Archives for category: Data

Reader Chiara Duggan says that study after study shows that charters and vouchers demonstrate that data don’t change their minds. She is right. The charters that get high test scores systematically exclude the most challenging students. Some public schools get higher test scores because they serve affluent districts. The differences between charters, vouchers, and public schools tend to be small if they enroll the same students. But the Status a quo pays large numbers of people to argue that the Status Quo–the destruction of an essential institution of a democratic society–is “working” and has positive effects. When the test scores don’t support their argument, they shift the goal post and claim that the private schools–the charters and vouchers–have higher graduation rates. They take care not to mention attrition rates, which are very high. In the case of Milwaukee, the “independent” evaluators from the Walton-funded University of Arkansas quiet.y acknowledged that 56% of those who started in voucher schools left before graduation.

Chiara writes:

Oh, data doesn’t matter to ed reformers. It’s a belief system. Private is better than public. You can’t move someone off a belief with numbers.

How many times have you see a voucher study like this over the years? Once a year for two decades? Yet Democrats and Republicans and paid lobbyists and pundits still promote publicly-funded private schools over public schools. Vouchers have expanded every single year in this country under ed reformers. There isn’t a scintilla of evidence that they’re any better than the public schools they undermine and then replace, but it simply doesn’t matter.

“Students attending private schools receiving taxpayer-funded vouchers in a new statewide program did not score as high overall as public school students on state tests in reading and math, according to data released Tuesday by the Department of Public Instruction.”

It doesn’t matter what public schools do; improve, don’t improve, whatever. They are the designated punching bags for the punditry set. It’s knee-jerk at this point. Heck, a lot of people are PAID to bash them. It’s a smart career move.

I think this may inadvertently benefit public school students. As it becomes more and more clear that privately-run schools don’t outscore public schools in any meaningful way, the goalposts will move, and standardized test scores will no longer be the measure. I think it’s already happening. Ed reformers may actually do something that benefits public schools, and deemphasize the lunatic, obsessive fealty to test scores. They’ll do it it only to defend their own schools, but public schools may benefit collaterally.

Read more:


This reader, a lawyer in Mine, asks important, thoughtful questions that go to the heart of the current debate over the future of education–from pre-kindergarten through graduate school. Is technology now promoting the demand for objective, measurable means and ends? Is the technological culture at odds with the humane goals of the Western intellectual tradition? Do we treasure only what can be measured? Or do we recognize that what we treasure most can seldom be quantified, unless it is money? Should we give up and let the corporate reformers place us and our children into “the market”? Or do we resist and fight for the value of every child, for the value of deep and reflective learning, and for the principles of democracy?

He writes:

I recently finished reading two books, Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society and Neil Postman’s Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, both of which are rather depressing for those of us who seek intellectual quality in education.

According to both authors, we have moved into a technological culture that is driven by the unstoppable quest “efficiency” and the unwavering belief that a technique (including both methods of action and specific devices) exists that will provide “maximum efficiency” for any task. Modern, so-called “neo-classical”, economic theory is based on this very idea. (Although I agree with Noam Chomsky that “neo-classical” is neither new nor classical.) Not surprisingly then, the dogmas of neo-classcial economists are treated like the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation. As Ellul notes, the problem is a sociological and cultural one, one that we cannot simply “correct” by modifying our attitudes or values. Only a radical change in society can really change our culture.

So, when I look at the reformers, I have begun to see that they are the champions of the technological culture (technopoly) and are applying the values and tenets of that culture to our schools. (Which, as T.S. Elliot once remarked, are the repositories of our culture.) Since neo-classcial dogma teaches the rational inerrancy of the “the market” in determining the most efficient practices, then schools must be privatized. The market needs “objective measures” of school, teacher, and student performance. Since computers can manipulate data in an “objective” way, then we must structure our schools to function in accordance with computer-based evaluations of schools, students, and teachers. To do anything else is, by definition, irrational.

