Archives for category: Accountability

Having read and reviewed every line of the Alexander/Murray proposal to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka No Child Left Behind), Mercedes Schneider here renders her judgment about the bill as a whole and compares it to the one that the House of Representatives has been working on.


There are aspects to this bill to dislike: its love for charters, which make no sense unless you think the nation needs two publicly funded school system, one free to choose its students, the other not; its retention of annual testing, which has not achieved its goals for the past 13 years, making the United States the most over-tested nation in the world. And there are aspects to like a lot: like stripping the Secretary of Education of any power to control state and local decisions about standards and tests.


Though the bill is not perfect, it has one great advantage: it abandons the absurd goals, mandates, and sanctions that were central to NCLB.


Read Mercedes to see what she concludes.

This is part 3 of Stephen Dyer’s series about charter schools in Ohio. What he has learned from state data is that charter schools perform worse than public schools and take money from children in public schools in every district.


His series is titled “Ohio Charter Schools Just Don’t Work.” Something tells me you won’t read anything about this in the Wall Street Journal, and very likely not the New York Times either, although they are fast to shine a bright light on high-performing charters which are not representative of the charter industry.


He writes:


Now that I’ve shown how state data indicate that Ohio’s charter schools simply aren’t up to snuff with Ohio’s school districts, costing children in those districts millions of dollars a year, and that the excuses posited by some in the charter school community just don’t hold water, I’m going to spend some time today looking at building-level data.


This is the data charter school proponents have argued for years should be the only comparable data when look at charter and public school performance.


Even though the state does not track which kids go from which public school buildings to which charters.


And the funding comes from the district, not the district building the kids leave.


And charters are considered districts in state law for funding and accountability purposes.


And charters are considered Local Education Agencies for federal funding and grant making purposes.


The primary reason I look at district-level data in my comparisons is pretty simple: when a kid leaves a district for a charter, the money that flows to the charter for that kid’s education comes out of every child’s state funding pot, not just the pot going to the most failing building in the most failing district. So it’s not punishing the most failing building in a district –it’s punishing every building and child in the district, even the best of both.


But for argument’s sake, let’s look at charter and public school building performance. What you’ll see is even in the light most favorable to charters, public schools outperform charters overall. Period.


Ohio’s charter schools perform worse overall than all local public school buildings, including those in the Big 8 urban districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown) – the areas where charters were supposed to offer better alternatives. Charters register lower percentages of As and Bs while having higher percentages of Ds and Fs than local public schools.


Read the whole post to read the links and the rest of the story.


Why is the new ESEA setting aside new money for a sector that performs worse than public schools? Why are hedge fund managers and philanthropists funding more such schools? When will they pay attention to data?


When Jeb Bush invented school grades, he no doubt thought they would embarrass public schools and help charter schools and voucher schools, but it is not working. Just as charters are not working.

I don’t live in Los Angeles, but then neither do the hedge fund managers and equity investors and billionaires who regularly pump money into campaigns in districts where they don’t live. I am giving Bennett Kayser’s campaign $100 because he expects charter schools to be financially and academically accountable. All schools that receive public money should be held to the same standards. His opponent Ref Rodriguez operates a charter school which tried to keep a recent audit secret until after the election. It has been leaked, however. See the KPCC public radio summary here. Rodriguez is the charter’s co-founder and treasurer; the audit finds the school was “insolvent” for nine years and was poorly managed in terms of its finances.

Here is a comment on the blog:

“Here’s where you can donate on-line to Bennett’s campaign:

“Here’s his website in general:

“One more thing, Ref portrays himself as a poor Chicano from the barrio who cares about the education well-being of poor Chicanos in the barrio.

“Well, let’s see… because charters are unregulated, he can pay himself whatever he wants, and he works as little as he wants.

“So what does he do?

“He pays himself $350,000 (a third of a million dollars) annually, while he pays his custodial and cafeteria workers—all low-income Latinos—$8/hour instead of the living wage that their counterparts in the traditional public schools get paid… while principals in traditional public schools earn around $100,000 annually.

“Try to live in L.A. on $8/hour.”

