Moshe Adler, professor of economics at Columbia University, has emerged as one of the most incisive critics of the work of Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff on Value-added measurement (VAM).

In the recent Vergara decision about tenure for teachers in California, the study by Raj Chetty and John Friedman of Harvard and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia played a prominent role. But according to the economist Moshe Adler the study is wrong and misleading. According to Adler, the authors suppressed a result that contradicts their main claim, they picked and chose which data sets to use, they used a misleading method of analysis that inflated their results and they misrepresented research that contradicts their claims as supporting them. These are just a few of the problems with the scientific integrity with the study. Adler wrote his review for the National Education Policy Center and it can found at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2014/06/adler-response-to-chetty)

A short time after the publication of his NEPC review, Adler received an email from Chetty that informed him that the study had been accepted for publication by the American Economic Review (AER). (Chetty also suggested that a Nobel Prize will likely follow!) Adler immediately wrote to the editors of the AER to alert them to the grave scientific problems with the study. The editor-in-charge did not evaluate Adler’s objections herself, nor did she send them to the referees to evaluate. Instead, she forwarded Adler’s letter to the authors who then replied to Adler’s NEPC review. The editor found this reply satisfactory, but as Adler explains in his response, Chetty’s et al.’s reply is without merit, and it only adds to the problems with the research. Chetty’s letter to Adler and Adler’s correspondence with the AER can be found at: http://www.columbia.edu/~ma820/Chetty%20Adler%20AER.htm

Unbelievable. Microsoft lays off 18,000 workers while pressing Congress to expand the number of visas for engineers, mathematicians, scientists, and other workers. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and casino operator Sheldon Adelson wrote an article calling for Congressional action to increase H-1B visas.
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Senator Jeff Sessions responded with rage, directed mainly at Gates and at the the tech industry as a whole. He said: “”What did we see in the newspaper today?” said Sessions, “News from Microsoft. Was it that they are having to raise wages to try to get enough good, quality engineers to do the work? Are they expanding or are they hiring? No, that is not what the news was, unfortunately. Not at all.”

Sessions said:

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“What is the situation today for American graduates of STEM degrees and technology degrees?” said Session. “Do we have enough? And do we need to have people come to our country to take those jobs? Or, indeed, do we not have a shortage of workers, and do we have difficulty of people finding jobs?”

“Sessions recently sponsored a forum that assembled some of the leading academic critics of the H-1B program. The group assessed the consequences of hiking the H-1B cap from 85,000 to 180,000, as proposed in the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill.

“They warned of increasing age discrimination since most of these foreign workers are young, as well as make it harder for U.S. STEM graduates to find work. A cap hike could hurt wages as well. Critics say schools now produce many more STEM graduates than there are jobs for them.

“Microsoft wasn’t the only company to get in Sessions’ crosshairs. He cited a letter by more than 100 large corporations sent to Congress late last year, urging immigration reform. The signees included many companies, such as Hewlett-Packard and Cisco, which have had recent layoffs.

“And just as it is not always true what is good for General Motors is good for America, likewise, what may be good for Mr. Adelson and Mr. Microsoft and Mr. Buffett is not always in accord with what is good for the American people. I know that. They are free to express their opinion, but I am going to push back,” said Sessions.

The Chicago choice system works exactly as every choice system works: It segregates students by ability.

“But a new WBEZ analysis shows an unintended consequence of the choice system: students of different achievement levels are being sorted into separate high schools.

“WBEZ analyzed incoming test scores for freshmen from the fall of 2012, the most recent year data is available. That year, the district mandated that every high school give students an “EXPLORE” exam about a month into the school year.

“The 26,340 scores range from painfully low to perfect.

“WBEZ found few schools in the city enroll the full span of students. Instead, low-scoring students and high-scoring students in particular are attending completely different high schools. Other schools enroll a glut of average kids.”

And more:

“The findings raise some of the same long-running questions educators have debated about the academic and social implications of in-school tracking. But they also raise questions about whether the city’s school choice system is actually creating better schools, or whether it’s simply sorting certain students out and leaving the weakest learners in separate, struggling schools.