To defeat this, we must start to offer a different vision. A vision that puts humans and human development ahead of “efficiency” and “rationality”. That’s a tall order. For me, it requires returning to the basic values of the Western intellectual tradition, since our current cultural monster arose from the abuses of modern thought that displaced the ideas of the Enlightenment after the Industrial Revolution. I think we can do this, but it will a long, hard road.

Education Week reports that inBloom is going out of business.

The company was started with a grant of $100 million from the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, to gather confidential student data and store it on an electronic “cloud.”

The technology for collection and storage of student data belonged to Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of Amplify, run by Joel Klein and owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Parental objections were strong wherever inBloom planned to gather data.

The last state to sever ties with inBloom was New York, where the Legislature barred the State Education Department from sharing data with inBlooom.

See this story in the New York Times and you will understand why parents got angry. InBloom would have collected 400 data points about students: “But some of the details seemed so intimate — including family relationships (“foster parent” or “father’s significant other”) and reasons for enrollment changes (“withdrawn due to illness” or “leaving school as a victim of a serious violent incident”) — that parents objected, saying that they did not want that kind of information about their children transferred to a third-party vendor.”

The national leader of the fight was Leonie Haimson, leader of a New York City-based group called Class Size Matters, who testified across the nation and alerted parents to the possible breach of their children’s confidential data.

Sherm Koons left this comment. Check out Sherm’s blog, Tales from the Classroom. He is a veteran high school English teacher in Ohio.


Down the Rabbit Hole with PARCC.

It’s taken me a while to begin to wrap my head around what’s really going on with PARCC and what makes it so absolutely wrong, but standing in the hall after school today talking to some fellow teachers I think got a glimpse. As we discussed the inappropriateness of the exams for our students, it occurred to me that actually it all makes perfect sense if your goal is to generate the most data that you possibly can. If you believe that, given enough data, you can predict human behavior, environmental, societal and other factors, and all the infinite variables of existence to a degree that mimics reality, of course you would want the most data that you could get. And you become obsessed with data. And eventually you lose track of what you initially were hoping to measure. It becomes data for data’s sake. And soon it has absolutely nothing to do with education, students, or anything human. And as you disappear further and further down the rabbit hole, you can’t understand why nobody gets it but you. The reason we don’t “get it” is that IT MAKES NO SENSE. You have become lost in your never-ending quest for data. You are delusional. And you must be stopped.

Robert Shepherd, a frequent commenter on the blog, is an experienced veteran in the world of education publishing, having developed curriculum, textbooks, and assessments.



He writes:


The New York legislature just voted to dump inBloom. But Diane Ravitch’s first post about that subjected noted, wisely, that inBloom was dead “for Now.”


Don’t think for a moment that Big Data has been beaten. I am going to explain why. I hope that you will take the time and effort to follow what I am going to say below. It’s a little complicated, but it’s a great story. It’s a birth narrative–the astonishing but, I think, undeniably true story of the birth of the Common Core.


The emergence of the Internet presented a challenge to the business model of the big educational publishers. It presented the very real possibility that they might go the way of the Dodo and the Passenger Pigeon. Why? I can point you, right now, to about 80 complete, high-quality, FREE open-source textbooks on the Net–ones written by various professors–textbooks on geology, law, astronomy, physics, grammar, biology, every conceivable topic in mathematics.


Pixels are cheap. The emergence of the possibility of publishing via the Internet, combined with the wiring of all public schools for broadband access, removed an important barrier to entry to the educational publishing business–paper, printing, and binding costs. In the Internet Age, small publishers with alternative texts could easily flourish. Some of those–academic self publishers interested not in making money but in spreading knowledge of their subjects–would even do that work for free. Many have, already. There are a dozen great free intro statistics texts with support materials on the web today.


Think of what Wikipedia did to the Encyclopedia Britannica. That’s what open-source textbooks were poised to do to the K-12 educational materials monopolists. The process had already begun in college textbook publishing. The big publishers were starting to loose sales to free, open-source competitors. The number of open-source alternatives would grow exponentially, and the phenomenon would spread down through the grade levels. Soon. . . .