The Wall Street Journal has an informative article about the $2.2 million that Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence paid to a top Republican political consultant to publicize the “success” of the Florida model of education reform: school grades, charters, and high-stakes testing, and also revealed who underwrites Bush’s FEE.

The foundation’s Learn More, Go Further campaign in 2013 and 2014 included a website and other online media, television and radio ads, and live events in Florida to promote the state’s educational system.

“Today, more parents and teachers know that Florida is a top-10 state for improvement in education, thanks to the reforms implemented and hard work by teachers and students over the last 15 years,” said Jaryn Emhof, a foundation spokeswoman.

Under Mr. Bush’s A-plus plan, schools receive annual grades based on their test scores in an effort to hold educators responsible for student achievement. The Learn More, Go Further ads touted rising graduation rates, increased numbers of students taking advanced courses, and rising achievement among Hispanic and African-American students. Mr. Bush was not mentioned in the ads.

Another spot trumpeted Florida’s higher academic standards, which are modeled after the Common Core standards adopted by most states. Because the Obama administration awarded financial incentives to states that adopted Common Core, some conservatives view the standards as government overreach, making Mr. Bush’s support a potential liability in his expected 2016 campaign…

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has served as chairwoman of the foundation since January, when Mr. Bush resigned to focus on exploring a potential campaign. Top donors to the foundation include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, GE Foundation, and News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal.

The foundation reported $11.4 million in revenue for 2013, up from $10 million the previous year. Expenses rose to $10.4 million from $5.9 million the previous year because of increases in staff, outside contracts and educational research and grants provided to states. The foundation has expanded from working with three states in 2008 to 43 states in 2013 on issues including digital learning, school grades, literacy, teacher training and charter schools.

You can be sure nothing was said in the public relations campaign about the fact that Alabama–with none of Jeb’s reforms–has a higher graduation rate than Florida. Nor will voters hear about Florida’s class size reduction act, imposed by referendum. Or Bush’s third grade retention policy, which holds back low-scoring third graders and boosts fourth-grade reading scores.

Christine Langhoff sent the following reflections on the state takeover of the schools of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Jitu Brown’s remarks in the opening keynote at NPE Chicago identified the current reform movement as “colonialism.” When she heard Jitu speak, Christine was reminded of the state takeover of the public schools of Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1989.


Christine wrote:


Under the arrogant John Silber, Boston University took over the Chelsea Public schools for 20 years. The teachers’ contract was abrogated and many outside “experts” and researchers poured into the schools, many making careers due to their involvement. Money was also poured into the schools. But not much has changed and BU folded its tent and went away and the money dried up. From a study in 2010 by The Urban Initiative at UMass Dartmouth:


“The less positive news is that the challenges that the School District and City of Chelsea faced back in the 1980’s are still present, and in some instances have been exacerbated by state and regional economic conditions, as well as world-wide unrest and economic hardship for many families moving into the area. The challenges include: poverty, unreported immigrants, unemployment, crime, gangs, drugs, teen pregnancy, family mobility, low attendance rates, and the continuing issue of English as a second language.


The School District of Chelsea can never be accused of not continually looking for a solution to the challenges it faces. The reform efforts have been multiple and continual over the past two decades. Unfortunately they were not always systemic in nature and were driven by a ‘cure de jour’ and perhaps a myopic vision of the individual factors that needed to be addressed, rather than a broad-based plan that built upon succeeding successes and included the resources needed to fully implement the interventions.”


What has worked in Chelsea was not the expertise of the colonizers, but rather the daily hard work of community organizations to provide wrap around services children and families in empoverished cities to mediate the impact of poverty:


“Perhaps most importantly, there is a growing awareness that the school district doesn’t own the problem; that it is a community problem, and it will take the entire community’s resources and willpower to address the needs of its youth in a proactive and effective way. The growing community collaborations with outside agencies and non-profit organizations have already begun to show promise as a major reform strategy.”