WBEZ’s analysis shows:

Serious brain drain. The city’s selective “test-in” high schools — among the best in the state — capture nearly all the top students in the school system. There were 104 kids who scored a perfect 25 on the EXPLORE exam. One hundred of them — 96 percent — enrolled in just six of the city’s 130 high schools (Northside, Whitney Young, Payton, Lane, Lincoln Park, and Jones). In fact, 80 percent of perfect scorers went to just three schools. Among the city’s top 2 percent of test takers (those scoring a 23, 24, or 25 on their exam), 87 percent are at those same six schools. Chicago has proposed creating an 11th selective enrollment high school, Barack Obama College Prep, to be located in the same area as the schools already attracting the city’s top performers.

“Clustering of low-performing students. Fifteen percent of the city’s high schools are populated with vastly disproportionate numbers of low-performing students. More than 80 percent of incoming students at these schools score below the district average. The schools enroll 10 percent of all Chicago high school students.
Black students are most likely to be affected by sorting. WBEZ’s analysis shows African American students are doubly segregated, first by race, then by achievement. Of the 40 most academically narrow schools in Chicago, 34 of them are predominantly black. Even though just 40 percent of students in the public schools are African American, Chicago has black high schools for low achievers, black high schools for average kids, black test-in high schools for high achievers.
Within neighborhoods, more sorting. Schools within a particular community may appear to be attracting the same students demographically, but WBEZ finds significant sorting by achievement. Especially in neighborhoods on the South and West sides, the comprehensive neighborhood high school has become a repository for low performers; nearby charters or other new schools are attracting far greater percentages of above-average kids.”

Some reform.

When Governor Rick Snyder created the Educational Achievement Authority for the state’s lowest-performing schools, he promised bold new thinking. One of his bold plans is a kindergarten called the Brenda Scott Academy, which has a kindergarten of 100 students. It is a stretch to call it “new,” because classes of this size sometimes existed a century ago.

The lead teacher, a veteran, is 30. Her helpers are in their firstvand second years of teaching.

“The hub’s large size concerns some experts. Officials with the EAA say teachers using this system are better able to tailor their lessons to the needs of individual children.

“Research has shown smaller sizes work, but this model has pretty much in a sense, early on, has kind of proved that wrong,” said Marques Stewart, Brenda Scott’s principal…..”

“The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends kindergartners be educated in a defined group no larger than 20 to 24 students. Within that, it says, the teacher-student ratio range should be 1:10 to 1:12.

“Particularly for younger children, you need small groups for their ability to focus and their ability to form strong relationships with the teacher and to have an effective learning experience,” said Barbara Willer, the organization’s deputy executive director.

“One of the things that’s important in terms of early childhood education is you’re focusing on all areas of children’s development. Not only academic development, but also their social development.”

“Those early relationships are especially important for at-risk children, Firestone said. At Brenda Scott, 73% of students qualify for a free lunch — a barometer of poverty — though the school gives free meals to everyone. The school is in an area with a highly transient population, school officials said.

“Firestone, Willer and Keith Myers, executive director of the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children, all said they know of no other kindergarten set up the same way. They learned about the hub through the Free Press and have never been there.

“Denise Smith, vice president for early learning at Excellent Schools Detroit, a coalition of foundations and community leaders, was curious when she heard about the hub and observed it for 40 minutes in mid-May.

“What I think is unique and successful in this environment is that they are really using the opportunity to co-plan and co-teach, so they’re able to expand in and out of their classes, to hone in on the needs of individual children,” she said. “I think they’re making it work.”

Robert Berkman, who has been teaching math for thirty years, takes issue with the article by Elizabeth Green in the New York Times magazine called Why Americans Stink at Math. While he has great admiration for Green’s writing skills, he thinks she is an American who is not good at math.

He writes:

“The first place where Green goes wrong is when she cites “national test results” about mathematics achievement in the U.S.. First, I wonder which “test results” Green is referencing here (you have to be suspicious when, in the days of the omnipresent interweb, a link is not included to the data supporting this point.) It may be significant that 2/3 of all 4th and 8th graders are not “proficient” in math, but again, this is a national standard, not an international standard, so this only points to the fact that U.S. children are not achieving according to some standard that was created where, in some dark cave where Dick Cheney and his family reside?

“Green goes on to state that half the 4th and 8th graders taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress could not read a thermometer, or that 3/4 of the test takers could not translate a simple word problem into an algebraic expression. Note that this is the National Assessment of Educational Progress – it doesn’t say anything about whether U.S. children are better or worse than anybody else around the globe; for all we know, 7/8 of the children in Helsinki and 11/13 of the children in Ibaraki couldn’t successfully answer these questions either. Look, I’m not the sharpest pencil in the box, but even I know these numbers are insignificant without a context.”