How were the purveyors of textbooks going to compete with FREE?
What’s a monopolist to do in such a situation?


Answer: Create a computer-adaptive ed tech revolution. The monopolists figured out that they could create computer-adaptive software keyed to student responses IN DATABASES that they, AND THEY ALONE, could get access to. No open-source providers admitted.


Added benefit: By switching to computerized delivery of their materials, the educational publishing monopolists would dramatically reduce their costs and increase their profits, for the biggest items on the textbook P&L, after the profits, are costs related to the physical nature of their products–costs for paper, printing, binding, sampling, warehousing, and shipping.


By engineering the computer-adaptive ed tech revolution and having that ed tech keyed to responses in proprietary databases that only they had access to, the ed book publishers could kill open source in its cradle and keep themselves from going the way of Smith Corona and whoever it was that manufactured telephone booths.


Doing that would prevent the REAL DISRUPTIVE REVOLUTION in education that the educational publishers saw looming–the disruption of THEIR BUSINESS MODEL posed by OPEN-SOURCE TEXTBOOKS.


A little history:

Just before its business entirely tanked because of computers, typewriter manufacturer Smith Corona put up a website, the Home page of which read, “And on the 8th day God created Smith Corona.” 2007 was the 50th anniversary of the Standard and Poors Index. On the day the S&P turned 50, 70 percent of the companies that were originally on the Index no longer existed. They had been killed by disruptions that they didn’t see coming.
The educational materials monopolists were smarter. They saw coming at them the disruption of their business model that open-source textbooks would bring about. And so they cooked up computer-adaptive ed tech keyed to standards, with responses in proprietary databases that they would control, to prevent that. The adaptive ed tech/big data/big database transition would maintain and even strengthen their monopoly position.


But to make that computer-adaptive ed tech revolution happen and so prevent open-source textbooks from killing their business model, the publishers would first need ONE SET OF NATIONAL STANDARDS. That’s why they paid to have the Common [sic] Core [sic] created. That one set of national standards would provide the tags for their computer-adaptive software. That set of standards would be the list of skills that the software would keep track of in the databases that open-source providers could not get access to. Only they would have access to the BIG DATA.


As I have been explaining for a long, long time now, here and elsewhere, the Common Core was the first step in A BUSINESS PLAN.


Bill Gates described that business plan DECADES ago. He’s an extraordinarily bright man. Visionary.


So, that’s the story, in a nutshell. And it’s not an education story. It’s a business story.


And a WHOLE LOTTA EDUCRATS haven’t figured that out and have been totally PLAYED. They are dutifully working for PARCC or SBAC and dutifully attending conferences on implementing the “new, higher standards” and are basically unaware that they have been USED to implement a business plan. They don’t understand that the national standards were simply a necessary part of that plan.


And here’s the kicker: The folks behind this plan also see it is a way to reduce, dramatically, the cost of U.S. education. How? Well, the biggest cost, by far, in education is teachers’ salaries and benefits. But, imagine 300 students in a room, all using software, with a single “teacher” walking around to make sure that the tablets are working and to assist when necessary. Good-enough training for the children of the proles. Fewer teacher salaries. More money for data systems and software.


Think of the money to be saved.


And the money to be made.


The wrinkle in the publishers’ plan, of course, is that people don’t like the idea of a single, Orwellian national database. From the point of view of the monopolists, that’s a BIG problem. The database is, after all, the part of the plan that keeps the real disruption, open-source textbooks, from happening–the disruption that would end the traditional textbook business as surely as MP3 downloads ended the music CD business and video killed the radio star.


So, with the national database dead, for now, the deformers have to go to plan B.


What will they do? Here’s something that’s VERY likely: They will sell database systems state by state, to state education departments, or district by district. Those database systems will simply be each state’s or district’s system (who could object to that?), and only approved vendors (guess who?) will flow through each. Which vendors? Well, the ones with the lobbying bucks and with the money to navigate whatever arcane procedures are created by the states and districts implementing them, with the monopolists’ help, of course. So, the new systems will work basically as the old textbook adoption system did, as an educational materials monopoly protection plan.


