Archives for category: Data

One of the regular commenters on the blog signs in as NYC Public School Parent.

She wrote the following:

The ed reformers have set up a game with rules in which they always win.

If 100% of students in public schools are meeting standards, then the standards are too low.

If 50% of students in public schools are meeting standards, then the schools are terrible.

If a charter comes in and cherry picks from the 50% of students who meet standards, then the charter is performing miracles because 100% of their students meet standards.

If a public magnet comes in and cherry picks from the 50% of students who meet standards, then the public school is wrongly cherry picking students and look, the 50% who are left are still not meeting standards.

If a charter has 100 students in 9th grade and 4 years later only 60 of them make it to 12th grade, the charter has a 100% graduation rate because all 60 seniors graduate.

If a public school has 100 students in 9th grade and 4 years later has 90 students and “only” 70 of them graduate, the public school is a failure.

The ed reformers could not get away with this if the education reporters at major newspapers did not demonstrate their incompetence every single day when they accept every press release and study put out by ed reformers as the gospel truth. Too many overprivileged education reporters are so terrified of numbers that they cannot even envision that a charter that starts with 100 students in 9th grade and graduates 60 is not performing the miracles in which 100% of their students are high performing scholars. It is beyond their very limited ability to take a deep dive into numbers. These reporters write as if they were simply acting as stenographers for the PR groups. Their stories are as ridiculous as if a medical/science reporter kept reporting: “This brand name cough medicine cures 100% of the children with serious coughs, as proven by this never peer reviewed study which started with 100 children taking this brand name cough medicine in which 50 children disappeared from the study. We know that the number of kids who disappeared from this brand name cough medicine study is irrelevant because the people at the brand name cough medicine company explained to us that all those children who disappeared had parents who – once they saw that their child would be miracle-cured – decided that they would rather see their children suffer.”

Would science reporters simply report that the cough medicine had 100% cure rates because they accepted as gospel that there were large numbers of parents who had enrolled their kids in that study and then decided they’d prefer their child suffer and stop taking this miracle medicine? Would science reporters say “it doesn’t matter if 25% of the kids disappeared, if 50% of the kids disappeared, or if 80% of the kids disappeared from this study because the people running it told me these missing kids’ parents wanted them to suffer with coughs once their kid started experience the miracle of our cure.”

Would science reporters ignore all the parents publicly explaining how their kids were pushed out of these studies? Would science reporters say “we already know from the cough medicine maker that you just wanted your child to suffer from the cough so we are still going to report that this medicine miraculous cures 100% of the kids who take it.” Or would they listen to parents and say “hey, it’s clear something very fishy and corrupt is going on”.

Would a science reporter make that judgement based on the race and class of the children who leave the study, and if their parents are white and middle class, then reporters are skeptical of the cough medicine company’s claims that they want their children to suffer more instead of being cured. But if those parents are African-American, do those science reporters simply accept as gospel what the cough medicine company tells them is true, that those parents prefer to see their children suffer than be cured and that’s the only reason their kids disappeared from the study?

It seems like education reporters don’t feel the need to ask any questions when the kids who disappear are African-American and Latinx with few other resources. They accept as gospel that their parents prefer to see them suffer, and it never occurs to those white education reporters that perhaps their parents are pulling them BECAUSE the charters are making their kids suffer. I have no doubt that those white education reporters would ask a whole lot more questions if all the missing students were white.

Laura Chapman, intrepid researcher, reports on Bill  Gates’ next adventure in education.

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Gates is not finished with meddling in public education. Far from it. In case you missed it, here is the new twist on how he will be spending money.

In June of 2019, Alex Gangitano of The Hill reported “Bill and Melinda Gates launch lobbying shop.” The new Gates Policy initiative will lobby for the same issues as the foundation, including “ US education and outcomes for black, Latino and rural students specifically.”

This will be 501(c)(4) initiative led by the current director of the Gates Foundation, Rob Nabors, who was White House director of legislative affairs for President Obama. According to Nabors, “the group” hopes to avoid giving to political groups, but will focus “almost exclusively on legislative outcomes and the lobbying effort.” According to Nabors, they hope to “accelerate outcomes” without getting too “wrapped up into broader political types of issues.” “They are interested in learning what works and what doesn’t work.” Nabors said the lobby shop will be using data the Gates foundation has collected from programs it has funded.

