Archives for the month of: January, 2017

Henry Levin, the William Heard Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, has studied school choice and privatization around the world. Levin says there is no evidence for the efficacy of these strategies.

Levin writes:

“Some have argued that competitive incentives induced by school choice will lead to better educational outcomes. However, there is little evidence to support this claim.

“Sweden has had an educational voucher system since 1992, but its achievement levels on international tests have been falling for two decades. Chile has had such a system since 1980, and there is little evidence of improvement in achievement relative to countries at similar levels of income. Cleveland, Milwaukee, and the District of Columbia have issued vouchers to low-income families, but sophisticated evaluations find no difference between achievement in private voucher schools and public schools with similar student populations. Students from low-income families in Louisiana who have used vouchers to shift from public to private schools have experienced striking reductions in achievement gains relative to similar students in public schools…..

“In England there has been a dramatic shift from schools governed by public councils to academies run by private groups with great autonomy and the ability to select their own students. The results on student achievement show no distinct advantage, and there are similar results for U.S. charter schools based upon careful statistical comparisons.

“Where school choice has shown powerful effects around the world is the systematic separation of students by ethnicity, social class and religion.

“Sweden’s vouchers have increased segregation by social class and immigrant status. Chile’s voucher system has produced one of the most segregated system of schools in the world by family income. In the Netherlands, studies of the school choice system have pointed to school separation of students by ethnicity, immigrant status and family income. A Brookings Institution study found that U.S. charter schools are more segregated racially and socio-economically than public schools in surrounding areas. The Program for International Student Assessment, an important triennial study of international student performance, finds school segregation by social class is associated with school choice.

“Although even public schools have segregation challenges typically caused by residential location, school choice tends to streamline the racial, social class and ethnic isolation of students, as well as separate them by political ideology and religion.”

Eliot Cohen is a conservative foreign policy expert. He worked on Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s staff. During the campaign, he signed a statement opposing Trump, which was co-signed by some 200 others who had worked on foreign policy issues for Republican administrations.

In this post, Cohen says that Trump is even worse than he anticipated and warns his fellow Americans to prepare the worst.

He writes:

“We were right. And friends who urged us to tone it down, to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could “this is abnormal,” to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong. In an epic week beginning with a dark and divisive inaugural speech, extraordinary attacks on a free press, a visit to the CIA that dishonored a monument to anonymous heroes who paid the ultimate price, and now an attempt to ban selected groups of Muslims (including interpreters who served with our forces in Iraq and those with green cards, though not those from countries with Trump hotels, or from really indispensable states like Saudi Arabia), he has lived down to expectations.

“Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. The sooner Americans get used to these likelihoods, the better….

“This is one of those clarifying moments in American history, and like most such, it came upon us unawares, although historians in later years will be able to trace the deep and the contingent causes that brought us to this day. There is nothing to fear in this fact; rather, patriots should embrace it. The story of the United States is, as Lincoln put it, a perpetual story of “a rebirth of freedom” and not just its inheritance from the founding generation.

“Some Americans can fight abuses of power and disastrous policies directly—in courts, in congressional offices, in the press. But all can dedicate themselves to restoring the qualities upon which this republic, like all republics depends: on reverence for the truth; on a sober patriotism grounded in duty, moderation, respect for law, commitment to tradition, knowledge of our history, and open-mindedness. These are all the opposites of the qualities exhibited by this president and his advisers. Trump, in one spectacular week, has already shown himself one of the worst of our presidents, who has no regard for the truth (indeed a contempt for it), whose patriotism is a belligerent nationalism, whose prior public service lay in avoiding both the draft and taxes, who does not know the Constitution, does not read and therefore does not understand our history, and who, at his moment of greatest success, obsesses about approval ratings, how many people listened to him on the Mall, and enemies.

“He will do much more damage before he departs the scene, to become a subject of horrified wonder in our grandchildren’s history books. To repair the damage he will have done Americans must give particular care to how they educate their children, not only in love of country but in fair-mindedness; not only in democratic processes but democratic values. Americans, in their own communities, can find common ground with those whom they have been accustomed to think of as political opponents. They can attempt to renew a political culture damaged by their decayed systems of civic education, and by the cynicism of their popular culture.

“There is in this week’s events the foretaste of things to come. We have yet to see what happens when Trump tries to use the Internal Revenue Service or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to destroy his opponents. He thinks he has succeeded in bullying companies, and he has no compunction about bullying individuals, including those with infinitely less power than himself. His advisers are already calling for journalists critical of the administration to be fired: Expect more efforts at personal retribution. He has demonstrated that he intends to govern by executive orders that will replace the laws passed by the people’s representatives.

