Archives for the month of: October, 2022

Blogger Robert Hubbell reports that Justice Any Coney Barrett has won a $2 million advance on a book that explains how her personal views don’t affect her judicial decisions. Tell me another. Must be a very short book.

Hubbell writes:

Why does this feel like a “reward” for overruling Roe v. Wade?

Justice Amy Coney Barret has secured a $2 million advance from Penguin Random House for a book that will reportedly discuss “how judges are not supposed to bring their personal feelings into how they rule.” Given the dissonance between the proposed topic and Justice Barrett’s religiously motivated ruling in Dobbs, it is possible that the book is intended to be satirical, but there is little evidence that Barrett has a sense of humor.

So, the most reasonable explanations are that Justice Barrett (a) lacks self-awareness and any sense of shame, and (b) the shocking advance is an indirect “reward” for being the final vote necessary to overrule Roe v. Wade. To be fair, Barrett secured the $2 million advance for a book that can be summarized in a sentence fragment before she overruled Roe. To be fairer, there is little evidence that the German conglomerate that owns Penguin Random House has any interest in US politics—apart from monetizing controversy. A group of publishing professionals is calling on Penguin Random House to reconsider its deal with Barrett.

I, for one, cannot wait not to read Justice Barrett’s explanation of how her deeply held faith did not influence her vote to impose Catholic dogma on 320 million Americans. Perhaps future confirmation hearings can ask nominees for the Supreme Court if they intend to accept an obscene advance for writing a book of judicial fairy tales. That will give nominees something else to lie about besides their respect for precedent.

If you read Hubbell’s post, be sure to see his critique of the blunders of the Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus, which released a statement calling on Biden to negotiate with Putin about ending the war in Ukraine, then withdrawing their statement as a mistake. I agree with Hubbell. Any negotiation that doesn’t include Ukraine is ridiculous. Any negotiation that rewards Putin with Ukrainian territory for his aggression encourages more aggression. I fully support the heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people in resisting Putin’s naked aggression.

Billy Townsend, Florida blogger, has reported regularly on Florida’s gaming of NAEP scores. He writes here that Governor Ron DeSantis is carrying out Jeb Bush’s old trick to inflate 4th grade NAEP scores. He calls the governor Ron Jebsantis. The trick is third grade retention, which ensures that the lowest scoring third graders never take the fourth grade NAEP test (the kids who take the NAEP test are selected at random).

Thus, DeSantis put out a flashy press release celebrating fourth grade NAEP scores in the test scores recently released. But, as usual, DeSantis neglects to mention the collapse of eighth grade NAEP scores. Somehow the kids who were retained in third grade managed to skip fourth grade and rejoin their classmates by eighth grade.

Here are his numbers, drawn from NAEP reports:

With that in mind, here is a view of Florida’s 2022 NAEP scores peaking in elementary school and dramatically worsening with the older cohorts —- which is ALL of the red numbers after the green baseline.

I personally put no stock in the twelfth grade numbers (which Billy extrapolated) because NAEP stopped testing seniors a decade ago. Seniors know that NAEP doesn’t count and they don’t do their best. Some don’t even try. Their answer sheets had doodles, or some just picked the (A) answer to every question or some were blank.

But the stark drop from fourth grade to eighth grade says something’s fishy in Florida.

Many Twitter users are fearful for the future of the popular social media site since it was purchased by Elon Musk. He is taking the company private and will be the sole proprietor. He has said he is an absolutist on free speech, which raises questions about whether he will tolerate hate speech, lies, propaganda, anti-vaxxers, disinformation, even Donald Trump, who was permanently banned from Twitter for inciting violence.

Now, the concern about Musk was stoked when he retweeted gossip from a free weekly (the Santa Monica Observer) that Paul Pelosi was drunk, high on drugs, and got into a fight with a man he picked up at a gay bar.

Musk posted that there was a “tiny possibility” that this was true. As readers began to react with incredulity that the new owner would spread unsubstantiated gossip, Musk deleted his tweet. Musk has 112 million followers on Twitter.

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote:

Musk responded Sunday at 5:15 a.m. Pacific time with a tweet that said, “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye,” and posted a link to a baseless, anti-LGBTQ article in the Santa Monica Observer. By 10:30 a.m. Sunday, the message and link had been retweeted more than 30,000 times and liked more than 110,000 times, before being deleted less than an hour later.

Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Santa Monica Observer was “notorious for publishing false news,” and once claimed “that Hillary Clinton had died and that a body double had been sent to debate Donald Trump.”