Organizations designated as 501 (c) (4) are supposed to promote “social welfare” and may directly engage in some political activities. For details on the limits and advantages of the Gates 501(c)(4) tax structure, see https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/other-non-profits/life-cycle-of-a-social-welfare-organization.

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post noted that Gates has a long history of influencing legislation without having a lobby shop. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/06/19/bill-melinda-gates-have-spent-billions-drive-their-agenda-education-other-issues-now-they-have-created-lobbying-group-push-even-more/#comments-wrapper

And there is ample evidence that Gates has failed with most of his education projects (from small high schools, to the Common Core, to identifying “effective” teachers) with many of these failed ventures the result of placing his foundation staff in the US Department of Education, and vice versa.

Gates has launched a new method of trying to have his way. So far, there is very little news about this lobby shop dubbed the Policy Initiative. Nicholas Tampio, who has a higher education blog, has some ideas about Gates lobby shop, timing of the announcement, and why the initial focus may well be on post-secondary education. Tampio thinks the announcement of the lobby shop (in April) and a very low profile since then makes sense because Gates wants Congress to pass legislation that will do a triage on public university programs. See more of his reasoning at https://www.higheredjobs.com/articles/articleDisplay.cfm?ID=1988

I think Tampio is right about timing and initial focus. Gates has been pushing for legislation that will do a triage on publicly funded postsecondary programs, including four-year and graduate degree programs. He wants to see programs defunded, whither, and die if they produce a poor return on investment for students who complete them (or don’t, or take too long to complete them).

In May 2019, Gates put together a “Postsecondary Value Commission” whose charge is “to define the value of postsecondary education in the US.” This 30-member commission includes Dr. Mark Schneider, Director of the Institute of Education Sciences USDE who was commissioner of the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and now has oversight of NCES. All members of the Commission are DC insiders or academics who know perfectly well that they will be tweaking recommendations and data points already in use or easy to get. The Commission’s work will be completed in June 2020. The efforts of the Commission will produce rankings of best economic value degrees and credentials. https://www.postsecondaryvalue.org/members/

This Postsecondary Value Commission is set up to push years of Gates-funded policy work, especially “A Blueprint for Better Information: Recommendations for a Federal Postsecondary Student-Level Data Network (2017). This is a summary of Gates-funded work since 2015, work that included 11 commissioned policy papers justifying specific “metrics” (p. 10) for tracking student’s personally identifiable information (PII).

Data attached to PII are essential for linking progress from high school into postsecondary programs, completion of those programs, and ultimately to calculations of economic returns. Economic returns are tracked through IRS data, financial aid, loans and loan repayment rates, and measures of cost-effectiveness of online programs with “personalized” instruction versus course credits and seat time. http://www.ihep.org/research/publications/blueprint-better-information-recommendations-federal-postsecondary-student

Specifically, the new Gates lobby shop may be able to influence the “College Transparency Act,” (S.800) co-sponsored by Elizabeth Warren and now in committee. Among other provisions, S.800 gives the Commissioner of National Center for Education Statistics extraordinary power to use databases that include student’s personally identifiable information (PII). The Act is rationalized as necessary to address the student loan crisis. It does nothing about that but S.800 does empower the Commissioner of NCES to appoint an “advisory committee” to oversee implementation of the College Transparency Act.

I am confident that Gates would like to help populate that “advisory committee.” Moreover, if S. 800 passes, I am confident he would love to introduce amendments that would permanently allow federal agencies to use PII, cradle to career.

Gates yearns for his free use of PII for linking data on education–conditions, “Interventions,” and outcomes of interventions–from infancy to workplace.

He is a data guy. He thinks data should be the ONLY basis for judgments and policy formation. His ambition is far greater than his wisdom. He thinks he can and must “accelerate” change in education and his other ventures, he hopes to move fast and if he break things, he has already said that he will try something else.

The Texas-based IDEA charter chain, along with the Noble Network in Chicago and the Match charter school in Boston, is trying to boost its college graduation rates by encouraging its former students who dropped out of college to enlist in an online college program where requirements are minimal. 

By partnering with Southern New Hampshire University, which enrolls tens of thousands of students from across the country in its low-cost online college programs, the charter operators are coaching students through college. The university provides the coursework and confers degrees, while an arm or affiliate of the charter networks recruits and mentors students.

The Noble charter network in Chicago launched its partnership last year, following the IDEA network in Texas and Match Charter School in Boston. Together, the three programs now enroll nearly 1,000 students, and other charter operators say they’re watching closely.

