Archives for the month of: February, 2014

An earlier post this morning offered advice about how to read reports about charter school data. A commenter complained that the data in the post specifically referring to Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy was incomplete and therefore misleading.I asked the author of the post, who works at the headquarters of the Néw York City Department of Education, to respond. The author worked at Tweed during the Bloomberg era.

Here is the response:

“Success Academy’s Numbers

“Let’s start by saying that all analysis of Success Academy is difficult because they refuse to be transparent with their data. When the New York State Comptroller attempted to audit Success Academy’s use of public money, Success Academy sued to prevent the audit. And Success Academy is, believe it or not, even less transparent with the data that would answer the questions in How to Analyze False Claims about Charter Schools. Every citizen should encourage Success Academy to openly share their data with the New York City Independent Budget Office or the New York City Comptroller’s Office so that a full evaluation of their numbers can be done.

“What do we know? We know that other analyses have found a similar result as the one shared in the essay. Very few of the Success Academy schools have been around long enough to establish a record. The ones that have show very, very, very high attrition rates.

One such analysis found “at Success, the pattern is similar, if not more stark. Not only do its classes contain disproportionately few students with disabilities and English language learners (ELLs), but their numbers almost invariably decrease with each passing year. This should have no uncertain effect on test scores. Clearly, the ranks of students with disabilities consistently dwindle. The pattern for students learning English is less consistent but equally egregious. In the first two years of available data, there were hardly any ELLs. In 2010 Success suddenly came up with a nearly representative portion of these students, but their numbers more than halved by the next year. (2012-13 data isn’t yet disaggregated by student demographic.)”

Insideschools reported that “according to figures on the school’s New York State Report Card, 83 students entered kindergarten in 2006-07, the school’s first year of operation. When that class reached 4th grade in 2010-11, it had only 53 students — a drop of 36 percent. Harlem Success also took in a 1st grade class with 73 students in 2006. When that group reached 5th grade, it too had shrunk appreciably — by 36 percent. The attrition accelerated as the classes advanced. The 2006-07 1st grade class, for example, did not shrink at all as it entered 2nd grade, but saw one sharp falloff between 2nd and 3rd and another between 4th and 5th.”

Yet another analysis found something similar “So the next thing I looked at was their student attrition. If they ‘lost’ many students, these scores are tainted. Now there is only one Success school that has been around since 2007. That school started with 83 kindergarteners and 73 first graders. Those cohorts just tested in 6th and 7th grade, respectively. The school has ‘lost’ a big chunk of those original 156 kids. Of those 73 first graders in 2007, only 35 took the seventh grade test. Of the 83 kindergarteners, only 47 took the sixth grade test last spring. Overall, they have ‘lost’ 47% of the original two cohorts. If this is one of the costs of having such high test scores, I’m not sure if it is worth it.”

“Success Academy rather uniquely tends to open elementary schools that only serve grades K-3 or K-4. This suggests that their attrition rate is high enough that it becomes necessary to combine multiple feeder elementary schools into a single middle school by 5th (or even 4th grade). It has been noted “it may be significant that the bulk of the attrition at Harlem Success Academy 1 seems to have come in the tested grades.”

“The essay analyzed the attrition rate at Success Academy using a different data set, namely the –testing cohort data. This may do a better job of accounting for Success Academy’s approach of holding many students back a grade level which creates a 3rd grade bulge as those students don’t move on to 4th grade. As clearly stated in the essay this method assumes that the size of each entering class is relatively stable from year to year, as they tend to be in the established Success Academy schools. The results are similar to those of other approaches which find attrition rates approaching or exceeding 50% by the end of middle school.

“Success Academy, more specifically Eva Moscowitz, is at a crossroads—they can choose to cancel school, to protest, to walk over bridges, to travel to Albany, to buy TV ads. Or they can choose to be transparent and open and conduct an honest conversation about education, equity and access for all children.”

Auditors are supposed to audit, but when the auditor for the voucher schools said they had some serious problems, the voucher advocates said he had overstepped his bounds. They don’t want no stinking audits. They just want to keep diverting public money to unaccountable schools.