If I may interject my view, NAEP proficient is a very high standard of academic proficiency, not a benchmark for what all students should know. Michelle Rhee constantly makes this mistake. It is like complaining that not all students are A students.

Berkman then chastises Green for comparing Massachusetts, a state, with Shanghai, a city (which excludes a significant number of students from the tests because their parents are migrants).

I confess I am tired of the constant barrage of articles and books about how terrible the U.S. is and how our public schools are the reason that we fail at this, that, or everything. I think this is a wonderful country, and I hope that one day soon we can take control back from the oligarchs that want to turn our children into standardized widgets (but not their own).

I like Elizabeth Green. I have known her for several years. I hope her next book will celebrate the success of American public schools in accepting all children and unleashing the genius of our best thinkers and creators, despite the contempt of the uber-rich and the war on the teaching profession. There is a reason that teachers say they work “in the trenches.” It’s time to celebrate their perseverance in the face of budget cuts and stupid federal policy.

In 2010, Colorado State Senator Michael Johnston took credit for a piece of legislation called Senate Bill 191, which he said would produce “Great Schools, Great Teachers, Great Principals.” Its main feature was tying teacher evaluation to their students’ scores, which counted for 50%. But it included other time bombs. One allowed districts to lay off teachers for various reasons. Now seven teachers and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association is suing.

One of those who lost her job was Cynthia Masters, a special-education teacher in a K-8 school. She was one of only 3,000 to lose their job.

“In the four years since the law was passed, nearly 3,000 DPS teachers have lost their positions due to what the district calls “reduction in building,” or RIB for short. The reasons that teachers are RIBed vary: Some lose their jobs because their schools are “turned around” or closed. Others are cut because school enrollment drops. In Masters’s case, she was RIBed due to a decrease in the number of special-ed students.

Of those 3,000 teachers, 1,240 had at least three years’ worth of positive evaluations, including Masters. And not all of them have been able to find new jobs. According to the law, still widely referred to as Senate Bill 191, RIBed teachers with three years of positive reviews — officially known as “nonprobationary” — who can’t find a position within a certain time frame are put on unpaid leave, a move that both unions believe violates the state constitution……”

“Brad Bartels, an attorney with the Colorado Education Association, says these teachers are victims of DPS’s brand of musical chairs. They didn’t lose their positions because they were bad teachers, he insists: “They just didn’t have a chair when the music stopped.”

“Seven DPS teachers and the DCTA have now sued the district. (The statewide CEA is representing the DCTA in the matter.) The lawsuit is a class action, and the plaintiffs represent several different classes, including all teachers in Colorado who were considered nonprobationary prior to the passage of Senate Bill 191 and all nonprobationary DPS teachers who were RIBed and ended up on unpaid leave.

“Westword spoke with five of the seven plaintiffs and found that they have several things in common: All are older than 45 and have good teaching records. Upon losing their positions, all five applied for hundreds of teaching assignments within DPS but, inexplicably to them, received just a few interviews. Only one managed to avoid being put on unpaid leave or being forced into early retirement.

“I applied for over 700 positions in the district,” says plaintiff Michelle Montoya, who got RIBed in the fall of 2010. “I thought, ‘I can deal with this. I’m going to go get a job. My skills are definitely needed.’ And I just never got a second interview.”

Will Senator Michael Johnston live long enough to declare that Colorado now has great teachers, great principals, great schools, thanks to Senate Bill 191?

Lindsay Wagner of the NC Policy Watch reports that the NC House passed a bill to guard the privacy of salaries paid to employees of for-profit charter management companies, even though they are paid with public funds. The bill also removes protection of LGBT students that had been in earlier versions.

She writes:

“While the bill, SB 793, or Charter School Modifications, clarifies that the salaries of charter school teachers and non-profit boards of directors are subject to public disclosure, employees of for-profit companies that are contracted to manage the operations of charter schools would not be subject to those rules.

“In a prior version of the bill, language simply required charter schools to publicly disclose all employees’ salaries.

“The change comes at a time when one prominent Wilmington-based charter school operator, Baker A. Mitchell Jr., has been fighting media requests for months that have asked him to fully disclose the salaries of all employees associated with his charter schools – teachers as well as those who work for his for-profit education management organization (EMO), Roger Bacon Academy.

“Mitchell, who also sits on the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board that is tasked with approving and monitoring charter schools, operates four charter schools in southeastern North Carolina through his for-profit company.

