foundation and the Ballmer Group are also funders . . .
No doubt Huffman is now hoping for a big shipment of federal coronavirus relief dollars to his portfolio of corporate charter schools.  He hints as much in a recent Washington Post op-ed, where he touts Achievement First charter resources as a partial solution to state takeover of Providence, RI schools, just as he celebrates the good work by the Chiefs for Change, who are offering advice to school districts on how to "collaborate" with charter schools during the crisis. Um.

But the real focus of Huffman's op-ed is to remind readers that homeschooling or virtual schooling are dangerously deficient and could do lasting damage.  Underneath this veneer of concern for children is the real fear of damage to the real estate empires and corporate welfare agencies that charter schools represent and enable. 

In fact, Huffman has some advice for what Congress should do in the next round of relief legislation: 
For the next round of stimulus, appropriators could send significant funding to districts and schools with the most low-income students to make up lost instructional time. 
You know, those communities where City Fund is most intent to spread the charter virus, where resistance is minimal and the opportunity is maximal for running roughshod over parents, children, and teachers.