Once again, the Louisiana legislative auditor’s December report on the state’s school voucher program has come in for criticism.

At a hearing last week, state Sens. Mike Walsworth, R-Monroe, and Robert Adley, R-Benton, said Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera had wandered into the area of proposing policy rather than simply determining if a government agency is complying with state law. Similar objections to the audit were raised last year.

Purpera was criticized because he suggested legislators consider revising the voucher program to include a requirement that nonpublic schools participating in it be academically acceptable.

It didn’t seem to matter to Purpera’s critics that he was within the bounds of the state law that created his office. It says audits may include “evaluations of the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness” of the programs being audited.

Though public schools may take part in the voucher program, their participation is just about non-existent. Public schools that want to accept voucher students have to be rated A or B by the state, but no similar rules apply to private schools.

John White, the TFA-trained State Superintendent said he would be the judge of quality.

The auditor’s report was not reassuring.

Last year, 30 percent of the 118 participating schools overcharged the state, asking for more money than the school’s regular tuition. Five schools had voucher students who were not economically eligible for the program. Auditors were unable to perform all of their audit procedures at a whopping 97 percent of schools because the schools had failed to keep a separate account of the use of voucher funds.

Here’s the real eye-opener: 18 private schools have student bodies where voucher students make up more than 50 percent of the enrollment — 13 in New Orleans, four in East Baton Rouge Parish and one in Jefferson Parish. Voucher enrollment at one New Orleans school is at 87 percent; another six of those 18 schools have more than 70 percent of their students on vouchers.

Vouchers are supposed to give parents an alternative by letting them choose schools that have proven themselves in a competitive market. But it’s not hard to conclude that many of the participating schools might have been crushed by market pressures if it weren’t for voucher money keeping them afloat.

Education activists from both political parties are trying to save public education in Indiana.
They created a Facebook page called “Parents & Educators against the Daniels and Bennett Education Reforms.” It presently has 6,000 followers but expects that number to grow as more people learn about it.
Remember that it was a bipartisan group of voters who turned out corporate reform leader Tony Bennett, who subsequently resigned as superintendent in Florida in the wake of a grade-fixing scandal in Indiana on his watch.
An administrator of the Facebook page sent this message:
Dear Diane,
We have an amazing opportunity in Indiana to dispose of one of our biggest threats to Public Education in our Primary Election in May.
Representative Bob Behning, Chairman of the House Education Committee and former ALEC State Chairman, has a challenger!
We know that you are aware of the damage Behning has caused Public Education in our state, as you have written about him in your posts.
We are asking for your help in deposing him in May.
A Republican named Michael S. Scott ran against Behning in the Primary in 2012, and, while he obviously did not unseat Behning, he had a respectable showing.
Mr. Scott has now thrown his hat into this May’s election. In Indiana, a voter has to declare a party before voting in the Primary.
If we can convince a number of Democrats to declare “Republican,” they will be given the Republican ballot and vote for Scott and against Behning.
There are really no “down sides” for a Democrat voter to do this. In the November General Election, no distinction is made. They can vote for all the Democrats that they want to—even vote straight ticket, if they want. They may have difficulty running for office, in the future, as a Democrat and they will not be asked to work the polls for the Democrat party. These two problems affect almost no one.
The “Up sides” are: *We can send the clearest/loudest message of Hoosier support for Public Schools since Glenda Ritz’s victory over Tony Bennett to our Governor and Lawmakers ; *We can force Behning to spend his campaign funds (largely donated by corporate reformers) on a Primary, thus.. *Demonstrating to these corporate reformers that their money is wasted on Hoosier candidates. Diane, we need your help in making these points to Democrats. As you have long known, the fight to preserve Public Education has to be directed at both parties, as both have elements within who seek to destroy our schools.
That word is getting across in Indiana.
What we need now is for someone with your knowledge, your credibility, and your influence to help all understand that THIS CAUSE IS BIGGER AND MORE IMPORTANT than party affiliation and longtime habits. Many Republicans began to understand that concept when they crossed-over and voted for Glenda Ritz in the 2012 General Election. It may be a little more difficult to convince Democrats to declare “I am a Republican” in the primary so that they can vote for Scott! (It should be added here that there appears to be no Democrat vs. Democrat race in District 91, at any level. So, Democrats would not miss an opportunity to select a candidate for their party by declaring “Republican.”)
We respectfully ask your help. Please vote to support public education in Indiana!