It’s a notable extension of those networks’ mission, which for years has been to send their mostly low-income students of color to college. More recently, though, it’s become harder to ignore the reality that many of their alumni are leaving higher education without degrees

If successful, these programs will provide students another chance to earn a degree that could bolster their financial futures, while also boosting the charter networks’ college completion rates…

So far, though, students in the programs have earned only a few dozen bachelor’s degrees. And the expansion of these programs worries some observers, who question whether students are getting a high-quality college experience — and whether the degrees students do earn will pay off in the job market.

IDEA launched IDEA-U in 2017 with around 40 students, including Chapa. Now, the program has around 400 students from across Texas enrolled, about half of whom are IDEA graduates.

Around 95 students are enrolled in Noble’s program, known as Noble Forward, which launched last year. Nearly all are graduates of a Noble school in Chicago.

Match’s program, initially called Match Beyond, began in 2013 by enrolling mostly Match alumni, but was spun off as a nonprofit called Duet in 2018. It now serves around 500 students who graduated from high schools across the Boston area.

The programs differ slightly, but the academics work the same way. Students enroll in one of a handful of “competency-based” degree programs offered by Southern New Hampshire University and progress by completing projects designed to show they’ve mastered key skills.

There are no lectures, professors, or class discussions, but students are assigned readings and videos. Students work at their own pace — instead of on a set academic calendar — re-submitting projects as many times as they need, though the university says students average around two tries. Their projects are evaluated by a university “reviewer” with at least a master’s degree.

Underlying question: Is the goal of this program to provide a valuable education to students or to improve the data of the sponsors?

 

Peter Greene writes that state officials in North Carolina keep getting embarrassed by the facts about their charter schools.

In 2016, when the first report came out, the state sent it back to have the data massaged because it turned out that charters were effectively resegregating the students in the state.

This year, a similar problem arose when it was time to release the annual report.

The charters are highly segregated, and their grades reflect which students enroll in them. (Surprise!)

It is a well-known fact that the demographics of a school predict its test scores.

Charter officials don’t like those facts. They want different facts. They are still trying to find a way to hide the reality of charters.

Greene writes:

North Carolina’s 2020 Annual Charter Schools Report has caused some consternation among members of the state’s Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB). They’ve seen the first draft and requested a rewrite, because, well, members of the public might become confused by the information that suggests Bad Things about North Carolina’s charter industry.

This is not the first time the issue has come up. Back in 2016 the Lt. Governor called the report “too negative” and pushed to have it made “more fair.” The report was not substantially changed– just more data added. But in 2016 it still showed that North Carolina’s charter schools mostly serve whiter, wealthier student bodies. This prompted a remarkable explanation:

Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, said that fact is simply a reflection of which families are applying to charters.

Well, yes. Education reform in North Carolina has been about crushing the teachers’ unions and teachers themselves,while also being aimed at enabling white flight and accelerating segregation. One might be inclined to deduce that they hope to set up a spiffy private system for whiter, wealthier folks (including a corporate reserve-your-own-seats policy) along with vouchers, while simultaneously cutting the public system to the bone so that wealthy taxpayers don’t have to spend so much educating Those People’s Children. North Carolina has done plenty to earn a spot in the education policy hall of shame, enabled by some of the worst gerrymandering in the country.

But while NC legislators don’t seem to experience much shame over what they do, they sometimes worry about how they look (remember the great bathroom bill boycott of 2017). So now the charter report is going to be carefully whitewashed.

For instance, the report included a section about the racial impact of charter schools. But amid concerns that it might contain “misleading” wording that could be “blown out of proportion,” that section will apparently be removed. Regarding the report, ” I think it doesn’t actually represent what I believe to be true,” said Alex Quigley, chairman of the CSAB. “And given the choice between facts and the stuff I choose to believe, well, my beliefs and our charter marketing should come first.” Okay, I made up the last part, but that first part he totally said.

What data said is that 75% of charter schools have a white student enrollment that is more than 10% “off” from the surrounding district. Well over 50% of charters were off by more than 10% on black enrollment numbers. State law says that charters have to “reasonably reflect” the makeup of the district’s where they are located…

 

 

Steven Singer writes here about how economic thinking has distorted the purposes of schooling and is wrecking our society by turning everything into a transaction.

Here is an excerpt, in which he defines the transactional view of teaching:

 

The input is your salary. The output is learning.