Axios posted that the Santa Monica Observer is not a trustworthy site.

Why it matters: Musk linked to an article from the Santa Monica Observer, a website known for years for publishing false stories.

  • The site “is anything but trustworthy,” according to an executive at NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalists to rate news and information sites.
  • The site has a trust score of 44.5 out of 100 points on NewsGuard’s rating scale for trustworthiness, due to repeatedly publishing numerous conspiracy theories and false claims about politics, the pandemic and more.
  • The site gets a red-rating and a warning for readers that says: “Proceed with caution: This website fails to adhere to several basic journalistic standards.”

Responsible people in the media fact-check. Musk didn’t think it was necessary. This does not bode well for the future of Twitter.

We have had our fill of conspiracy theories in the past six years.

It’s awful to think that the sole owner of Twitter will be a dupe for conspiracy theories and gossip and spread them to his millions of readers.

Just for laughs, read this article in The Intercept, which predicts that Elon Musk will regret his purchase of Twitter.

It begins:

ELON MUSK (and his consortium of much smaller investors) now owns Twitter. We need to take seriously the possibility that this will end up being one of the funniest things that’s ever happened.

That’s because as of this moment, it looks like Musk dug a big hole in the forest, carefully filled it with punji sticks and crocodiles, and then jumped in.

Our reader Jersey Joe added this postscript from The Guardian about the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania:

From the guardian, 10-24-22: quote – Doug Mastriano, a retired army colonel who has enthusiastically indulged Donald Trump’s fantasy that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, is the Republican candidate. If he wins, he plans to deregister every single one of Pennsylvania’s 8.7 million voters. In future elections, Mastriano would choose who certifies – or doesn’t – the state’s election results. [snip] As a state senator in Pennsylvania, he said women who violated a proposed six-week abortion ban should be charged with murder. Mastriano frequently attacks trans people, and has said gay marriage should be illegal, and that same-sex couples should not be allowed to adopt children. end quoteThe man is a far right wing nightmare determined to end democracy in this country. According to these maniacs, elections are fair and valid only if the GOP wins.

Since the two sets of NAEP scores were released recently, commentators have gone into a panic about “learning loss” and used the declines to promote their favorite reform: more of this, less of that. DeSantis even released a press release claiming falsely that Florida’s formula of ignoring the pandemic was just right (California stuck with the CDC guidelines and did at least as well, maybe better, than Florida, but Gavin Newsom did not issue a press release).

Jan Resseger has words of perspective that I sum up as: why are we surprised that learning was disrupted by the pandemic?

My question, having served on the NAEP board for seven years, is why the media and the reform crowd thinks that NAEP scores should go up every year? Why should fourth and eighth graders this year know more than fourth and eighth graders two years ago or four years ago? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that students of the same age and grade are likely to have the same scores? Yet if they do, the media sends out loud lamentations that scores are “flat.” Oh, woe! Surely we want to see a rise in the scores of the lowest scoring students, and a narrowing of gaps, but the media assumes that everyone must increase their scores or the education system is failing. This is nuts. There is little or no relationship between the test scores of students in fourth and eighth grades and the economy of the future.

Jan Resseger writes:

Are the new National Assessment of Educational Progress scores a catastrophic indication that the U.S. public schools have fallen into decline? I don’t think so.

Early this week, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a large data set from National Assessment of Educational Progress exams administered last spring to 4th and 8th grade students in U.S. public schools. Last month, NCES released scores from tests administered to a smaller group of 4th graders. Both sets of scores show that the COVID pandemic seriously disrupted schooling for the nation’s children and adolescents.

Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum explainswhat the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is: “The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, pronounced nape) is a test administered by an arm of the U.S. Department of Education. It’s given periodically to a representative subset of American students in math and reading in grades four and eight. Scores are broken down by state and for a select handful of cities, too. The latest results are based on tests given between January and March 2022. The previous test was given in 2019, before the pandemic… Scores from a separate NAEP exam that has been given to 9-year-olds for many decades were previously released in September.”

The NAEP scores released this week were precipitously lower than scores on the NAEP when it was administered in 2019, before COVID—particularly in 8th grade math. The Washington Post’s Laura Meckler reports: “The portion of eighth-graders rated proficient or better in math fell to 27 percent, from 34 percent in 2019… the steepest decline in more than a half century of testing.” (The fact that every year relatively few students reach NAEP’s proficient level overall is because the NAEP “proficient” cut score is set artificially high; it marks what most people would define as “advanced.”)