Peter Greene reports on a debate where Michelle Rhee and Dennis Van Roekel, among others, team up to defend the Common Core standards. They are, he notes, the sharpest minds of our generation. Oh dear.

The best criticism emanates from some of the CC defenders, as when Charles Barone of “Democrats for Education Reform” (the hedge fund managers’ advocacy group for charters and high stakes testing of Other People’s Children) defended the Common Core and called them the “Vietnam of educational issues.” Apt phrasing for a program that has become so toxic that it’s future is in doubt.

A reader in Chicago passed only a YouTube video of what might laughingly be called “professional development” in Chicago, sponsored by the Chicago Public Schools.

Grown men and women chant in unison the very words of the “staff developer.”

I can’t believe the school system pays for such foolishness, nor that it subjects teachers–who went to college and in most cases have earned advanced degrees–to such inane practices.

CPS should demand its money back and buy art supplies.
I love how she has them chant “By choosing…Flexibly…From a range of strategies..”
The irony literally jumps the shark at that moment. No one in that room was choosing flexibly.
Was this being done as an example of how to do the worst professional development ever?

I hope the person who hired these people will be fired immediately.

Is it the intention of CPS to turn its staff of teachers into chanting robots?

This just boggles the mind.

What a beautiful essay this is!

Bernard Fryshman teaches physics. He describes the magic of the classroom, the anticipation of the young people looking to him for guidance, knowledge, wisdom, insight, discussion, and, yes, humor.

What he describes cannot happen by sitting in front of a computer watching someone lecture or seeing videos.

MOOCs are allegedly the wave of the future, and surely they have a place for some people.

But read Fryshman and you will see where the riches of learning are buried in plain sight.

What he describes is so beautifully written that I have trouble finding the right excerpt, but try this one, then read the whole thing yourself:

Experienced instructors know how to address the blank stare, and are able to evoke expression from students who seat themselves at the back of the room. Reinforcement, encouragement, constructive argumentation all help develop patterns of thinking and behavior which will long outlast the specific topic being taught.

A traditional college education usually comprises 40 or so separate courses offered by as many different faculty members, each of whom will bring to bear those qualities and strategies appropriate to the subject, reflecting his/her character and talents. Students will be brought into discussions where they will venture opinions – and defend them without anger. Most will learn to evaluate disagreeable perspectives and remain friends with both proponents and opponents.

They will learn how to change their minds, to deal with mistakes, and to respect the rights of others.

Faculty members know how to jostle students into active learning. As often as not they are enthusiastic advocates as well as practitioners of the subject at hand, and students will experience the passion as well as the process of a presentation.

Learning from a scholar enables a student to acquire knowledge in an organized framework from someone who has assimilated so much, and knows how to provide a roadmap that is uniquely effective for each particular group.

A scholar knows how to form connections with other courses and plant ideas and insights that will bear fruit in a subsequent course, or later in life. Students must be taught how to approach the unknown, the impossible, the unanticipated and the future. It is the competent, confident scholar/faculty member who will see the need for this kind of learning and have the ability to present it.

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

With any experimental program, the question is always “is it replicable and affordable?”

If the program works only on a small scale, it may not be replicable or scalable.

In this discussion of Houston’s Apollo program , we learn that the program started with mass firings and intensive tutoring in math. The designer of the program said it might close the achievement gap in three years, but that seems optimistic. Math scores went up, though not as much in following years, but reading scores did not.

This may be the most important article you read this week or month or year.

Crack investigative journalist David Sirota, who blew open the story of the financing of the PBS series on pensions, now demonstrates the five rules of what he calls “native advertising.”

In this case, the same John Arnold Foundation that underwrote the PBS series with $3.5 million, underwrote a report by the Brookings Institution on the need to rein in pensions of public sector workers.