“Roger Bacon Academy has raked in millions of dollars in profits that consist of public funds since 1999 – and Mitchell himself has profited to the tune of at least $16 million in management fees over the past several years.

“While debating the conference report of the charter school bill, Cotham told fellow lawmakers this bill protects Mitchell and others like him who are free to hire family and friends through a private company that runs charters, and then pay them anything they like with public funds.”

- See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/07/25/house-oks-bill-that-allows-private-charter-school-education-management-companies-to-keep-their-employees-salaries-secret/#sthash.sBQKWS2z.dpuf

Bertis Downs is a native of Georgia and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education.

He writes:

This is the best electoral news in a long time– Georgia Democrat Valarie Wilson won the runoff for state school superintendent, and it wasn’t even close: http://bit.ly/Us7qNi I am proud to be one of her supporters.

And on the Republican side a longtime educator, Richard Woods, won in a squeaker– he had strong support from the Tea Party for his opposition to Common Core, which many on the right consider a federal intrusion into what should be local decisions.

Valarie Wilson’s decisive win on the Democratic side is significant for Georgia, and it fits into a developing narrative that Money (doesn’t always) Mean Power, at least in the intersection of politics and schools. It’s great to add Georgia to the list of places where big, out of state, corporate reformist money did not beat a genuine pro-schools candidate who will fight for strong and effective public schools for all– Seattle, Los Angeles, Bridgeport, Newark, Indiana, over and over this pattern is being repeated. Diane Ravitch’s blog and the Network for Public Education are key ways to get the good word out. I guess people like Bloomberg, Huizenga, Rhee, DeVos, Broad, et al have millions to spend (ahem “invest”), but all those $6,300 (+/-) check-writers from California and New York and elsewhere must be feeling a little ripped off this morning. Campaign disclosures, especially when analyzed and broken down on Diane’s blog, are a beautiful thing in a democracy! http://bit.ly/UoWuQC. And I guess, in a way, money does in fact talk– despite Valarie’s opponent’s decision to play down her involvement in the so-called choice movement, the extent of her out of state support, and the fear that she would indeed “dance with who brung her” if elected, likely helped propel Valarie, who raised virtually all her support here in Georgia.

And on the Republican side, and let’s be realistic– Rs generally beat Ds lately in GA– Richard Woods is a solid candidate who believes in public education and is not in deep with the corporate interests looking to privatize our schools. Either way, whatever the outcome in November, Georgia will not have someone really bad running our schools, and that is a relief. I am confident that Georgia’s next superintendent — whether Wilson or Woods — will address and improve the shortcomings of our schools while celebrating and replicating what works in advancing teaching and learning in our classrooms, supporting teachers and helping them improve, and restoring funding cuts that have reduced our school year and increased our class sizes. And if we are really lucky, the next Superintendent will courageously start the long walk back from the absurd amount of standardized testing being forced on our children and our schools, and back to sane and effective assessment and evaluations that help Georgia attract and retain quality teachers. As has been said, a teacher’s working conditions are our childrens’ learning conditions. I look forward to a superintendent who knows this. (And it would of course be really great if that Superintendent could serve under a Governor who shares their view of public schools– see, e.g. https://carterforgovernor.com/issues/)

The results in Georgia send a powerful message that what the people want, Republicans and Democrats alike, is pretty straightforward: good public schools where they are proud to send their children. And the selection of the fall candidates, Richard Woods and especially Valarie Wilson, is a clear rejection of the status quo of the false cures and nice-sounding quick fixes offered by the well-capitalized marketers of “school reform.”

Bertis Downs

Lisa Graves was one of the creators of the website ALECExposed. She has followed the money, and she here describes a dangerous threat to American democracy by the billionaire Koch brothers, ALEC, and others who seek control by the super-rich. They want to bust unions and privatize schools. Graves says that progressives must stand together. I agree. That’s why I grow frustrated when union members attack their unions. Of course, they should fight to win democratic control of their unions. But when they begin hurling insults and invective at their allies, they do the work of their common foe.

Graves writes:

“Two of the richest men in the entire world are plotting to dominate our elections this fall, from congressional races to school board seats.

“Their scheming to shove America further to the far right should be a serious wake-up call for anyone who cares about our nation’s soul.

“As Charles and David Koch promised their billionaire buddies, they’ve assessed how the quarter billion dollars they helped raise and spread across the country failed spectacularly in the 2012 elections. And, they’ve made adjustments to their battle plans to win more this time…..