These are distinctly measurable phenomena. One is calculated in dollars and cents. The other in academic outcomes, usually standardized test scores. The higher the salary, the more valued the teacher. The higher the test scores, the better the job she has done.

But that’s not all.

If the whole is defined in terms of buying and selling, each individual interaction can be, too.

It makes society nothing but a boss and the teacher nothing but an employee. The student is a mere thing that is passively acted on – molded like clay into whatever shape the bosses deem appropriate. 

In this framework, the teacher has no autonomy, no right to think for herself. Her only responsibility is to bring about the outcomes demanded by her employer. The wants and needs of her students are completely irrelevant. We determine what they will become, where they will fit into the burgeoning economy. And any sense of curiosity or creativity is merely an expedient to make children into the machinery of industry and drive the gross domestic product higher to benefit our stock portfolios and lower corporate taxes.

And since this education system is merely a business agreement, it must obey the rules of an ironclad contract. And since we’re trying to seek our own advantage here, it’s incumbent on us to contain our workforce as much as possible. This cannot be a negotiation among equals. We must keep each individual cog – each teacher – separate so that they can’t unionize together in common causeand equal our power. We must bend and subject them to our will so that we pay the absolute minimum and they’re forced to give the absolute maximum.

Ed Johnson, a close observer and frequent critic of the Atlanta public schools, writes here about the superintendent’s plans to adopt models developed by Eli Broad and the Waltons to transform the public schools into a business.

Johnson is a believer in the collaborative philosophy of W. Edwards Deming.

 

December 2019

Journey of Transformation: Atlanta schools to “buy” teachers by “price tag”

  • “Thinking about human beings as interchangeable commodities for sale, or abstract units of labor power, would lead merchants and planters to see human capital in much the same way that they saw animals.  And, by the time a young apprentice became a partner, he would feel ‘no more remorse in fitting out a ship for the purpose of trading in human flesh, than he would have done in sending her to catch whales or seals.’”
  • —Caitlin Rosenthal. Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management. Kindle Edition, location 1153.
Last month, Atlanta superintendent Meria Carstarphen, Ed.D., gave a presentation to the Atlanta Board of Education Budget Commission on FY 2021 budgeting for what she calls “Student Success Funding,” or SSF.  The Budget Commission is a standing committee of the Board that meets monthly.

At one point during the presentation, Dr. Carstarphen invited the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Atlanta Public Schools system (APS) to more adequately explain a matter that see, Dr. Carstarphen, suggested to enquiring commission members she had already explained well enough (my insertions):

  • (50:30-51:00) “… the way the schools purchase back their positions … we allocate the dollars and they buy their teachers back.  The price tag we put on those teachers is an average salary … and all schools buy back [teachers] at that rate.  What we know, what we’ve seen is that the schools that have the highest needs … have teachers that have either less experience or they don’t have the high degrees and, for whatever reason, they are ‘cheaper.’  … So what we would like to propose is … allowing those schools to buy their positions back at the actual average [value of the price tags we put on teachers] for their school.”
Despite the Board’s decision to non-renew her employment contract beyond the current school year, Carstarphen, by her presentation, makes clear she continues to advance her Journey of Transformation of APS.

When finished—and it can be finished, we must now understand—the journey will have brought APS to a permanent state of being “run like a business” and, in that state,  destroyed as the democratically governed public good is it supposed to be.

Thus the word “finish” must now be understood as signifying something real and consequential.  To continue thinking the word means something rhetorical or non-specific poses a grave risk to ever reclaiming and restoring APS as the public good it is supposed to be.

Entangled actors

In their joint report, The Strategic CFO: A Guide for School Districts, billionaire Eli Broad’s The Broad Center and Education Resource Strategies (ERS) lay out the essence of the matter as related to SSF.

So, too, does the partnership of ERS and APS, in the joint presentation, Student Success Funding: [APS] A District in Transformation.

Moreover, the APS CFO talks about student-based budgeting in the ERS Q&A, Student-Based Budgeting Takes Root in Atlanta.

ERS is a consultancy that says it helps clients to maximize—operative word, “maximize”—usage of capital resources, including “human capital.”  But as the Taguchi Loss Function teaches, maximal usage of a resource that is a system rapidly drives down the value and usefulness of the resource to point of it becoming a great source of waste.  In what follows, remain mindful that an individual “human capital” (e.g., an individual teacher) is a system.