“In the end, however, he will fail. He will fail because however shrewd his tactics are, his strategy is terrible—The New York Times, the CIA, Mexican Americans, and all the others he has attacked are not going away. With every act he makes new enemies for himself and strengthens their commitment; he has his followers, but he gains no new friends. He will fail because he cannot corrupt the courts, and because even the most timid senator sooner or later will say “enough.” He will fail most of all because at the end of the day most Americans, including most of those who voted for him, are decent people who have no desire to live in an American version of Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, or Viktor Orban’s Hungary, or Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

“There was nothing unanticipated in this first disturbing week of the Trump administration. It will not get better. Americans should therefore steel themselves, and hold their representatives to account. Those in a position to take a stand should do so, and those who are not should lay the groundwork for a better day. There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; but in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him.”

Now this is scary! According to the Washington Post, the mastermind behind the Muslim travel ban and other signature Trump policies is Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, soon to be confirmed as Attorney General.

“The early days of the Trump presidency have rushed a nationalist agenda long on the fringes of American life into action — and Sessions, the quiet Alabaman who long cultivated those ideas as a Senate backbencher, has become a singular power in this new Washington.

“Sessions’s nomination as Trump’s attorney general is scheduled to be considered Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, yet his influence in the administration extends far beyond the Justice Department. From immigration and health care to national security and trade, Sessions is the intellectual godfather of the president’s policies. Sessions’s reach extends throughout the White House, with his aides and allies accelerating the president’s most dramatic moves, including the ban on refugees and migrants from seven mostly Muslim nations that has triggered fear around the globe.

“The author of many of Trump’s executive orders is senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, a Sessions confidant who was mentored by him and who spent the weekend overseeing the government’s implementation of the refu­gee ban. The tactician turning Trump’s agenda into law is deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn, Sessions’s longtime chief of staff in the Senate. The mastermind behind Trump’s incendiary brand of populism is chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who promoted Sessions for years as chairman of the Breitbart website.”

While other Republican senators and congressman cower, Senator John McCain will not bow and scrape to Trump.

The Wall Street Journal writes today (sorry, can’t find the link–if you do, send it):

Sen. McCain has served notice he is the Republican lawmaker most willing to defy the new Republican president

The maverick is unleashed.

Sen. John McCain, famously independent-minded and fresh from his own resounding re-election victory, has served notice that he is the Republican lawmaker most willing to defy the new Republican president.

Some fret over how to handle their disagreements with Donald Trump; Mr. McCain exhibits no such uncertainty.

In just over a week’s time, Mr. McCain has called the new Trump ban on immigration from a set of Muslim-majority countries a recruiting boon for Islamic State radicals; threatened to codify Russian economic sanctions into law to prevent Mr. Trump from lifting them; called the president’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership “a serious mistake”; and called the idea of imposing a 20% tariff on imports from Mexico to pay for a border wall “insane.”

The senator also served noticed that he will fight any effort to reinstate waterboarding or other forms of torture in interrogation of terror suspects; and declared he may oppose the Trump nominee for budget director because of his past opposition to military spending and troop deployments in Afghanistan.

In short, frenetic as the new president has been, Mr. McCain is matching him step for step. Thus is a president willing to go rogue being matched by a powerful lawmaker—head of the Armed Services Committee and former GOP presidential nominee—prepared to do the same.

“The main thing is, do the right thing,” Mr. McCain said in an interview. “I feel, frankly, a greater burden of responsibility. The world’s on fire, we have more challenges than any time in the last 70 years and, with the chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee and whatever influence I have, I need to exercise it because the responsibilities are so great.”

Mr. McCain said he is willing to work with Mr. Trump: “I believe there are areas where we certainly can.” In fact, he will be crucial to the president’s desire to ramp up military spending and overhaul defense procurement practices, areas where they are almost entirely in sync.

Plus, he said he has good relations with key Trump security nominees: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and national security adviser Michael Kelly. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, he noted, was Wisconsin chairman of his 2008 presidential bid, and he has traveled abroad on congressional delegations with Vice President Mike Pence.
But, he said, he has no communication going with the president himself.

This is a potentially serious long-term problem for Mr. Trump. The president is not especially susceptible to criticism from Democrats, which is predictable and easily dismissed, but opposition from Republicans, who control both chambers and every committee of Congress, and thereby the Trump agenda, is far more important.