All this is part of a business plan put in place to prevent the open-source textbook revolution from destroying the business model of the educational materials monopolists.


In business, such thinking as I have outlined, above, is called Strategic Planning.


So, to recap: to hold onto their monopolies in the age of the Internet, the publishers would use the Big Data ed tech model, which would shut out competitors, and for that, they would need a single set of national standards. The plan that Gates had long had for ed tech proved to be just the ticket. Gates’s plan, and the need to disrupt the open-source disruption before it happened, proved to be a perfect confluence of interest–a confluence that would become a great river of green.


The educational publishing monopolists would not only survive but thrive. There would be billions to be made in the switch from textbooks to Big Data and computer-adaptive ed tech. Billions and billions and billions.


And that’s why you have the Common [sic] Core [sic].


In case you didn’t know it already, privacy is dead. The
National Security Agency has asserted the power to listen to your
phone calls and read your emails.

Now we
learn from Pearson and the esteemed (Sir) Michael Barber (the
architect of a philosophy known as “Deliverology”) that the
capability to monitor the actions, behaviors,
thoughts of every student is at hand. We are all about to take a
dive into the Digital Ocean, whether we want to or not. Big data
will tell Pearson and other vendors whatever they want to know.
They will know more about our children and our grandchildren
than we do. Arne Duncan loosened the federal privacy regulations in
2011, so there is no limit on the information that Pearson and
others will collect. But never forget: It is all for the

Peter Greene shared his thoughts about Pearson’s digital ocean here.

he writes:

“Barber assures us that personalized learning at scale will be possible, and again I want to point out that we already have a system that can totally do that (though of course the present system does not provide corporations such as Pearson nearly enough money). I will not pretend that the traditional US public ed system always provides the personalized learning it should, but when reformy types suggest that’s a reason to scrap the whole system, I wonder if they also buy a new car every time the old car runs out of gas (plus, in that metaphor, government is repeatedly pouring sand into the gas tank).

“But no. There will have to be revolution:

“…schools will need to have digital materials of high quality, teachers will have to change how they teach and how they themselves learn…

“This shtick I recognize, because it is as old as education technology. Every software salesman who ever set foot in a school used this one– “This will be really great tool if you just change everything about how you work.” No. No, no, no. You do not tell a carpenter, “Hey, newspaper is a great building material as long as you change your expectations about how strong and protective a house is supposed to be.”

“You pick a tool because it can help you do the job. You do not change the job so that it will fit the tool…..Barber praises the authors of the paper for their “aspirational vision” of what success in schools would look like.

“They see teaching,learning and assessment as different aspects of one integrated process, complementing each other at all times, in real time;

To which I reply, “Wow! Amazing! Do they also envision water that is wet? Wheels that are round?”

San Antonio is set for a major expansion of privately managed charter schools. Several national chains will open there, welcomed by the mayor and the business community. The San Antonio Express News published an opinion column by an advocate for the corporate charter chains, but refused to print Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig’s succinct rebuttal.

Despite the blue-sky promises of the charter industry, Heilig writes, the vast majority of Latino and African-American students are prepared for college in public schools. The Stanford CREDO study showed that charters in Texas underperform the state’s public schools. Don’t believe the tales of 100% graduation rates and 100% college-admission rates, he warns. They mask high attrition rates.

For example:

“Same story with BASIS. At the original campus of BASIS charter school in Tucson, Ariz., the class of 2012 had 97 students when they were 6th graders. By the time those students were seniors, their numbers had dwindled to 33, a drop of 66 percent.

“So what happens to families who get churned out of charters like KIPP and BASIS? They end up back at their neighborhood public schools, who welcome them with open arms as they do all students, regardless of race, class, circumstance or level of ability.”

Why not tell the truth about charters? They do not accept the same students. They have high attrition rates. When they enroll the same students, they get the same results, so they get rid of low-performing students. It works for some kids, who can attend a schol where there are few if any kids with disabilities, English learners, or troublemakers. But it creates a dual system that harms public education.

