Archives for category: Data

On December 3, I engaged in conversation with Errol Louis of Néw York 1 and Andrea Gabor, Bloomberg Professor of Journalism at Baruch College.

The subject was “the uses and misuses of data in education.” If you have nothing better to do, you might enjoy watching.

Edward F. Berger, blogger in Arizona, knows that our education leaders are obsessed with data, but the one datum they don’t track is what happens to the kids who were pushed out or dropped out of their schools.


He writes:



Where are the follow-up studies of those dropped on their heads by the schools? We don’t have information – at least not in any district or charter schools I know of – about the kids pushed out of schools. We like to call them “dropouts,” but they really are “push outs.” For whatever reason, these kids are damaged and forced out as soon as they reach the legal age to drop them. We need to track them. My state, known as the “Wild West of Charter Schools,” has what may be the highest push-out rate in the US. It is created by ideologies that have failed, but are still in place and never accountable.


There are no funds to repair the damages and help the push-out kids get caught-up. Few community colleges can provide the remedial work and tutoring necessary for these damaged human beings to master the essential skills and pass the GED – or at the least, get the basic skills necessary for employment. As it stands, few employers will hire them. The military doesn’t want them. They have no futures. We are creating a massive welfare generation of very angry alienated citizens.


Parents sold on school choice, pull their children out of comprehensive public schools and enroll them in partial schools in the hope that this choice will deliver a better education. Then two things happen: 1)The partial school works for their child and what has been left out of a comprehensive education may not hurt the child’s chances. 2)The partial school must show progress on test scores and college admissions. Kids that don’t perform well are most often dropped and kicked back to the district school. They arrive back in the district schools way behind the other students who have experienced teachers and a comprehensive curriculum. As they experience the failure built into this reality, they most often drop out, or fade until they are passed on to get rid of them….Tests have been forced on our schools by those who buy into a business model for education and believe more data will make schools accountable and better. The irony is that they have not collected and analyzed the data about children failed by the schools as a result of failed ideologies.


Don’t we have an obligation to follow these young people and find out what happened to them after they left school?

Caitlin Emma, who writes for, here reviews the threat to student privacy posed by online courses.

While students are taking these courses, the provider is gathering a treasure trove of information about each of them. This data may later be sold to marketers, who see students as customers.

There is a federal law that is supposed to protect student privacy, but in 2011-12, Secretary Arne Duncan oversaw a weakening of FERPA regulations, removing key protections.

Companies working together, like Pearson and Knewton, are gathering confidential student data whenever your child goes online.

Why should corporations advertise when they can use Big Data to identify their target audience? Race to the Top required states, if they wanted to be eligible for federal cash, to create a massive student data warehouse, to open more charters, and to adopt “college and career ready standards,” I.e. Common Core. Clever, no? A bonanza for certain corporations.

This is scary stuff.

The third and final installment in the National Council of Thanksgiving Quality (NCTQ) advisories offers helpful advice about how to continue rating your own Thanksgiving dinner (and that of your neighbors).


And don’t forget the Pledge:


Our Pledge (Talking Turkey):

At NCTQ, we will continue to publish reports that represent the terrible quality of your family’s Thanksgiving Dinner. We will continue to support and publish research on standards and best practices for Thanksgiving Dinner, and we will work to impose those standards on your family. We will use whatever research we can find or create to forward these goals. We will lobby politicians and corporate sponsors to achieve our ends. We seek to standardize all Thanksgiving Dinners, so all US families can be sure they are presenting the best Thanksgiving Dinner for their children. We will also create and support private corporations that will derive enormous profits from delivering a high-quality Thanksgiving Dinner to your family. We will not rest until every child has the high-quality Thanksgiving Dinner he or she deserves.

When you hear about NCTQ, think TURKEY!!



Do you want to know how to rate your Thanksgiving dinner?


The National Council on Thanksgiving Quality has established absolutely crucial standards that you can apply in your home to your own Thanksgiving dinner.


Here are some of the standards that make the difference between a highly effective Thanksgiving dinner and a horrible family experience that will bring shame to your household:


Thanksgiving Turkey should have at least a 73% degree of crispiness, with a slightly darker than golden finish on the skin.
• At least ¾ cups of juice should squeeze from each 2.3 pounds of cooked Thanksgiving Turkey.
• Lasagna should not be an ingredient in Thanksgiving Dinners.
• Stove Top Stuffing must be used, without sausage or oysters. Corn meal stuffing may be substituted, but it is not recommended, as corn meal stuffing is not as effective generally as a stuffing made from Stove Top.
• Yams must be fresh, but butter nut squash may be frozen.
• A table of effective food temperatures has been established and must be followed.