Republicans hold only a two-seat majority in the Senate, so the White House has little margin for error within the party there. Though Mr. McCain’s ability to unite Republicans behind him has long been questionable, Mr. Trump could ill afford it if Republican misgivings coalesced around a highly visible leader.

The bad blood isn’t surprising. Early in the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Trump belittled Mr. McCain’s horrific Vietnam War experience, during which his Navy attack jet was shot down and, while seriously injured, he spent more than five years in a North Vietnamese prison.

“He’s not a war hero,” Mr. Trump said. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

The comment came early in the Trump campaign, and many thought it would derail it. The fact it didn’t was a key initial sign of how much the GOP had changed.

Mr. McCain also noted that Breitbart News, the site previously overseen by top Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, has “attacked me incessantly for years.”

All that leaves lots of room for bad blood. Some of the disagreements are local. Mr. McCain argues that the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Mr. Trump wants to renegotiate, has benefited his home state of Arizona, and that the tariff on Mexican imports floated by the White House clearly would hurt it.

His own war experience with brutal treatment during incarceration leaves him starkly at odds with Mr. Trump’s belief that waterboarding and other forms of harsh interrogation are acceptable.

But the area that seems to most bother Mr. McCain isn’t personal; it is a seemingly deep disagreement with the new president over his desire to strengthen ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The last two American administrations, of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, similarly started “with the mistaken belief there would be improved relations with a hardened KGB colonel,” Mr. Putin, only to be disappointed, he said.

“The difference now versus before is he’s invaded a country”—Ukraine—and, he added, has tried to influence an American election.

Andy Borowitz, humorist for The New Yorker, says that scientists are pondering a medical mystery:

How do Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell manage to stand upright without spines?

I found this picture on the Twitter feed of the Alt_DeptofED:

“If I have to be highly qualified to serve my students, why doesn’t DeVos?”

Susan Ochshorn of the ECE Policy Works writes here about the marginalization of those who teach early childhood. Governor Chris Christie defamed them as “babysitters.” No one asked for their expertise when the Common Core standards were written.

In this post, she describes a report released by “Defending the Early Years,” called “Teachers Speak Out.”

“The report highlights the concerns of early childhood teachers about the impact of school reforms on low-income children. Authors Diane E. Levin and Judith L. Van Hoorn culled their data from interviews with 34 educators in California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington, DC.

“The link between socioeconomic status and academic achievement has been firmly established in research. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 47 percent of children under six years old lived in low-income families near or below the poverty line in 2014. The level rises to nearly 70 percent for Black and Native-American children and 64 percent for Hispanic youngsters. In a recent survey conducted by the Council of Chief State School Officers—which helped design the Common Core standards—teachers across the United States listed family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems as the top barriers to student success.

“Yet the mandates of the Common Core are exacerbating the problem. As Levin and Van Hoorn point out in the report’s introduction, “recent reforms…have been developed and implemented by people with good intentions but often little formal knowledge of early child development.” Those with the expertise now face a “profound ethical dilemma.” As top-down mandates dictate the teaching and assessment of narrow academic skills at younger and younger ages, early childhood educators are forced to do the “least harm,” rather than the “most good.”

“In an exchange at the [DeVos] hearing, between DeVos and Todd Young, a Republican senator from Indiana, she crowed about our “great opportunity…to really empower [teachers] in a new way to do what they do best.” She horrifies educators. They’ve been leaving the field, exhausted and dispirited, in record numbers. Respect for the profession and morale are at an all-time low, as teachers have picked up the slack for a society that starves its schools and communities, and blames them for all its ills. But out of this malaise, a new activism has emerged, with great energy dedicated to defeating her.

“Early childhood teachers—with some notable exceptions—have been missing from the action. The reasons are complex. This is a workforce that has long been marginalized, their work devalued, and expertise ignored….

“​As I read through the report, I kept underlining the quotes from the teachers, as if to amplify them, to lift them off the page. They’re struggling to honor early childhood’s robust evidence base, but they’re undermined by a lack of agency and autonomy:

“The trust in my expertise and judgment as a teacher is gone. So are the play and learning centers in my classroom. Everything is supposed to be structured for a specific lesson and rigidly timed to fit into a specific, tight, preapproved schedule.