New York State cut all ties with inBloom, the controversial data-mining project sponsored by the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation.

The legislature, which totally ignored parent demands for new faces on the New York Board of Regents, bowed to parent protests against the State Education Department’s determination to share confidential student data with inBloom.

In this post, Leonie Haimson describes how parents organized–not only in New York, but wherever inBloom planned to gather confidential student data–and fought back to protect their children’s privacy.

Give Haimson credit for being the spark plug that ignited parent resistance across the nation.

Normally, the federal law called FERPA would have prevented the release of the data that inBloom planned to collect, but in 2011, the U.S. Department of Education changed the regulations to permit inBloom and other data-mining to access student data without parental consent.

Gates and Carnegie contracted with Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation, and the plan was to put millions of student records in an electronic data managed by

No one was able to assure that the data could never be hacked.

In every state and district where inBloom thought it was operative, parents brought pressure on public officials, and the contract was severed.

At present, inBloom has no known clients.

But as Haimson points out, this could change.

The thirst for data mining seems to be insatiable, and as I posted not long ago, the president of Knewton boasted that education is one sector that is ripe for data mining and that his company and Pearson would be using online tests to gather information about every student and storing it.

Protecting student privacy must remain high on every parent’s agenda.

A frequent commentator, Bob Shepherd, with many years in curriculum development, education publishing, and assessment, offers sage advice:

“The tests are infallible. They are objective measures. And we know that because they produce data. And not just any old data. Data with numbers and stuff. Very rigorously determined raw-to-scaled-score conversions and cut scores and proficiencies. Super-dooper, charterific, infallible data. Lots and lots of it. I mean lots. Tons. You wouldn’t believe the data!!! Data for days. Rivers of data. Big, big data.

“If the new tests show that 70 percent of students are failures, that’s because 70 percent of students are failures. And if the tests show that 70 percent of our students are failures, that’s because 70 percent of our teachers are failures too.

“You see? The data show that those shiftless, ungritful kids and teachers just can’t measure up to “higher standards” produced by folks with VAST experience as educators. Folks like David Coleman.

“And that’s why teachers need to be replaced with educational technology.

“And that’s why the public schools need to be closed down and replaced with private schools and charter schools.

“And that’s why the country needs to spend about 50 billion dollars making the transition to the Common Core and Big Data.

“Because the Common Core data show a 70 percent failure rate!!!

“Because numbers in a report, however they got there, are never wrong!

“Why are they never wrong? Because they are data!

“data data data data data

“You see?

“It couldn’t POSSIBLY BE that the tests are poorly conceived and written. It couldn’t possibly be that the standards are likewise poorly conceived and written. It couldn’t possibly be that what’s being called data-driven decision making is a variety of NUMEROLOGY.

“Because the masters who designed these tests and these standards are infallible. They are the best makers of tests and standards (well, if you use those terms very, very loosely) that a plutocrat’s money can buy, that is, if the plutocrat is in a hurry, and if he doesn’t really give the matter much thought. You know, if he does this in the way that ordinary, nonplutocratic folks might, say, order up a pizza.

“Glad I could straighten that out for you.

“Just remember: The DATA show that everybody failed and needs to be fired and that everything needs to be privatized.

“Oh, and lots and lots of new software and data systems need to be bought. I mean, billions of dollars worth. Billions and billions.

“You’re welcome.”

If the answer is yes, please come to one or both of the two
sessions where I am speaking on April 3. I will give the
John Dewey Society lecture at the
Convention Center, 100 Level, Room 114, from 4-7 pm. (Lots of time
for discussion). My topic: “Does Evidence
Fair warning: The room holds only 600
people. Before the Dewey lecture, I will join Philadelphia parent
activist Helen Gym and Carl Grant of the University of Wisconsin
(chair) in a special Presidential session from 2:15 to 3:45,
on the same level in Room 121B The
title of the session is:
Rising to the
Challenges of Quality and Equality:

The Promise of a Public
If you join me at the early session,
you will have to race with me to the lecture, and the room may be


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