Some people assume that this year’s drop in NAEP scores signals a reversal of progress, the beginning of a downward spiral. Others are using the scores as evidence for their particular reform or as evidence that their state had a better policy on school closures than other states. Meckler writes: “Partisans on all sides of the education debate seized on the results to advance competing ideas about the way ahead… The test results also offered fodder for those who argue bringing students back to campuses quickly was the right move… ‘We kept schools open in 2020, and today’s NAEP results once again prove we made the right decision,’ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said on Twitter. But the data did not establish a connection between back-to-school policies and academic performance. In California, for instance, many public schools were closed well into the 2020-21 school year and some students never saw a classroom that year. But the declines were similar to those in Texas and Florida, where schools were ordered to reopen much sooner.”

In a blog post last month when the first set of 4th grade NAEP scores was released, I shared my own assessment of what had happened. I think the scores released last month and the scores released this week show the same thing. Here is some of what I said in that post.

***

There is no cause for panic. Schooling was utterly disrupted for the nation’s children and adolescents, just as all of our lives were interrupted in so many immeasurable ways. During COVID, while some of us have experienced the catastrophic death of loved ones, all of us have experienced less definable losses—things we cannot name.

I think this year’s NAEP scores—considerably lower than pre-pandemic scores—should be understood as a marker that helps us define the magnitude of the disruption for our children during this time of COVID. The losses are academic, emotional, and social, and they all make learning harder.

Schools shut down and began remote instruction in the spring of 2020, and many stayed online through the first half of last school year. While most public schools were up and running by last spring, there have been a lot of problems—with more absences, fighting and disruption, and overwhelming stress for educators. It is clear from the disparities in the scores released last week among high and low achievers that the disruption meant very different things to different children. It is also evident that the pandemic was a jolting shock to our society’s largest civic institution. It should be no surprise, then, that the attempt to get school back on track was so rocky all through last spring…

While the NAEP is traditionally used to gauge the trajectory of overall educational achievement over time, and while the trajectory has been moderately positive over the decades, the results released last week cannot by any means be interpreted to mean a change of the overall direction of educational achievement.

Education Week’s Sarah Schwartz asked Stanford University professor Sean Reardon (whose research tracks the connection of poverty and race to educational achievement) whether “it will take another 20 years to raise scores once again.” Reardon responded: “That’s the wrong question…. The question is: What’s going to happen for these (9-year-old) kids over the next years of their lives.” Schwartz describes more of Reardon’s response: “Children born now will, hopefully, attend school without the kinds of major, national disruptions that children who were in school during the pandemic faced. Most likely, scores for 9-year-olds, will be back to normal relatively soon, Reardon said. Instead, he said, we should look to future scores for 13-year-olds, which will present a better sense of how much ground these current students have gained.”

Schwartz reports: “Students at all levels lost ground during the past two years, but lower-performing students saw the biggest drops.” The test does not in any way measure the factors that contributed to the drop in scores for students who were already struggling, but the results shouldn’t be surprising. Some children live in families with internet access and enough computers that each of several children in the family could access online instruction simultaneously, while other children’s parents had to drive them to public library or fast food outlet parking lots to find any internet access at all. Some parents had sufficient time at home to supervise children and provide assistance during online instruction, while in other families, older siblings supervised younger siblings while trying to participate themselves in online instruction. Some children and adolescents simply checked out and neglected to log-on.

H. Hurley, a reader of the blog, left the following comment, which places NAEP hysteria into context:

The cherry on the journalistic cup cake related to recent NAEP reporting was an interview by Stephanie Ruhle on her 11:00 pm MSNBC program where she rushed in, of all people, ARNE DUNCAN, to discuss the CRISIS OF THE DROPPING NAEP SCORES. Her URGENCY in her set-up and interview was almost reported as a 3 alarm fire. Poor Arne. He actually tried to calm her reactions. But her hysteria is typical related to student test scores.


Nuts!


It’s obvious to real educators that a pandemic, million COVID deaths, ZOOM schooling, kids alone at home, banning books, masking, vaccing…anti vaccing, limited computer/Internet access, Jan6, school shootings, politics, chaos everywhere….shall we go on?


On top of this craziness, when children are finally returning to school, we TEST. We test & react in horror that children didn’t know the grade level content or skills. Scores dropped….who knew? Who could have predicted that?