And then there is the Walton Family Foundation’s 2017 grant of $350,000 to APS “To support research related to student[-]based budgeting” (my emphasis).  Research?  For what purpose, as related to student-based budgeting?  Maybe to establish the effectiveness of student-based budgeting and to use APS as a guinea pig in experiments to do that?  Was not the effectiveness of student-based budgeting a given?  Again, the APS CFO talks about student-based budgeting in the ERS Q&A noted above.

Thus we have Eli Broad, a private actor, in partnership with ERS, a private actor.  And we have ERS, a private actor, in partnership with APS Leadership, a public actor.  And we have APS Leadership, a public actor, in partnership with the Waltons and Eli Broad, both private actors.  This then means the public cannot know and trust the motives and behavior of any of the actors independently of each other; the actors are entangled.

Innately born systems thinking children learning to picture entanglement

So, how might we model and think about APS Leadership, ERS, Eli Broad, and the Waltons being entangled on the matter of student-based budgeting or, more relevantly, what Carstarphen calls Student Success Funding, or SSF?

Well, on a recent tour of Beecher Hills Elementary School, an Atlanta public school, goosebumps popped up when I noticed on a wall a display showing children were learning to “Organize our thinking using Venn Diagrams.”  (I regret I failed to take a snapshot.)

So let’s take the children’s lead, here, and make and use a simple Venn diagram to organize seeing and thinking about SSF being a common motive of the entangled actors as well as to represent a “finish”-able end to the superintendent’s Journey of Transformation of APS.

We might also recognize that thinking about SSF begs also thinking about a situation like that of Carstarphen having been superintendent in Austin, Texas, but all over again here in Atlanta.

Fortunately, a seemingly democracy-practiced Hispanic citizenry of Austin lead putting an end to her machinations and operating in cahoots with Eli Broad and the charter schools industry, soon enough.

In contrast, however, an apparent consumer-craving Black Atlanta citizenry, intersecting, Venn diagram-wise, with a paternalistic White Atlanta citizenry, is demanding destruction of APS as a public good, both actively and passively, as by silence.  Such Black and White behaviors continue to intersect as Atlanta elites’ old fashioned but still functioning Atlanta Compromise, which lets Eli Broad, et al., know Atlanta is an easy mark, I suggest.

  • “The leading figures in the actual Civil Rights Movement explicitly challenged the idea that the free market could deliver Black people from racism.” (p. 82) …
  • “Corporate education reform favors privatization and ‘free market’ solutions to school governance (‘running schools like a business’ and so on) and is, therefore, necessarily antithetical to the ethos of trade unions and of collective bargaining.” (p. 83)
  • –Brian Jones, Keys to the Schoolhouse: Black Teachers, Privatization, and the Future of Teacher Unions, Academia; accessed 4 Dec 2019.
Similarly, persons that preach a selfish, free market, “by any means necessary” ideology of education for children labeled Black–for example, as do the people of the Black organization known as BOOK (Better Options for OUR Kids), with funding by the Walton Family Foundation, support by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), and now propaganda distribution by The 74–are so horribly racially insular as to pose a real and present existential threat to the human development and dignity of the very children they so loudly profess to care about.

But then such racially insular people show it’s not the human development of the children they care that much about.  Rather, such racially insular people show they care mostly about the children developing as a race, a race to forever believe and perpetuate it is oppressed, and a race to forever believe and perpetuate “white supremacy” is something real.  Such racially insular people show they care about developing the children just as Eli Broad and the Waltons and similar others would have it.

Anticipating intended effects

Whether the matter is framed to be about student-based budgeting or Carstarphen’s euphemistically named Student Success Funding, or SSF, some essential effects to anticipate from the superintendent’s Journey of Transformation of APS are:
  • schools turned into and managed as free market performance centers
  • principals turned into and managed as free market schoolhouse CEOs and marketers
  • teachers turned into and managed as free market fungibles to be bought and sold, as needed
  • schools and school facilities opened, closed, and sold off, as needed, to maximize usage of capital; alternatively, the portfolio model by the marketing name, “Excellent Schools”
Thus we might now understand Carstarphen’s response to non-renewal of her employment contract that she has yet to “finish the work” she was hired to do.  We might now understand her Journey of Transformation of APS can indeed reach the state of being “finished,” taking a total of about 15 years, she now says.  And when finished, all schools—public, partner, charter—will be running not just like an ordinary business but running like a conglomerate of businesses on the style of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, for example, capable to generate its own internal market.