“If unions and their leaders want to stand up to the Koch machine – which has sought to gut union power for decades – I say right on. Nurses, teachers, and factory workers ought to have a chance to negotiate with power for better wages and working conditions than each could negotiate with their powerful employer alone.

“Thank goodness they’ve all stood up to the Kochs’ neo-Bircher worldview, in their own ways.

“Thank goodness they understand that civil society — indeed, our very democracy — is what’s at stake.

“I stand against the cult of greed peddled by the Kochs.

“I’m utterly opposed to the Koch-y brand of Ayn Rand’s dystopian propaganda and the updated version of this kind of every-man-for-himself economic Darwinism peddled by Rand Paul in blue jeans. I don’t want America’s great dream for our people to be shrunk into a members’ only club, letting the richest few rule with the less lucky stuck as servants struggling to survive.

“A civil society — a true democracy – recognizes that investing in our shared future makes our nation stronger.

“A healthy democracy fully funds our public institutions that serve all of the American people and helps those living on the brink, as part of our social contract in recognition of our common humanity and the fact that we all face illness and aging out of work….

“It’s about having truly public schools that provide our children with empowered teachers trained in the art and science of teaching rather than inexperienced and un-certified stand-ins trying to do it on the cheap so a corporation can pay better dividends to stock speculators.

“The right-wing alternative to truly public schools that the Koch deregulation machine has helped spawn is “charter” schools paid for with our tax dollars.

“We’ve seen too many charters run by fly-by-night operators feeding kids religious gruel or designed by corporations to enrich Wall Street speculators through cutting what’s spent on kids, teachers, and classrooms but a healthy budget for slick ads blanketing the airwaves and underwritten by taxpayers.

“Charles and David Koch have spent decades trying to get rid of “government” schools, as touted in David’s run for the White House in 1980. That’s why it’s now practically a litmus test for Republican presidential candidates to list the Department of Education among the government agencies they are in a race to eliminate.

“We need all hands on deck to stop them.

“That’s one of the reasons why attacks on the DA or union leaders like Randi Weingarten as a false equivalent to the Koch cabal are so misplaced. They are not equivalent because the goals of the Kochs matter and investing in an alternative to the Kochs’ agenda matters, a lot…..

“But, as the person who launched ALECexposed with my team in Madison, I can tell you that Weingarten has been totally stalwart in standing up to ALEC and its anti-public education agenda, which is fueled by the Koch family fortune and other rich families — along with corporations that profit from privatizing public schools, of course.

“The American Federation of Teachers has been rock solid in the fight against ALEC, consistently devoting staff time week in and week out for three years to expose ALEC, due to her personal commitment. The ongoing public campaign on ALEC would not have had the success it has had without AFT’s work and her leadership, and without the work of many devoted colleagues across the country, including the National Education Association and other organizations, bloggers, and concerned citizens nationwide…..

“I know we need a more progressive America.

“And progressives need to get better at using their power to persuade each other and to win better policies.

“But attacking genuine progressives for banding together to take on the Kochs or for not being pure enough is foolish sport. And the right loves it when progressives fight. It makes their effort to tear down the left so much easier.

“So, let’s get real.

“Because there’s a real-world war going on to kill our public schools, outsource our public institutions to private companies not accountable to us, and destroy key government constraints on corporate power…..”

If you are on the West Coast, you still have a few hours before bedtime, but I am turning in now.

Before I do, I wanted to acknowledge that I neglected to add the link to the post in which Mark NAISON explains why charter schools are like subprime mortgages. Here it is: http://withabrooklynaccent.blogspot.com/2014/07/why-charter-school-scandals-resemble.html

Fortunately I have readers who kindly remind me when I forget the link or when autocorrect turns words into gibberish.

Then I wanted to tell you I was preoccupied tonight watching Fritz Lang’s spectacular silent movie “Metropolis” (1927). See it if you have a chance. It was on Turner Classic Movies. So much that presages the rise of fascism. Knowing what was going to happen to Germany, I found myself siding with the “bad” Maria who wanted the workers to turn against the machines to which they were psychically chained, not the “good” Maria, who wanted the workers to wait, wait, wait, and be peaceful. If you think about the movie in relation to German history and the monster who would plunge the world into war just a few years later, you want the workers to be rebellious, not docile. There is a time for collaboration and a time to stand up and fight.

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