Do it right and you can Race to the Top of your neighborhood. Break the rules and you may be subject to a fine or seizure of your home and loss of employment.

This is a must-read on Thanksgiving Day.


Why settle for the mediocre Thanksgiving Day ceremonies when you can raise standards, every child can have a high-quality meal, and no child will be left behind?


You can begin by rating your own family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Jeannie Kaplan was a member of the Denver school board for many years. She is a knowledgeable critic of the steady drumbeat of “reform.” Despite a decade of corporate-style reform, she says, Denver has little to show for it.


But what Denver does have is an elaborate system of metrics. Kaplan explains here how the district has contorted itself to come up with the right balance between “proficiency” and “growth.” The formula gets tweaked from time to time, but the public still doesn’t understand what the metrics mean. Does anyone? Is there any other nation in the world that spends so much time and money trying to develop the right measure of a good school instead of investing in the policies and practices that have been proven by research, like reduced class sizes for struggling students, a full and rich curriculum for all students, strong programs in the arts, wraparound services (including medical care, school nurses, and social workers), and after-school and summer programs.

Horace Meister is a young untenured scholar who writes for this blog.



He writes:



Competing narratives underlie the disputes on how to best improve education for all students. On the one hand we have narratives of testing, accountability, and the free market. On the other hand we have narratives of collaboration, social capital, and public goods. Data are often cited in these debates to support one narrative or the other. But there is a dark art to the use of data, an art at which the powerful forces of corporate reform and school districts operating under their paradigm excel.

Let’s take a look at how reformer think tanks and “research” organizations manipulate data and how school districts mimic those strategies. The New York Times editorial page recently gushed over “Michael Bloomberg, who improved graduation rates and college acceptances in poor neighborhoods by shutting down schools that were essentially dropout factories and starting afresh with smaller schools, new teachers and new leadership [1].” The editorial board does not realize or acknowledge that in New York City “student outcomes have not improved compared to similar districts, which did not implement the market-based reforms [2].” The editorial board also does not realize or acknowledge that the MDRC papers, the “research” often cited as supporting the shuttering of community schools and their replacement with small schools of choice, are deeply biased and flawed [3].

Additional flaws and biases with the MDRC “research” can be added to the top 10 list in the piece cited in endnote #3. MDRC seems to have deliberately biased their sample so as to come to conclusions that support the corporate reform approach [4]. MDRC only looked at high schools– ignoring elementary and middle schools that were also subjected to closure and re-opening (and, in some cases, re-closure and re-re-opening). The data show that the new middle schools that opened under Bloomberg performed worse than the older middle schools, when controlling for student need [5]. The data also show that of “154 public elementary and middle schools that have opened since Mayor Bloomberg took office, nearly 60% had passing rates that were lower than older schools with similar poverty rates [6].”

MDRC only studies new small high schools that opened up by 2008, the very years during which the new small high schools were allowed to exclude special education students and English Language Learners. By now they could have added to their sample additional student cohorts, but they have not. Due to threats of a lawsuit since 2008 new small schools are no longer officially permitted to exclude students [7]. Does MDRC know that without this “competitive advantage” the new small school data wouldn’t look so good? When a purportedly objective “research” organization manages to exclude entire categories of schools and when including the excluded schools would lead to a more objective and less positive evaluation of a policy, we are witnessing the dark art of data manipulation.

MDRC did not consider alternative hypotheses, a basic requirement of the scientific method as taught by every science teacher. So let’s consider an alternative hypothesis for the editorial board of the New York Times. Here is the hypothesis: “Large community high schools and large high schools of choice have better student outcomes than other high schools serving similar students.” Indeed the data support this hypothesis [8]. The New York City Department of Education produces report cards that evaluate schools on their “peer percent of range.” According to this data the largest high schools in New York City, those serving over 2,000 students, outperform peers by +14.7% on weighted graduation rate (a metric that takes into account the quality of the diploma such as whether or not it is Regents-endorsed or an advanced Regents diploma) and by +20.1% on college readiness [9].