APS central office will function as the conglomerate business controlling all other businesses and each individual school will have the ballyhooed “freedom and autonomy in exchange for accountability” to function like a specialized business or branch (i.e., theme school, academy, whatever).  Still, each specialized business (i.e., each school) will be subject to certain common business management practices (think again about the Beecher Hills kids learning to make and use Venn diagrams) that originate with the controlling business (i.e., APS central office) for maximizing performance at that level.

For example, individual businesses (i.e., schools) will be subject to being opened, closed, and sold off, as needed, so as to continually maximize any or all of their financial performance, customer traffic (i.e., school enrollment), consumer satisfaction (i.e., illusory parental school choice), and other matters.  Teachers will be reduced to fungible commodities to be bought and sold at the cheapest, competitive price the internal market will pay, so different specialized businesses (i.e., schools) can also continually work at maximizing usage of the human capital they have bought—all the while generating enormous amounts of squander as well as waste of human potential.

Good, effective business marketing (i.e., lying) required

What the Walton Family Foundation calls “student-based budgeting” is also know by other conceptually accurate names, including student-based allocation, weighted student funding, and fair student funding.  But now comes Carstarphen’s marketing name, Student Success Funding, which gives no conceptual clue about the reality of the matter.

Naming the matter “Student Success Funding” makes for good business marketing.  The nature of such business marketing—and all that such business marketing implies, including manipulating consumers to believe they need something when they don’t, to consume something when they shouldn’t, to not consume something when they should, etc.—keeps with Atlanta school board chairman Jason Esteves marketing The City Fund’s truthfully named “portfolio model” by the catchy name, “Excellent Schools.”

Carstarphen’s apparent jovial easiness with business marketing leaves no doubt of it harkening back to even when “human capital” was sold at auction based on the financial accounting value, or “price tag,” owners and managers of the human capital had recorded in their “price lists.”  Carstarphen has been repeatedly advised, in public Board meetings, to let go the “human capital” language and remove it from strategic planning.  But she refuses to do that, and now we might see that the entangled SSF actors suggest why she refuses: they all stand to benefit from destroying APS as a public good.

It is also obvious that the superintendent’s carefree morals and ethics about marketing allow her to effectively be okay with the management of schools as free market performance centers, to be okay with teachers as buyable and sellable commodities, to be okay with students as customers, and to be okay with parents as consumers of schools they would choose as if choosing a Happy Meal from a McDonald’s menu price list.

And, most disturbingly, to be okay with continuing to manipulate children into marketing the “APS brand” as entrants in the Superintendent’s Annual Winter Card Contest.  Why any parents would allow their child to be used in this way is puzzling.

Similarly, perhaps following Carstarphen’s lead or command, some Atlanta public school principals have taken to talking about their school as a competitive “brand,” as if doing that is necessary to compete with the KIPP brand, the Kindezi brand, the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School brand, etc.

  • “Two years ago I realized ANCS was a direct competition.  I had to figure out how to make parents see my school as a viable option for parents.  I don’t want it to be a competition about which is better but what fits best for my kid.  How can we make sure that Parkside is a viable neighborhood school of choice?”
  • —Principal, Parkside Elementary School, 29 Aug 2019

Funding Atlanta public schools to improve

However, funding APS as the public good it is supposed to be and budgeting for that is immaterial to the entangled SSF actors—APS Leadership, ERS, Eli Broad, the Waltons.  And let’s not forget Bill Gates.  “What about Bill Gates?,” Carstarphen once asked me in a meeting in the midst of my trying to help her understand the golden opportunity her becoming Atlanta superintendent held for her to not do in Atlanta as she had tried to do in Austin.  To understand that APS needs, has always needed, and always will need, improvement, not one-off turnaround.  Fool’s errand on my part because, obviously, Eli Broad, et al., came to Atlanta with her.

The Austin Chronicle put it this way about Austin’s citizenry seeing her to the exit door:

“[Carstarphen] never understood or cared for the public mood.”
The table below lists and gives a short description of so-called “ERS Principles” the APS Leadership have apparently adopted, as given.  However, not one reference so far discovered even suggests that any ERS Principle represents a fundamental truth or proposition based in reality.  Rather, each principle inscribes, arguably, a statement of belief about free market ideology suitable for marketing SSF.

