More than 50% of the junior class at Palo Alto High School did not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment. It is hard to know whether the high test refusal at Palo Alto High School was a genuine opt out or just smart kids who knew that the Smarter Balanced Assessment didn’t count for anything. California has a law permitting students to opt out of testing if their parent signs a simple form.

Officials at the school said that next year they hoped everyone would take the test because it will affect the school’s state rating.

Nicholas Kristof seems to have a very big hatred for American public education. Did he go to public schools? Did he have horrible teachers? What does he have against this democratic institution that is part of the fabric of every community in the nation?

 

The Daily Howler, which catches journalistic fraud, lambastes Kristof for cherry-picking statistics to make American students look stupid.

 

In his latest screed against our schools and teachers, Kristof offers an example of a question on TIMSS where American students got a low score. There were 88 sample questions. Kristof picked the question where American students did the worst.

 

In a remarkably deceptive way, Kristof cherry-picked through that long list of questions. The question about the three consecutive numbers is, quite literally, the question on which American kids did least well out of all 88 as compared to the rest of the world.

 

Let’s make sure you understand that! Quite deliberately, Kristof chose the least representative example out of 88 possible items.

 

He led his column with that unrepresentative example. He then pretended it shows that stupid-ass Johnny “can’t count.”

 

Assuming the TIMSS data are accurate, why did American kids perform so poorly on that one question? We have no idea. We also can’t explain why American kids outscored every nation, including Singapore, on the question called “Median number of staff members.” But, by God, they did!

 

In fact, they outperformed all nations, including Singapore, by a wide margin on that one question. An equally dishonest person could cherry-pick that one example to advance the false impression that U.S. eighth-graders lead the world in math…..

 

Please. On the test to which Kristof referred, American kids basically matched their counterparts in Finland. They outscored glorious Sweden by 25 points, with its average score of 484.

 

Germany didn’t take part on the eighth grade level in 2011. It did participate at the fourth grade level, where its kids were outscored by kids from the U.S.

 

(Other scores in Grade 8 math: Great Britain 507, Australia 505, Italy 498, Norway 475.)

 

“We know Johnny can’t read; it appears that Johnny is even worse at counting!” It’s hard to imagine why someone like Kristof would want to write such a thing. But such deceptions are completely routine within our upper-end press corps. This has been the reliable norm for a very long time.

 

We know of no topic on which Americans are so persistently disinformed by American pseudo-journalists. Yesterday, Kristof took the dissembling and the deception to a remarkable low.

 

Kristof seems to get stranger by the month. As Shakespeare thoughtfully asked, “On what meat doth this our Times pseudo-journalist feed?”

 

Just for the record: The other examples Kristof presents are also cherry-picked. He had to sift through 88 examples to mislead his readers so.

 

Why in the world would a life-form like Kristof deceive his readers this way? Beyond that, what makes him so eager to denigrate American kids?

 

 

PS: Thanks to reader Chiara for bringing this post to my attention in the comments.

 

There will be a very important meeting tonight in Pittsburgh to learn about the crucial school board meeting.

Be there if you care about public education!

“School Board Town Hall Forum

“You believe in good school boards, right? You’re voting in the primary on May 19th, right? With 4 of 9 school board seats on the ballot, Pittsburgh voters will be electing several new faces – and the new board of directors will be making some pretty big decisions. They will choose the next Superintendent. They will approve budgets and potentially make decisions about school closures and new charter school applications. They will set policies that impact school climate, learning conditions, student discipline, restorative justice practices, and high-stakes-testing, among many other things.

“So it matters who you elect to the school board! Please come to the Town Hall Forum tomorrow to meet the candidates and ask them your questions. Wednesday, April 29th from 5:30 – 7:30 pm at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’s Hicks Memorial Chapel (616 N Highland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206). Kevin Gavin from 90.5 FM (WESA) will be our moderator. There’s free parking, refreshments, and childcare is available if you RSVP to gpspittsburgh412@gmail.com. What more could you ask for?

“This is civic engagement 101. Please be there and be a part the decisions that will shape the future of our public schools for years to come.”

Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit chain of colleges that has been under federal investigation, closed its doors and apparently is out of business. This is a shame for the 16,000 mostly low-income students who were lured to enroll and promised a good job. But it is good news to see a predatory venture go under.