Rather than favoring certain types of schools over others and forcing schools to compete with one another, as Bloomberg did and the New York Times editorial board wants to continue, let’s have schools collaborate and work together in an equitable policy environment [10]. This approach to creating great schools is supported by the (non-manipulated) data [11].

Unfortunately, school districts operating under the corporate reform paradigm do not want to follow such an approach. Instead they manipulate data in ways that are biased towards their ideological agenda. As we just saw, large high schools in New York City do a great job on college and career readiness metrics. This must have put Bloomberg’s Department of Education in a bind. They had all the data showing that the large high schools were outperforming their peers in college and career readiness, an important part of what high schools are all about. But they couldn’t allow the new small high schools created under Bloomberg to look bad. So when including college and career readiness metrics in the school report cards they only allowed them to count as 10% of the total school grade (and not 20% or 25% or 30%– percentages that would seem more important given the importance of college and career readiness). This minimized the negative effect that these metrics would have on the grades of schools created under Bloomberg [12].

This sort of manipulation is not uncommon. Corporate reform school districts believe in privatization and charter schools. So they do not address how creaming and the sky-high attrition rates at many charter schools explains their “results [13].” They believe in accountability and evaluating schools. So they grade schools using metrics that are deeply flawed and penalize schools that serve the neediest students [14]. They believe in accountability and testing. So they pretend not to manipulate cut-scores on exams for political ends [15].

Next time you see data cited, even it is from your own school district, question it.







[4] The following criticisms are aimed solely at the MDRC claim that the portfolio strategy as employed by the Bloomberg administration was a success. Small schools, if implemented fairly in an equitable policy environment, may provide a level of personalization and support that is valuable for many students. Large schools can also offer personalization and support through smaller structures such as academies or advisories. But this is a topic distinct from the specific one discussed here.





[9] The high schools with over 2,000 students run the full gamut, from community high schools that serve all local students to selective high schools where admission is based on exams to comprehensive high schools serving students who choice-in from across the city. The Bloomberg administration tried to close some of these schools. The peer percent of range metric is designed to compare each school only to other schools serving students of comparable incoming performance and demographics.



[12] Note that this strategy of developing metrics in such a way that they favor specific school types and policies is distinct from the outright corruption of Tony Bennett, the former Indiana education commissioner, who changed the grades of individual schools.




You are invited to a discussion between journalist Errol Louis and me at The CUNY J School, 219 W 40th St, New York, NY 10018 on December 3 from 10-11:30 am.

We will discuss the uses and abuses of educational data. We will also talk about such topics as Gov. Cuomo’s recent remarks about breaking up the public school “monopoly”, teacher evaluations, Common Core, and respond to questions.

The event was organized by Professor Andrea Gabor, Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism
Baruch College/CUNY

To reserve a seat, please RSVP to Professor Andrea Gabor at

Jason France, the blogger known as Crazy Crawfish, calls attention to dangerous losses of data and computers when charter schools close. The Recovery School District, which oversees charters, relies on the charters to make sure that computers have been wiped clean of student data.


But when the charters close, they have no employees and no longer exist.


The risk, he says, is not only the release of student private data, but the state’s lists of people whose children qualify for free or reduced price lunch. A public school has people assigned to protect this data. When charters close, no one protects it.


He writes:



The RSD has been in existence since 2004. It has taken the state 10 years, and a concerned citizen, for the department to realize student data needs to be protected, and that charter schools that have been disbanded and have no employees are not the best custodians of data or the future of our children.


The former spokesman for Future Is Now, which was running John McDonogh, when it was shut down by the State, said it best and in a way so obvious it makes you wonder how RSD could not have foreseen problems with its approach. Namely, to expect charters that no longer have employees to follow protocol is ludicrous.


Former Future Is Now spokesman Gordon Wright said the organization had no response because it no longer exists.


Many charters, like Future is Now/John McDonogh, have been shut down for acting irresponsibly. This school is a saga all in and of itself, and was closed before its charter was officially up for review. How ridiculous and irresponsible is it to expect poorly run, or irresponsible organizations to follow proper protocol when they may not have money to pay salaries or any employees to follow said protocol and have not exhibited the best judgment when they were in operation?!?


Dozens of charters have closed down and changed hands, and even more RSD direct run schools have come and gone. By their own estimates, RSD has lost control of over 1600 items, including laptops. Those are the items they lost or miscoded in the last 4 years. They have lost so many items over the 10 years they have been in operation there is probably no way to account for them all.”


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