References about SSF, variously named, warn:
  • SSF is complex (e.g., this by ERS, itself)
  • SSF is fraught with implementation challenges (e.g., this)
  • SSF lacks research-based evidence that it works (e.g., this, which references APS)
  • SSF reproduces racial inequality that undermines funding equity (e.g., this and this)
  • SSF requires principals to be competently burdened “school CEOs” more so than knowledgeable leaders of educational practice and improvement

Open a window onto morals and ethics of SSF

To bring clarity and transparency to SSF in a way that exposes it for what it is, Carstarphen might engage her Accountability and Information Technology Division to model SSF as either or both a data model, so as to expose, as MLK Jr put it, the “interrelated structure of reality” SSF portends; and, a process model, possibly dynamic, so as to expose the interrelated behaviors SSF portends and to have a basis for predicting those behaviors, over time.

Structure and behavior are like opposite sides of the same coin; there cannot be one side without the other side.  An essential component of an SSF Model will be unambiguous and hype- and marketing-free definitions of things and relationships between things modeled.

(My post, Lexical Conventions for Enterprise Data Modeling, is freely available to the superintendent and her administration to draw from, as have some folk at major corporations even in faraway places such as the U.K.  So is my article, Enterprise Modeling: Checking with Reality, as published by Business Process Trends.)

Then, with either or both SSF Models in hand, people might be helped to see the complexity, inequality, absurdity, and various kinds of squander to come from implementing SSF, and then decide to reject SSF before it can be implemented and the damage done.

Even so, and essentially without expense, moral and ethical concerns alone should give pause and reason enough to reject Student Success Funding and instead commit to funding the Atlanta Public Schools system with the aim of starting the system off on a never-ending, unfinishable Journey of Continual Improvement and, along the way, detoxify APS of accumulated charter school industry squander, so the system can get back to being the wholly public good it is supposed to be.

My insertion, original emphasis:
  • “Planters strove for rationalization, standardization, and fungibility when it served their interests. Their ownership of capital [including human capital] gave them the power to commodify as they chose.”
  • —Caitlin Rosenthal, Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management. Kindle Edition, Location 3511.

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

 

In case you didn’t know, a murmuration is the sound of lots of birds flapping their little wings.

Mercedes Schneider defines it here:

The name, “murmuration,” refers to “hundreds, sometimes thousands, of starlings fly in swooping, intricately coordinated patterns through the sky.”

Why does it matter?

Because Emma Bloomberg, daughter of multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg, has created a new “ed reform” organization that uses that term as its name.

Schneider has scoured the websites and also the tax forms of this new group.

What they do is not obvious, but they do have millions of dollars, probably from Pappa Bloomberg.

They apparently spend it on data technology, technology integration, and, of course, it is all about the children.

As Schneider writes:

Our focus is on driving change and accelerating progress toward a future where every child in America has the opportunity to benefit from a high-quality public education.

And how do the unnamed, Murmuration change-drivers propose to drive said change?

We provide sophisticated data and analytics, proprietary technology, strategic guidance, and programmatic support to help our partners build political power and marshal support so necessary changes are made to improve our public schools.

Our precise, predictive intelligence and easy-to-use tools are used by practitioners and funders, on their own and working together, to make informed decisions about who they need to reach, what they need to say, and how to achieve and sustain impact.

Of course, in typical ed-reform fashion, its *for the kids*:

We envision a public school system that ensures every child across our nation – regardless of race, income, background, or the zip code where they live – receives an education that prepares them to lead productive, fulfilling, and happy lives.

We believe public servants must recognize that providing a great education to every child is necessary to our prosperity, and be willing to invest in real, systemic and sustainable change which may come at a political cost.

We want our political systems to function and benefit from a rich discussion of the important role of public schools.  We want everyone who is impacted by public education to participate (or be represented) in the discussion and decision-making process.  And, we want the voices of those most reliant on our public education system to be heard.

What all this adds up to is hard to say, other than providing another honey tree for practitioners of disruption to shake.

I am trying to imagine how “those most reliant on our public education system to be heard” when the loudest voices are those with the most money.

Billionaires usually don’t send their own children to public schools and do not have a habit of listening to those who do, but they have plenty of dough to spread around to those who agree with their agenda to privatize the schools, monetize the data, and make technology our master.

The one thing that is clear from Schneider’s post is that Murmuration has plenty of money to spend. What it intends to to is not yet clear. Maybe they plan to visit public schools and listen to parents. Ya’ think?

Alan Singer writes her about the massive data breach at Pearson, which was covered up for nearly a year.