Sirota demonstrates that this is far from accurate, that there are other views, but that Brookings did not present a balanced account. It added to the echo chamber of those who want to cut pensions but ignore huge tax cuts for corporations.

Most telling is the David vs. Goliath claim, where the rich corporate sector presents itself as the little guy against the powerful unions.

He writes:

“Rule 4: Portray the native advertiser as an underdog and its work as heroic, all while ignoring facts to portray the native advertiser’s opponents as an evil Goliath

“The best native advertising flips the script. It casts the monied native advertiser as the earnest underdog David and the native advertiser’s disadvantaged opponent as the big bad Goliath. The Arnold-funded Brookings paper does exactly this.

“For instance, the paper asserts that “public employee unions are one of the most—if not the most—powerful political actors in state politics.” Readers are expected to believe that this makes unions the omnipotent villain that needs to be thwarted by poor powerless corporations, even though that’s the opposite of what the data show.

“According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, unions have spent a combined $1.7 billion on state politics since 2000. That’s a lot – but it is dwarfed by the $8.1 billion spent on state politics by the business sector in that same period. Those numbers are hardly surprising or secret – they track the same rough ratio that exists at the federal level.”

It is never too soon to start Racing to the Top. It is never to soon to warn your toddler about the utter irrevance of studying useless subjects like Art History, Philosophy, or Literature.

Ask EduShyster. She will explain it to you.

“Chetty, chetty bang bang

“Chances are, your career-ready kindergartner LUVS his or her teacher. [Brief pause while writer shakes her head slowly and dramatically for effect.] You see, it may be time for a tough little talk with your youngster in which you explain that a *nice* teacher and a *highly effective* teacher are not one and the same, no matter how sweet she was when you had that little problem at nap time. Using brightly colored blocks (or the virtual equivalent on your at-home Amplify tablet), quickly and carefully demonstrate the Chetty principle to your youngster. See the great stack of yellow blocks? Those are your future earnings under a *high value teacher.* And that small tower of blue blocks? That’s the actual apartment building where you’ll live in your higher *SES* neighborhood, also home to the very bank at which you’ll amass savings at a higher rate.”

Read carefully for good advice from a billionaire who used to work at Enron.

The Los Angeles school district is making short-term and long-term decisions that are fiscally and educationally irresponsible. Having committed to spend $1 billion to give an iPad for Common Core testing to every student and staff member, the district is short changing or eliminating essential programs.

The money for the iPads is mostly from a bond issue intended for construction and facilities. Consequently, there is not enough money for necessary repairs.

As the previous post showed, the libraries in half the district’s elementary and middle schools are closed due to budget cuts.

A reader comments about the failure to plan ahead:

“The closure of libraries comes on the heels of the “Repairs not iPads” facebook page detailing the fiscal priorities of LAUSD.

“There are 55,000 outstanding repair orders at present, school libraries are shut down all over the city, and the district’s proposed arts plan suggests increasing “arts integration” as a cost savings measure instead of bringing back the hundreds of arts specialists let go over the last few years.

“All this while, Deasy still maintains that all students will receive their own device.

“While we now know that superintendents like Deasy believe in the “corporate-style” of education, the one gaping hole in this plan is that corporations want to stay solvent and make decisions that will ensure present and future financial viability. This is the one missing element in Deasy’s iPad project……no plan to pay for it beyond the first few years.

“When asked, district officials provide answers like “we just can’t not do this”(Bernadette Lucas), “this is the cost of doing business in the 21st century” (Board member Tamar Galatzan) and “I can’t speak to that”(project leader Ron Chandler).

“Any business considers what it will take to stay in business, but not LAUSD. The bond funds will be gone, so the only other source of income is the general fund.

“Is the State of California going to bail out LAUSD? They have already demonstrated that they can’t or won’t even provide the basic needed services, like nurses, counselors, libraries, working bathrooms and water fountains, siesmic safety, etc., etc.????

“The problem is that Deasy won’t be around to be held accountable.

“But, we, the citizens of Los Angeles will be left with a totally bankrupt school system and no way to put the pieces back together.”