In another comment, Christine added:


I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that one of the first things the state does is eliminating the dual language program from Holyoke’s schools. 79% of kids in the schools are Latino (the majority of them Puerto Ricans, thus American citizens) and 48% are identified as having English as a second language. But those running the department of ed see bilingualism as a deficit. The Dever elementary school in Boston was taken over by the state earlier this school year. The very first thing the charter operator did was eliminate the successful dual language program.


The fact of a large Puerto Rican population in Holyoke matters. (At the Dever, too, many of the families are Puerto Rican.) As citizens, many Puerto Ricans transit between the island and the mainland due to family and employment factors (again, poverty – when there’s no work, you go back to live with abuelita). Children who move between school systems must be fluent in both languages to flourish academically, as public schools in Puerto Rico are conducted in Spanish. Being bilingual is a necessity and the argument of “if they want to live here, they need to learn English” holds no water when compared with the obligation of the state to provide a free, appropriate education to its citizens.

Public radio station KPCC in Los Angeles obtained a copy of the audit of the charter school run by Ref Rodriguez, who is running for the city’s school board on May 19 against incumbent Bennett Kayser.

The story was written by Annie Gilbertson, the same reporter who broke the Deasy-iPad scandal.

“A Los Angeles Unified school board member sought to withhold an inspector general audit finding Partnership to Uplift Communities’ Lakeview Charter Academy was insolvent for nine years.”

An unnamed member of the school board had tried to suppress the audit until after the election.

The audit shows that the charter was insolvent for nine years. Also it “noted numerous fiscal “deficiencies,” including poorly documented expenditures, failure to meet minimum reserves and questionable oversight by the parent organization.”

Rodriguez is co-founder and treasurer of the charter organization.

A reader, Charlene Williams, who holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, sent the following comment in response to this post about the vocabulary used on one of the Common Core tests:


This speaks to one of the essential issues in the current high stakes testing debacle. Why the Pearson, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced testing is unscientific and unethical. I am a psychologist, faculty at UCLA, and a mother in California. I hadn’t heard about these concerns with the current high stakes testing, until after I became very concerned with the developmental level of the SB practice items when helping my daughter (dutifully prepare for the tests).
The 6th grade ELA practice performance task for the Smarter Balance was completely inappropriate for 11-12 year olds, requiring them to toggle between several screens (on small Ipad screens), and choose multiple pieces of evidence to evaluate, select, paraphrase, compare and contrast, as well as write a multiparagraph essay. Never mind that while practicing, toggling back to the articles caused the students’ written work on the essay to be erased (lost).

Why the current high stakes testing is unscientific:
1) There is no proven Construct Validity (does your test measure what you think it measures)
2) Cut scores are determined by an unknown (arbitrary) process- labeling children as proficient, or failing appears to not be based on any scientific process. It is not scientific to arbitrarily decide what levels of your test scores actually mean in the real world. Scientific measurement requires cross-validation with external measures that provide evidence for your claims (like grades, or independent in-depth measures of children’s educational achievement in a a smaller sample with highly experienced evaluators).
3) Computer adaptive tests- there have been many concerns raised about how item difficulty has been decided. Children continue to progress on these tests if they continue to get a certain number the most recent answers correct. Educational measurement specialists (true academically trained professionals) and parents and children have observed that very often items following very difficult questions are significantly easier. This raises concerns that children’s scores are artificially deflated by unscientifically determined item difficulty determinations.
4) Inter-rater reliability- No checks exist to independently determine whether the scoring administered by these testing companies has truly reliable and valid measurements of children’s answers (see Todd Farley )
Most importantly, the Pearson, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced testing is unscientific because they violate the basic rule of science. The assessments are not verifiable, because they are not permitted to be subject to independent scientific evaluation. Their validity cannot be proven nor disproven. Under the guise of “test security” companies use copyright laws so extreme they prevent true scientific evaluation of the validity of these tests, by scientists with expertise in the fields of Education, Psychology, and related fields.
So I am deeply concerned that the profit-driven testing business is using unscientific (and expensive) testing which is portrayed to the public as if it’s truth, with high stakes ramifications on children, teachers, and our public education system. As stakeholders and parents, we need to demand accountability, real science, and an ethical separation between profit-driven educational businesses and the true scientifically-based education and measurement. For the sake of our children, our teachers, and our educational system which is truly one of the foundations of our democratic country.