These must be the remnants of the Corinthian chain, because last December, the U.S. Department of Education allowed the corporation to sell most of their campuses to a debt collection agency with no experience running colleges.

Congress and the U.S. Department of Education should have cracked down on these institutions long ago, but they hire the best lobbyists in town, from both parties and continue to offer a cheap version of “education” that makes money for them and rips off students. When Senator Tom Harkin was in charge of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, he tore into the for-profits, but to no avail.

They make so much money in their business, that they can afford to hire the lobbyists who protect them but not their students.

This is what the New York Times wrote about the industry’s ability to dodge regulatory controls:

The story of how the for-profit colleges survived the threat of a major federal crackdown offers a case study in Washington power brokering. Rattled by the administration’s tough talk, the colleges spent more than $16 million on an all-star list of prominent figures, particularly Democrats with close ties to the White House, to plot strategy, mend their battered image and plead their case.

Anita Dunn, a close friend of President Obama and his former White House communications director, worked with Kaplan University, one of the embattled school networks. Jamie Rubin, a major fund-raising bundler for the president’s re-election campaign, met with administration officials about ATI, a college network based in Dallas, in which Mr. Rubin’s private-equity firm has a stake.

A who’s who of Democratic lobbyists — including Richard A. Gephardt, the former House majority leader; John Breaux, the former Louisiana senator; and Tony Podesta, whose brother, John, ran Mr. Obama’s transition team — were hired to buttonhole officials.

And politically well-connected investors, including Donald E. Graham, chief executive of the Washington Post Company, which owns Kaplan, and John Sperling, founder of the University of Phoenix and a longtime friend of the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, made impassioned appeals.

In all, industry advocates met more than two dozen times with White House and Education Department officials, including senior officials like Education Secretary Arne Duncan, records show, even as Mr. Obama has vowed to reduce the “outsize” influence of lobbyists and special interests in Washington.

As I wrote just a few weeks ago, “The burgeoning of the for-profit college industry has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, sent many thousands of students out into the world with shoddy educations, and made a few people very rich.” No one is doing the perp walk, unlike the Atlanta educators. When we will see these sleazy operators go to jail for theft of government money and theft of services to students who were cheated of an education?

The National Education Policy Center regularly reviews research findings, in effect, acting as an independent peer review board.

In this case, its reviewer challenges the latest CREDO report on urban charters:

Is It Time to Stop the CREDO-Worship?

New review explains CREDO charter school research flaws, raises concerns about misunderstandings of effect sizes

Contact:

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net

Andrew Maul, (805) 893-7770, amaul@education.ucsb.edu

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/mbse6m7

BOULDER, CO (April 27, 2015) — A recent report contends charter schools generally helped students increase reading and math scores and that urban charters had an even stronger positive effect. But a new review released today questions the strong reliance that has been placed on this and similar reports.

Andrew Maul reviewed Urban Charter School Study Report on 41 Regions 2015 for the Think Twice think tank review project. The review is published by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Maul, an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California-Santa Barbara, focuses his research on measurement theory, validity, and research design.

Urban Charter School Study Report on 41 Regions 2015 was produced and published by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. It is a follow-up report to CREDO’s 2013 National Charter School Study.

The new report analyzes the differences in student performance at charter schools and traditional public schools in 41 urban areas in 22 states. Researchers sought to establish whether being in an urban charter school, as opposed to a non-urban one, had a different effect on reading and math scores, and if so, why. The report found a small positive effect of being in a charter school overall on both math and reading scores, and a slightly stronger effect in urban environments.

Maul’s review, however, explains “significant reasons to exercise caution.”

For its analysis, CREDO again used its own, unusual research technique that attempts to simulate a controlled experiment: constructing “virtual twins” for each charter student. The “twins” were derived by averaging the performance of up to seven other students, chosen to match the charter students by demographics, poverty and special education status, grade level, and a prior year’s standardized test score.

Maul points out that the technique isn’t adequately documented. He adds: “It remains unclear and puzzling why the researchers use this approach rather than the more accepted approach of propensity score matching.” The CREDO technique, he warns, might not adequately control for differences between families who select a charter school and those who do not.

