Archives for category: Data

How many times have you read in a report or in the newspaper that X method or Y school was able to produce an extra 40 days or extra weeks of learning in reading or math?


How do gains in test scores get converted into days or weeks or months?


The answer, according to Gary Rubinstein, is that they don’t. Or they shouldn’t. It is nonsense.


I recently read a Mathematica Policy Research report on the Teacher Incentive Fund (merit pay), which claimed that a 1% increase in test scores was equivalent to an additional three weeks of learning. See here (study snapshot) and here (executive summary) and here (full report).

Performance Bonuses for Educators Led to Small Improvements in
Student Achievement


Educators’ understanding of bonus program improved, but challenges remain


New findings from Mathematica Policy Research show that a federal program providing bonuses to educators based on their performance had a small, positive impact on student achievement. In the first report to describe the effects of pay-for-performance bonuses within the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) program on student achievement, researchers found that student scores on standardized reading tests rose by 1 percentile point—the equivalent of about three weeks of additional learning. The study also showed similarly positive, but statistically insignificant, improvements in math.


I asked Gary if it made sense to translate a one-point gain into three weeks of learning, and he replied:


Mathematica should stop using that ‘weeks of learning’ metric. They use a calculation that says that average teachers don’t teach very much so that they maybe get the kids to increase their scores from 24 percent passing (if they did not teach anything) to 34 percent in the entire year. So each ‘point’, by that logic, amounts to about a sixth of the year. A teacher with merit pay, then who gets that extra ‘point’ would be teaching 10% more in that year which is an extra three weeks. I wish they would just give the raw score which people could relate to, like there were 50 questions on the test and students of people without merit pay got 25 correct and students of people with merit pay got 26 correct. Then people would be able to put these numbers into perspective and realize that they are not a big deal.





As readers of this blog know, Leonie Haimson is an intrepid activist. Apparently, she neither slumbers nor sleeps (if there is in fact a difference between slumbering and sleeping) when the rights of parents or children are abused.
In this multi-part series, Leonie tells the story of her quest to gain access to New York State Education Department emails and the various entities involved in the authorization of inBloom. That initiative involved public officials, the Gates Foundation, and many others. Its goal was to release personally identifiable information about students without their parent’s consent. The data would be stored in a “cloud” created by Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation (run by Joel Klein), with no guarantees that the data could not be hacked.


In the first entry, Leonie tells how she and allies filed Freedom of Information Law requests (FOIL), in an effort to obtain the emails among the parties that collaborated to bring inBloom to New York. The requests were delayed again and again. One man stood in the way: State Commissioner of Education John King, now the Acting Secretary of Education. On the day after King’s resignation, a large batch of the FOILed emails were released.


In the second entry, Leonie reviews the emails from 2011, when inBloom was in the formative stage.


She begins:


When my FOIL was finally responded to I received hundreds and hundreds of pages with printed out emails to and from NYSED and the Gates Foundation mostly; offering all-expense trips for various meetings about teacher evaluation, data collection, and other issues, as well as a pile of contracts and agreements. It took weeks just to sort them and start to look through them. Sadly there were no emails from Merryl Tisch’s account, as I had asked for; and no emails from most of the state officials whose communications we had FOILed. But we did find out some juicy details….


Her third entry reviews the highlights of 2012. You might think you were in an episode of Downton Abbey, as you observe the rich and powerful planning how to gather and use the data of New York’s children, without their parents’ permission.


She writes:


NYSED’s emails to the Gates Foundation about inBloom and Wireless Generation from 2012 are below; highlights include a dinner party at Merryl Tisch’s home, to which Commissioner King invites an array of corporate reform leaders — to the dismay of Joe Scantlebury of the Gates Foundation. Also amusing is their account when I crashed a Gates-sponsored ” SLC Learning Camp” designed to lure software developers into designing products to take advantage of the wealth of personal student data to be gathered and shared by inBloom.


Her fourth entry details the controversy roiling inBloom and its final death throes.


She introduces this last entry:


This post, the final one with excerpts from the emails I FOILed from NYSED, documents the rise and fall of inBloom; through their communications to officials at the Gates Foundation and assorted consultants and allied organizations. inBloom was formally launched as a separate corporation in Feb. 2013 and died in April 2014, after little more than one year of existence. These fourteen months were marked by myriad public relations and political disasters, as the Gates Foundation’s plans for data collection and disclosure experienced national exposure for the first time and fierce parent opposition in the eight inBloom states and districts outside NY.


Once parents in the rest of the country learned through blogs and news articles of the Foundation’s plans to upload onto a data cloud and facilitate the sharing of their children’s most sensitive personal information with for-profit vendors, their protests grew ever more intense, and inBloom’s proponents were powerless to convince them that the benefits outweighed the risks. Though the Gates Foundation had hired a phalanx of communications and PR advisers, they were never able to come up with a convincing rationale for inBloom’s existence, or one that would justify this “data store”, as they called it, that cost them more than $100 million dollars to create.


The Foundation started the 2013 with a plan to promote inBloom through the media and at the large SXSWedu conference, and to expand the number of inBloom “partners” beyond the original nine states and districts that they said were already committed; instead they watched as every one of these nine states and districts withdrew or claimed they had never planned to share data with inBloom in the first place.


The ending is not surprising: The project failed, but everyone involved got promoted.

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters and Lisa Rudley of the New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) wrote to New York State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and the Board of Regents to protest the latest Gates grant for collection and implementation of student data. They are concerned that the purpose of the grant is to re-start efforts to exploit personally identifiable student data, one of Gates’ passions. In addition, the grant went to a privately funded group (funded largely by Gates) called the Regents Research Fund, which operates as a “shadow government,” with neither transparency nor accountability.


By law, the state is required to have a Chief Privacy Officer, but no qualified person has been appointed. The acting CPO has no background in the field and has resisted complying with parent requests for information about their own children.


The quest for student data is endless:


Our concerns about expanded student data collection are also exacerbated by the fact that we have been unable to get any information about why NYSED officials decided that the personal student data collected by the state should be eventually placed into the State Archives, eight years after a student’s graduation from high school, with no date certain when it will be destroyed. We have asked what restrictions will be placed on access to that data, when if ever the data will be deleted, and have requested a copy of the memo in which state officials apparently determined that these records have “long-term historical value and should be transferred to the State Archives.”vi Neither NYSED nor the State Archives will answer our questions or provide us a copy of this memo, and instead demanded that we FOIL for it.


They point out that the same issue raised parent ire against former Commissioner John King (now the Acting Secretary of Education):


The previous Commissioner faced intense opposition from parents, school board members, district superintendents, teachers and elected officials over his plan to share personal student data with the Gates-funded data store called inBloom Inc. Because of strong public opposition and NYSED’s refusal to change course, the Legislature was forced to pass a new law to block the participation of the state in the inBloom project. The controversy over inBloom was one of the major issues that contributed to the public’s loss of trust in Commissioner King’s leadership, as well as his eventual resignation. We do not want to have to engage in such an intense battle over student privacy once again in relation to this new data collection plan.


Parents should send their own letters to the State Commissioner, the Board of Regents, and legislators. Now is the time to protect your child’s privacy rights!


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