Valerie Strauss posted an article about the lobbying activities of the giant testing corporations. They spend many millions of dollars to ensure that Congress and the states understand the importance of buying their services. It would be awful for them if any state decided to let teachers write their own tests and test what they taught.


The four corporations that dominate the U.S. standardized testing market spend millions of dollars lobbying state and federal officials — as well as sometimes hiring them — to persuade them to favor policies that include mandated student assessments, helping to fuel a nearly $2 billion annual testing business, a new analysis shows.


The analysis, done by the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit liberal watchdog and advocacy agency based in Wisconsin that tracks corporate influence on public policy, says that four companies — Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill— collectively spent more than $20 million lobbying in states and on Capitol Hill from 2009 to 2014.


When I visited Texas a few years ago, I wondered why Texas paid nearly $500 million to Pearson for five years of testing, but New York paid only $32 million to Pearson for the same five years. I assumed it must be a testament to the high quality lobbyists that Pearson hired in Texas, starting with Sandy Kress, who was one of the architects of No Child Left Behind and very well connected to the state’s power structure.

In response to a post about the predatory for-profit higher education industry, reader Chiara sent the following comment to remind us of how the for-profit industry buys influence in Washington, D.C. and avoids regulation:

To get a sense of how powerful the for-profit lobby is, read this:

“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.”

This is why I cannot believe anyone is seriously suggesting we can contract out public schools and it will be on the up and up and “well-regulated”. No, it won’t. Lawmakers will be captured and it will be a free for all. The big losers will be poor people, just as the big losers are poor people in the for-profit college scams.

Ed reformers are freaking kidding themselves with this “well-regulated! non-profits!” fantasy. It’s a weirdly arrogant assumption that they are all honorable and well-intended, so immune to this stuff. They’re not immune.

Texas is the home of high-stakes testing, and it is also home to some independent school boards who are sick of high-stakes testing. After 20 years or more of using testing to reward, punish, and shame students, teachers, principals, and schools, those closest to the schools know that this strategy has failed. Parent pressure forced the state legislature to back down on plans to expand the number of high-stakes tests from 5 to 15. Almost every school board in the state adopted resolutions opposing the testing regime.


Now the Arlington, Texas, school board has passed a resolution calling on the legislature to let local school districts devise their own accountability plans and specifically, to de-emphasize the importance of high-stakes testing. The district has created its own accountability plan, and only two of its 28 measures are test-baed. This may upset the battalion of lobbyists for Pearson, but it reflects the will of the people.


Here is the letter that accompanied the resolution (which is linked inside the letter):


On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the Arlington ISD, I am writing today to share information about the resolution regarding high-stakes assessments that the Board approved on April 16. The resolution urged the 84th Texas Legislature to end high-stakes assessments and to empower local school board to create and implement local accountability systems using standard measures of student success.


Accountability and assessment is a key point within the district’s legislative agenda. While an effective, efficient and equitable academic accountability system is necessary to carry out the mission and objectives of the Texas public education system, Texas’ current accountability system is too complex for school districts to drive continuous improvement for districts and campuses. Assessments should provide standard measures while allowing local superintendents and school boards to control how to respond to those measures but should not cause undue stress to students and families or teacher dissatisfaction and burn-out.


With the adoption of the Achieve Today. Excel Tomorrow. strategic plan, the district developed a comprehensive local accountability system. In that system, only two of the 28 measures are related to high-stakes STAAR testing. Other items included in that system are participation and success in rigorous courses, percent of graduating seniors taking and performing well on a college-bound assessment, percent of students on track to graduate on time, college enrollment and success, extracurricular and co-curricular participation, facilities, customer service, and effectiveness of leadership development. Each year, the Board receives a report on the districts’ success relative to the local accountability system. Last year’s report is available online.


We will continue to work with legislators throughout the session to encourage local control in establishing a sensible local testing system and setting an accountability system that works for the local community and best serves our students.


Bowie J. Hogg
Board President


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