CREDO also fails to justify choices such as the estimation of growth and the use of “days of learning” as a metric.

But regardless of concerns over methodology, Maul points out, “the actual effect sizes reported are very small, explaining well under a tenth of one percent of the variance in test scores.” The effect size reported, for example, may simply reflect the researchers’ exclusion of some lower-scoring students from their analysis.

“To call such an effect ‘substantial’ strains credulity,” Maul concludes. Overall, the report fails to provide compelling evidence that charter schools are more effective than traditional public schools, whether or not they are located in urban districts.

Find Andrew Maul’s review
on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
thinktank/review-urban-
charter-school

Find CREDO’s Urban Charter School Study Report on 41 Regions 2015 on the web at:
http://urbancharters.
stanford.edu/index.php

The Think Twice think tank
review project (http://thinktankreview.org)
of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. The Think Twice think tank review project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.

For more information on the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.

This review is also found on the GLC website at http://www.greatlakes
center.org/.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Its mission is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. For more information about the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.

Our mailing address is:
National Education Policy Center
School of Education, 249 UCB
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0249

For all other communication with NEPC, write to nepc@colorado.edu.

National Education Policy Center · School of Education, 249 UCB · University of Colorado · Boulder, CO 80309-0249 · USA

Peter Greene read Marc Tucker’s critique of America’s academic standards and found some things to like, others to sharply disagree with.

Tucker’s essay is titled “Why American Education Standards Collapsed.” He speculates that standards have fallen over the past 40-45 years. Greene reviews Tucker’s economic analysis of the same period, with economic pressure on the middle class and pressure to push everyone to go to college.

It is a good read, and I highly recommend it.

Greene concludes:

Tucker has some points. Accountability has pretty much been a disaster for everybody (except disaster profiteers), and the economic shift in our country has been very, very hard on many of our citizens, making it harder for our children to get the best advantages in life, including education.

And we could certainly use leaders who were better, particularly when we consider that much of disruption of the last forty-five years, from the industrial crash of the seventies to the economic disasters of the 2000s, has been human-created. Here’s the thing– I don’t think the leaders of the car and steel industries, nor the banksters of the Great Recession, would have avoided all that mess if they had had better SAT scores or a better GPA in college.

Tucker reminds me of a person who sits fearfully in his house, hears a gurgle from the kitchen sink drain, and worries that it means that a burglar is coming in the second floor window. Or a chicken who gets hit with an acorn and fears the sky is falling. It’s not that there aren’t real and serious issues, problems that need to be addressed. But he is seeing connections between these issues and other factors that have nothing to do with them. The danger with Tucker is that his core belief, stated through much of his work, is that we need to control everything so that we can make all come out as it should. Any time you find somebody who thinks that kind of control is a good thing and that he totally knows how to manage it, you have found somebody who is dangerous. When you find somebody who believes he can control the entire machine but doesn’t really know how the parts fit together, you have found somebody who could make a serious mess. I’m really glad that Marc Tucker is in the world, but I’m even more glad that he’s not in charge.

Last fall, two Tulsa teachers said they would not give standardized tests to their first-grade students. They said the test was developmentally inappropriate. They had a splash of national publicity and much sympathy from parents and outside observers. But their district superintendent was not at all pleased. Although he formed a task force to study the issue of testing in K-3, and the task force opposed it, their recommendation quietly died.

Now one of the teachers, Karen Hendren, has decided to teach in a school in Thailand for two years.

The other teacher, Nikki Jones, will soon learn whether she will be terminated for refusing to give the MAP test to her students. Wouldn’t it be great if all the parents of the children in her class opted out? What if there was no one to test? Nikki Jones deserves the support of the parents for protecting their children against this absurd, high-pressure regime of standardized testing. It’s just plain wrong.

Yesterday, Nikki Jones wrote about her ordeal:

Tomorrow is a big day in my public education career with Tulsa Public Schools. As most of you know, in October I made a decision to stop administering the MAP test to my students. A lot of uproar occurred. Most often, the question is “What kind of push-back did you receive?” I HATE answering that question! What I want to tell everyone is that I had a lot of support and was able to continue on my stance of not administering a test. Because, well, I did. I did have a lot of support from all over the nation. That wouldn’t be forthcoming though. That would be a minuscule part of the story. There is a big middle section. Everyone knows the beginning. But, tomorrow marks the end of the story. I have a choice. To die alone on the hill… or not.