ACTUALLY…….Anybody with some sense!
Children living in war, migration, fleeing, homeless, famine, rising fascism, massive crime, poverty, lead poisoning, hunger, job losses, craziness, etc…..are then tested under the WORST CONDITIONS.
Meanwhile, journalists hold up those results as if our children were living under heat lamps in incubators to be educated under the best conditions.


Stop the testing madness, end poverty, stop the political madness, allow families to raise their children with proper wages, fund schools, stop destroying public schools & use the election spending zillion$ on real people for a healthy nation.


My 2¢ worth!

Peter Greene was a teacher in Pennsylvania for 39 years. In this post, he covers Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano’s empty proposal for “parental rights.”

Greene writes:

Last week Doug Mastriano held a campaign event masquerading as a hearing for a parental rights bill so empty and vague that its only possible use could be as a campaign prop.

Mastriano signaled a whole year ago that he was going to wade into the whole “parental rights” thing with his own version of a “legislate the gay away” bill. Soon thereafter, he proposed SB 996, which was turned over to the State Government committee on January 4, 2022.

And yet, the time to hold a hearing on the bill is just before time to vote for Mastriano or his opponent for Pennsylvania’s governor’s seat.

The bill itself is a brief nothingburger. The Parental Rights Protection Act is 41 lines long. 6 lines give its name. 16 lines define the terms “commonwealth agency” and “non-commonwealth agency.” Section 3 in its entirety says:

I

(b) Infringement.–Neither a Commonwealth agency nor a non-Commonwealth agency may infringe upon the right under subsection (a) without demonstrating that the law or ordinance is narrowly tailored to meet a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means.

In 8 lines, we get the applicability of the law, and two lines to tell us that the law would take effect in 60 days.

The Mastriano campaign has maintained its unwillingness to speak to the press, and so has offered no clarification of the bill’s intent or function. But the parade of witnesses at the hearing brought the usual list of grievances–mask mandates, trans student using rest rooms, “pornographic” books in the school library, and “pronoun games.” The bill, absent any specifics, allows all of these folks to imagine that it would provide them some relief, without including any language that opponents could point to as objectionable….

More specific parental rights legislation has been proposed in Pennsylvania, such as HB 2813, which follows more closely the national template of other Don’t Say Gay bills forbidding discussion of “gender orientation and sexual identity.”

What would the bill actually do? Nobody really knows. Does this mean I can get satisfaction when my kid’s teacher shows a Disney movie when I don’t allow them in my home? Or when my kid has to use Chromebook and we are an Apple household? Will I be able to do something if the teacher mentions Jesus or God and we don’t do religion at our house? What would qualify as an infringement, and what could a parent who felt the law had been broken do? Call the police? File a lawsuit? Should they report the agency to the proper part of the state government–and if so, which department would that be? What penalty would be imposed?

I wonder if there are limits to parental rights? May they beat their children? May they chain them to their beds? May they force them to live in unsanitary conditions??

The conservative news site “The74 Miliion” revealed a dubious expenditure by the far-right group that calls itself “Moms for Liberty.” The group is known for its advocacy against “critical race theory,” teaching about gender, and masking.

Moms for Liberty, one of the fastest-growing and most recognized conservative parent advocacy groups in the nation, paid $21,357 to a company owned by the husband of one of its founding members, campaign finance records show.

The group doled out the money to Microtargeted Media, founded by Christian Ziegler, a current Sarasota County commissioner and vice chairman of the Florida GOP, in late August.

Moms for Liberty was founded by three people, Tina Descovich, Tiffany Justice and Bridget Ziegler, Christian’s wife, who served as its director through February 2021. Bridget Ziegler joined the Sarasota County School Board in 2014 and was re-elected this summer.

Bridget Ziegler (Twitter)

She was not named by the two other founders in numerous early press interviews, an omission some critics charged was meant to distance the group from Florida’s GOP power structure. Descovich said Ziegler stepped away to pursue other interests. Moms for Liberty contributed $250 to her school board campaign in mid-July, records show. Related:Moms for Liberty Co-Founder on Parent ‘Warriors’ Who Challenge School Boards

Bridget Ziegler could not be reached for comment. Her husband, who responded to The 74 through Twitter Thursday evening, would not discuss his company’s work for Moms for Liberty.

“I don’t share information about my clients as I do not speak for them,” Christian Ziegler wrote. “You can contact Tina directly for any additional insight.”