He writes:

“And you thought it was safe to sign into a test at Pearson Vue. Well you better think again. At least one Pearson online product was hacked exposing student data from 13,000 schools and one million college students. The hack occurred in November 2018, the F.B.I informed Pearson in March 2019, and Pearson, covering itself for as long as possible, finally went public with the disclosure in July 2019.

”The hacked product is Person’s aimsweb®, that is used to monitor student reading and math skills. Pearson’s assessment sub-division markets the product with claims that “its robust set of standards-aligned measures, aimswebPlus is proven to uncover learning gaps quickly, identify at-risk students, and assess individual and classroom growth.” A side benefit, especially useful for authoritarian regimes, is that aimsweb® also monitors student online “behavior.””

Parents who sued were offered a year of free credit monitoring. They said no thank you.

Since 2007, when the flamboyant Disrupter Michelle Rhee took charge of the schools of D.C. with an unlimited grant of power—no checks, no balances, no constraints—the cheerleaders for Disruption (aka “Reform”) have made bold claims about the D.C. “miracle.” This despite a major cheating scandal that Rhee swept under the rug and despite a graduation rate scandal that followed a nonsensical, false  claim by a high school that 100% of its students graduated.

Now this.

Blogger Valerie Jablow reports that the D.C. public schools face a major crisis of teacher attrition. 

In the wake of years of testimony about horrific treatment of DC teachers, SBOE last year commissioned a study by DC schools expert Mary Levy, which showed terrible attrition of teachers at our publicly funded schools, dwarfing attrition rates nationally.

An update to that 2018 study was just made available by SBOE and will be discussed at the meeting this week.

The update shows that while DCPS teacher and principal attrition rates have dropped slightly recently, they remain very high, with 70% of teachers leaving entirely by the 5-year mark (p. 32). Retention rates for DC’s charter schools are similar to those at DCPS–with the caveat that not only are they self-reported, but they are also not as complete and likely contain errors.

Perhaps the most stunning data point is that more than half of DCPS teachers leaving after 6 years are highly rated (p. 24). This suggests that the exodus of teachers from DC’s publicly funded schools is not merely a matter of weeding out poor performers (as DCPS’s response after p. 70 of this report suggests). Rather, it gives data credence to the terrifying possibility that good teachers are being relentlessly harassed until they give up and leave.

Sadly, that conclusion is the only one that makes sense to me, given that most of my kids’ teachers in my 14 years as a DCPS parent have left their schools–with only a few retiring after many years of service. Most of my kids’ teachers were both competent and caring. Perhaps not coincidentally, they almost always also lacked basic supplies that they ended up buying with their own money; were pressured to teach to tests that would be the basis of their and their principals’ evaluations; and feared reprisal for saying any of that.

(I’m hardly alone in that observation–read some teacher testimony for the SBOE meeting here, including that of a special education teacher, who notes that overwork with caseloads; lack of supplies; and increased class sizes for kids with disabilities are recurring factors at her school that directly lead to teacher burnout.)

In other words, high teacher attrition in DC’s publicly funded schools isn’t a bug but a feature.

 

 

Peter Goodman writes about education policy in New York City and New York State.

In this post, he tries to figure out whether NYC is about to double down on a “test and punish” regime or to seek collaboration.

He covers the bizarre City Council hearing about over-testing, where a top official of the NYC Department of Education announced the city’s decision to add four new off-the-shelf standardized tests to the school year to track student progress and to create a data tracking program called EDUSTATS to monitor student scores citywide, class by class.

At the hearing, chaired by Mark Treyger, a high school teacher on leave, the city described its plan:

Laura Chin, the # 2 at the Department of Education testified at the hearing and mentioned Edustats, the new Department initiative; Treyger pressed her on the program. The Department will require periodic assessments, the Executive Superintendents will review the results with Superintendents, and Chin described the process as similar to the New York Police Department (NYPD) Comstat system. Borough commanders meet with precinct commanders and review data, detailed crime statistics, and grill the precinct commanders: what have they done to respond to statistical increases in the crime data? Why isn’t it working? The precinct commanders despise the process: public shaming with the threat of job removal. While the precinct commander can move patrol cops from one area to another schools can’t prevent evictions or provide food for families or more racially integrated schools.

The Police COMSTAT Program led to many complaints that officers were “juking the stats”—gaming the system— to improve ratings, for example, by classifying felonies as misdemeanors.