Just a brief MAP Testing Explanation: MAP testing is a benchmark test. It is awful. The worst of all 13 options that meet RSA testing requirements. I am certain it is designed to set children up for failure. Certain. It is adaptive in nature and the target score is constantly moving. So, even if a child is at or above grade level in reading, there is a very high chance the child will still fail the test. Failing the test means remediation plans, money, services, and labels. We LOVE labeling children in this country. For some reason, we have the mentality that if we tell children they are stupid, oh, I’m sorry… “limited in knowledge” or “Unsatisfactory” they will then improve. This is research based. We also love utilizing research.

If we take a good look at MAP, we know that it is common core aligned. We have laws in this state HB3399 that speak to the specifics of utilizing common core testing for evaluation of teachers or students. How is this even legal?! Try to get anyone to answer that question! I dare you! I can’t even get a returned e-mail when I ask that question. (Walk away from the edge, Nikki…. walk away and stay on topic.)….

One of my most memorable moments was when a supporter/mentor of mine through the process said in all seriousness “Did you expect to draw this line and not get your ass kicked?” The answer is, no. No, I did not. I knew I would “lose”. I knew that the money and power in my district was greater than me. I knew at the end of the day that they would choose testing over children or good educators. I knew that a lot of the people who held the power to save me would cower. It’s simply the nature of the system. It’s not really all that personal. We are teaching/learning/testing in a system of fear. Everyone is scared! Everyone!

So, here I am… at the very end of the school year. If I do not give the test tomorrow, I will be fired. If not fired, I will be placed on a PDP. This PDP will be a result of a bad TLE score. Even though I have NEVER been docked on my teaching skills, they will fire me. The PDP will keep other principals in the district from hiring me. Nobody wants to take that on. It is a ton of paperwork and a large annoying workload.

What is so disheartening about the whole thing is the perspective of the district. It would be more beneficial for them to fire me than to listen to my concerns or work with me. They played a good game. They put up a big show for the media. They told everyone that we were putting together a testing task force. And, we did. Us teachers met together weekly and worked hard to research all the assessments going on in our district. We voted and put together a recommendation. That was in February. Even after multiple follow-up emails, we have never heard the results of those recommendations. Nothing has changed. Nothing was done. Just one more giant middle finger in the face of all those teachers that worked after contract hours to make the system better for children.

They do not care. That is the bottom line. I don’t know an adjective that properly describes this level of heartbreak I feel for our schools. They will openly, without care, choose to be in the business of eliminating good educators in order to get the testing data. Testing is the MOST important thing in public schools. I am living this reality. Your children are living this reality. Every other teacher in the district is living this reality.

So here I am… left to die alone on the hill, the testing martyr, or not. I am forced to choose between labeling children, causing children to pee their pants, throw their chairs, scratch their faces, and cry; or, I can not administer and be fired. Here I am. Left to die alone on the hill… or not.

Yesterday, demonstrations and violent protests erupted in Baltimore. A young black man, Freddie Gray, died while in police custody. The protests began after his funeral. Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., the Jaded Educator says: “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

She connects the hopelessness of the young people who are rioting to her own role as a teacher:

Point blank, we have not given these students anything of value. We have not given them a reason to think twice about throwing that rock and landing them in a heap of trouble. We have robbed them of what is within their rights which is an equal opportunity for education.

The question can be asked, are schools supposed to fix everything? Of course not. As an educators, we are already inundated with a myriad of responsibilities to attend to. However, we are the staple community institution, that possesses the power to make a life altering influence on our children.

I must say, I don’t blame my students for their often unruly behavior in the classroom. If you felt that your education was totally inaccessible to you, and didn’t incorporate aspects of your life, you would place little to no value in it. During my year long student teaching I, as well as a colleague of mine, wondered, “So we do all this work on the inside, but how does it translate on the outside of these four walls?” And what I am coming to terms with, is that, for the masses, it doesn’t. What long lasting impact will teaching my students how to multiply 2×2 digit numbers, if I am not able to supply them with life skills, and equip them with constructive strategies to manage their conflicts, and promote socially appropriate emotional responses, educate them using a curriculum that is most salient and relevant to them? What it seems we’ve been told is that it’s not important because its not on the test.