“The negative impact of reforms on children’s development and learning can’t be overstated. Practice has become more rote, and standardized, with less time for deep relationships—among children, and between them and caring adults. We’re stealing the heart of high-quality early education, as the individual strengths, interests, and needs of children get lost:

“With this extreme emphasis on what’s called ‘rigorous academics,’ drills are emphasized. It’s much harder for my children to become self-regulated learners. Children have no time to learn to self-regulate by choosing their own activities, participating in ongoing projects with their classmates, or playing creatively. They have to sit longer, but their attention spans are shorter.

“The authors bring us into the classrooms studied by Daphna Bassok, Scott Lathem, and Anna Rorem, of the University of Virginia, who used two large, nationally representative data sets to compare public school kindergarten classrooms between 1998 and 2010. More formal, directed instruction in reading, writing, and math, once the province of first grade, has trickled down into kindergarten. Close reading is becoming part of the expected skill set of 5-year-olds, and the pressure has extended, in some cases, to prekindergarten, where children are being asked to master reading by the end of the year. The repercussions are severe:

“It’s essential for every kindergarten child to feel welcomed and included, to be part of the class. Instead, we’re separating the cream from the milk. From the beginning, we’re telling kids who are poor, ‘You’re deficient,’ instead of helping them become competent and feel successful and part of their class. Then it’s ‘remedial this, remedial that.’ It’s discrimination.

“The report concludes with a series of recommendations—from the real experts in the room. The first calls for the withdrawal of current early childhood standards and mandates. Another urges the use of authentic assessment, based on observations of children, their development, and learning. Number ten addresses child poverty, our national stain:

“Work at all levels of society to reduce, and ultimately end, child poverty. To do this, we must first acknowledge that a narrow focus on improving schools will not solve the complex problems associated with child poverty.

“Breaking the silence was never so sweet. Now it’s time, as John Lewis says, to get in good trouble.”

Gary Rubinstein, critical friend of Teach for America, reviewed the school rankings recently released by Texas and made a startling discovery. Wendy Kopp’s hometown is Dallas. Wendy Kopp is a huge supporter of charter schools, which hire most of her recruits. KIPP was started by two TFA graduates. KIPP is widely considered to be a purveyor of “high-quality seats.”

The KIPP Destiny Elementary School in Dallas was rated F by the state.

But wait, aren’t these supposed to be the schools that are beacons of excellence in a sea of despair?

Rubinstein says sadly,

So this KIPP school is rated in the bottom 250 schools out of 9,000 schools in Texas which is around the bottom 3%. There’s a reformer mantra, “Zip code is not destiny.” I guess in the case of KIPP Destiny, zip code is, in fact, destiny.

Noah Feldman wrote today in Bloomberg News that Trump got to the presidency by breaking all the rules, but he has come up against one rule he can’t break: the rule of law.

Unlike the unwritten rules of campaigning that Trump flouted, the legal rules are written down. And they come with a full-blown ecosystem of institutions and actors, not to mention the courts that are profoundly committed to sustaining law itself.

Trump and his team seem truly not to understand that. Astonishingly, they didn’t go through the ordinary and almost mandatory procedures that take place within the government before executive orders with the force of law are issued. This amounted to flouting the legal checks that exist within the executive branch itself.

First, they didn’t run the executive order past lawyers at the Department of Justice, whose Office of Legal Counsel reviews all presidential actions that are potentially unlawful. Even the George W. Bush administration in the fevered aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks managed to submit its plans for interrogation to the OLC (where the so-called torture memos came from).

The OLC would’ve caught most or all of the legal vulnerabilities that plague Trump’s order and that led the various district court s to enjoin it. So it wasn’t just wrong for the administration to ignore the OLC. It was also counterproductive.

Then there is the bizarre fact that the administration didn’t prepare Justice Department lawyers to be able to defend its order by giving them the chance to prepare arguments in advance. Reportedly, in various courts around the country, the department’s lawyers couldn’t answer basic questions about the order or its practical effects — which means they essentially couldn’t defend it. A better defense — or any — might have saved the order.

In practice, the administration failed to give Customs and Border Protection guidance on what the order aimed to do. That led to the kind of embarrassing chaos that helped the courts see the whole thing as an exercise in lawlessness.

All of this points us in one direction: Make a contribution to the American Civil Liberties Union, People for the American Way, and any other groups prepared to defend the Constitution.

Teacher Matt Jablonski writes that Ohio is about to hit a full crisis in its graduation rates: 30% or more of high school seniors will be denied diplomas, as will 60-70% of students in urban districts.

This is a crisis created by the state, which has changed its tests again and again and set unrealistic standards.

What will Ohio do about the kids who don’t graduate?