Microtargeted Media, which specializes in targeted text messaging and digital advertising,has made hundreds of thousands of dollars from right-wing political campaigns. Its recent clients also include Florida state Sen. Joe Gruters, chairman of the Florida GOP and an ardent Trump supporter. His campaign paid the company nearly $28,000 for its services.

Florida Conservatives United, a PAC, has paid Microtargeted Media more than $15,000.

Thanks to Christine Langhoff for sharing this horrifying video.

It shows parents at Grant Middle School in Grant, Michigan, demanding the removal of a mural painted by a high school student. The mural was meant to make all students feel welcome.

But parents saw frightening symbols in it, such as a T-shirt that was a trans symbol, another that was a gay symbol, others graphics that were allegedly demonic or Satanic.

This country needs mental health services for adults who think that their children’s lives will be changed by seeing anything that offends parents. Do they object to textbooks showing the swastika? Really, there are many symbols to at could be interpreted in many ways.

Don’t they understand that children are shaped above all by their home environment?

Arthur Camins—teacher, scientist, technologist— argues in The Daily Kos that it’s time for Democrats to abandon their support for charter schools. Are you listening, Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey, Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado, Governor Jared Polis of Colorado, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and other charter allies?

Camins writes:

It is time for Democrats–voters and the politicians who represent them–to abandon charter schools as a strategy for education improvement or to advance equity. Charter schools, whether for- or non-profit, drain funds from public schools that serve all students, increase segregation, and by design only serve the few. Continuation of tax generated funds for charter schools, all of which are privately governed, support the current broader assault on democracy. That should not be the way forward for democracy loving Democrats. In addition, public support for private alternatives to public education suborns the lie that government cannot be the agency for solving problems.

The United States is tilting sharply toward, if not rushing headlong into, a less equitable, less democratic, more authoritarian, more racially divided, and meaner way of governing and living together. Out-for-youselfism is alarmingly rampant. Sadly, continued bipartisan state and federal support for charter schools that pit parents against one another for limited student slots reflects those tendencies.

We have been heading in that direction for decades, led by pro-wealth, anti-regulation billionaires and corporations allied with Christian religious extremists and ideological libertarians. Exacerbating extant racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic resentment is their core strategy. It is represented by a Republican Party whose only moral compass is power and for whom democracy is an expendable inconvenience.

Republican opposition to equity advances for all people, such as the National Labor Relations Act, Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, and Medicare, is nothing new. However, until the emergence of the Republican-light Democratic Leadership Council, there was a strong pro-government, pro-worker, if frequently inconsistent, opposition political party. In the absence of an explicit effort by Democrats to articulate a rationale for a multi-racial, working-class coalition, resentment flourished. Instead, many Democrats embraced deregulation and campaign cash, including contributions from the charter school industry.

This Republican-light Democratic shift could not have come at a worse time, as globalization and automation threatened the livelihood of many Americans, shaking the foundations of post-WWII perception of security, especially for many white working- and middle-class Americans. As scarcity and inequity came to be accepted as the unalterable norm, advances for some–left-out people of color, recent immigrants, and women–came to seen as coming at the expense of others. In that context, charter schools appealed social and economic insecurity.

Nonetheless, Democratic politicians from Bill Clinton to Barrack Obama embraced charter schools. The essential notion was that take-all-comers schools governed by locally elected school boards for the common good were an old-school failure. The supposed evidence was the failure to close the achievement gaps between kids from poor and well-off households. The fact that family socio-economic status explains most of the achievement gaps was ignored in favor of a blame-the-teacher and their unions ethos and test-driven blame. In supporting charter schools Democrats implicitly endorsed a competitive watch–out-for-my-own kid ethos. It is time for a new direction.

Even with substantial evidence of rampant corruption and increased segregation, national Democratic leadership has yet to fully abandon the belief in charter schools as an improvement strategy. In doing so, they abet the ongoing Republican claim that government and democracy are incapable of effective problem solving. Opposition to for-profit charter school and vouchers is insufficient. Increased oversight and rejection of for-profit charter schools is, of course, a positive step. However, the notion of schools as primarily a personal rather than a social benefit and that market-competition as an improvement driver remains intact.

Step away from charter schools, Democrats. Instead, embrace full equitable funding for all schools. Embrace professional salaries, respect, and working conditions for teachers. Embrace union protection. Embrace community schools to meet the needs of children and their families. Embrace small class size so every child can get the academic, social, and emotional supportthey need. Embrace schools to develop socially responsible citizens for a democratic equitable society.

That is the way forward for Democrats and Democracy!