They have not failed, she says. We have.

Peter Goodman writes a savvy political blog in New York City called “Ed in the Apple.”

Happily, he attended the Network for Public Education annual conference in Chicago.

Like almost everyone else who was in Chicago, he loved the mingling of education activists from across the nation. 

He described the scene like this:

An invigorating and thoughtful weekend!

For me, meeting in-service and retired teachers, parents and activists from every nook and cranny across America makes me optimistic. From rural Tennessee, along the Mexico-Texas borders, across Florida, from Minneapolis, Michigan, to the urban centers, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, the amazing geographic diversity of public school activists. Special kudos to the parents, community activists, school board members and local legislators organizing around education issues and fighting the incredibly well-funded opponents of public education.

Too often we feel isolated; we fail to understand that we are an army spread across the nation.

Peter especially enjoyed Yong Zhao’s amazing and hilarious speech (which I will post soon), the dialogue between Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen, and my closing talk with Karen Lewis. In time, all of these will be posted here and online on the NPE website (some of the raw footage is there now).

Like me, Peter believes that we must build coalitions and alliances. We should never make the mistake of demanding 100% purity of our allies. Last year, at our first conference, I talked about the importance of a big tent. We in our Network have a positive agenda. We believe in improving public education so that it meets the needs of all children; we want a strong and rich curriculum in all schools; we want reduced class size; we want wraparound services; we want schools to be supported, not closed; we want equitable resources for all our schools, with additional resources for the children most in need; we want a strong teaching profession. I prefer to talk about what we are for, rather than be divided among ourselves. In unity, there is strength. United we stand, divided we fall.

As an added bonus, Peter adds to his post a link to songs of the Wobblies (the IWW). At dinner on Sunday night, Anthony Cody and I joked about a new slogan, “Teachers of the world, unite; you have nothing to lose but your rubrics.”

Sara Stevenson, librarian at O. Henry Middle School in Austin, is already a hero of this blog for her relentless fight to stave off privatization of public schools. She writes articles critiquing legislation, she writes letters to the editor of local and national newspapers. I think she has had more letters published in the Wall Street Journal than anyone else I know. By now, she and the letters editor at the WSJ must be friends.

There is a clear way to think about where public money should go, whether it is called a voucher, an opportunity scholarship, a tax credit, or something else: Public money for public schools. Private money for private schools. If businesses want to help out private schools, they should make a contribution to them. If parents want to send their children to private or religious schools, that is their right, and they should pay for it, not expect to have the community pay for their choice.

I am old enough to remember when “school choice” was the battle cry of southern segregationists. How soon we forget. Or do we?

Here is Sara’s latest missive, written to the Austin Statesman-American, in response to the phony claim that “school choice” is the “civil rights issue of our time,” the goal being to get some public money diverted to support religious schools in Texas:

Sara writes:

It’s pretty rich for Bill McGee, the head of school for the Hill
Country Christian School of Austin, to frame the school choice
argument in terms of Civil Rights. Great marketing ploy. The school’s
website brags that 23% of its students are non-Caucasian and 19%
qualify for student aid. Contrast that to Austin ISD, where 60% of
students are considered low socioeconomic status, 74% are minorities,
27.6% are English Language Learners, and 10.1% are Special Education
students. Furthermore, the voucher amount does not come close to
paying the full tuition, which is $9,570 for K – 5th grade and more
for secondary.

McGee tries to persuade us that the “scholarships” donated by
businesses are not back door vouchers, but each “scholarship”
decreases the tax amount collected from businesses to fund public
schools. Each child removed from Austin public schools amounts to a
loss of over $7000.

Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric. House Bill 1043 and Senate Bill 4 are
just a tax break for families who are already send or are planning to
send their children to private schools. Furthermore, why should the
state support religious education? Public money belongs in public
schools. If schools, such as Hill Country Christian School want more
children of poverty, they must solicit donors directly rather than
suck tax dollars from state government coffers.

Sara Stevenson
Austin, Texas 78703

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