Archives for category: Failure

Businessman William Lager launched “The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow” in 2000. Over nearly 20 years, he collected $1 billion from the taxpayers of Ohio, despite the fact that ECOT had the lowest graduation rate in the nation, high attrition, and low scores. Lager created related businesses to which he gave contracts for services. In 2019, he declared bankruptcy rather than pay multimillion dollar fines to the state because of inflated enrollments. Jeb Bush was a commencement speaker one year, Governor Kasich another year. It was great while it lasted: for Lager.

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Inadequacy writes:

The ECOT Man: no fiduciary responsibility and no conflict of interest.

William Lager, the ECOT Man, is being sued by the state for recovery of funds ECOT gained illegally. Lager created Altair Learning Management to manage ECOT along with IQ Innovation support services. He also engaged a company owned by his daughter for public relations purposes.

In a recent filing with the court, Mr. Lager argues that no conflict of interest existed in this arrangement.

He founded ECOT, Altair and IQ Innovation. Lager’s daughter’s PR firm provided services for marketing and PR. No conflict of interest here!
Mr. Lager also argues that in his role in the operation of ECOT, he had no fiduciary responsibility. He says he had no access to or authority over the public funds ECOT received.


Lager did make some legitimate points in his filing that should be of interest to taxpayers. He indicates that ECOT had received awards for excellence from the State Auditor and that State Auditor had been a graduation speaker at ECOT.

That state officials have been negligent in holding charter operators accountable is well known.

Those of you who have followed this blog for many years know that I don’t put much stock in twelfth grade NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores. Having served for seven years on the NAEP governing board (the National Assessment Governing Board), I know that twelfth graders are a perennial problem. Unlike students in fourth and eighth grades, the seniors know the test doesn’t count. They are not motivated.

Bearing that in mind, it is nonetheless surprising that the recently released NAEP 12th grade reading and math scores have barely budged since 2005.

Even if kids aren’t trying hard, their scores should have gone up if they were actually better educated.

I argued in Slaying Goliath that NAEP scores for fourth and eighth grade have been flat for the past decade. And these kids are doing their best.

NAEP scores show the abject failure of “education reform” inflicted on students and educators since passage of No Child Left Behind. NCLB, Race to the Top, VAM, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, Common Core: a massive failure.

It’s time to throw out the status quo. It’s time for a new vision. It’s time to respect educators and stop tying their hands and giving them scripts. It’s time to end the regime of test and publish.

Are you listening, Joe Biden?

The New York Times published this editorial for its Sunday edition, accompanied by articles detailing the multiple failures of Donald Trump. This is my favorite line: “the lesson of the last four years is that he cannot solve the nation’s pressing problems because he is the nation’s most pressing problem.” The title of the editorial is: “End Our National Crisis: The Case Against Donald Trump.”

Donald Trump’s re-election campaign poses the greatest threat to American democracy since World War II.

Mr. Trump’s ruinous tenure already has gravely damaged the United States at home and around the world. He has abused the power of his office and denied the legitimacy of his political opponents, shattering the norms that have bound the nation together for generations. He has subsumed the public interest to the profitability of his business and political interests. He has shown a breathtaking disregard for the lives and liberties of Americans. He is a man unworthy of the office he holds.

The editorial board does not lightly indict a duly elected president. During Mr. Trump’s term, we have called out his racism and his xenophobia. We have critiqued his vandalism of the postwar consensus, a system of alliances and relationships around the globe that cost a great many lives to establish and maintain. We have, again and again, deplored his divisive rhetoric and his malicious attacks on fellow Americans. Yet when the Senate refused to convict the president for obvious abuses of power and obstruction, we counseled his political opponents to focus their outrage on defeating him at the ballot box.

Nov. 3 can be a turning point. This is an election about the country’s future, and what path its citizens wish to choose.

The resilience of American democracy has been sorely tested by Mr. Trump’s first term. Four more years would be worse.

But even as Americans wait to vote in lines that stretch for blocks through their towns and cities, Mr. Trump is engaged in a full-throated assault on the integrity of that essential democratic process. Breaking with all of his modern predecessors, he has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, suggesting that his victory is the only legitimate outcome, and that if he does not win, he is ready to contest the judgment of the American people in the courts or even on the streets.

[Kathleen Kingsbury, acting editorial page editor, wrote about the editorial board’s verdict on Donald Trump’s presidency in a special edition of our Opinion Today newsletter. You can read it here.]

The enormity and variety of Mr.Trump’s misdeeds can feel overwhelming. Repetition has dulled the sense of outrage, and the accumulation of new outrages leaves little time to dwell on the particulars. This is the moment when Americans must recover that sense of outrage.

It is the purpose of this special section of the Sunday Review to remind readers why Mr. Trump is unfit to lead the nation. It includes a series of essays focused on the Trump administration’s rampant corruption, celebrations of violence, gross negligence with the public’s health and incompetent statecraft. A selection of iconic images highlights the president’s record on issues like climate, immigration, women’s rights and race. And alongside our judgment of Mr. Trump, we are publishing, in their own words, the damning judgments of men and women who had served in his administration.

The urgency of these essays speaks for itself. The repudiation of Mr. Trump is the first step in repairing the damage he has done. But even as we write these words, Mr. Trump is salting the field — and even if he loses, reconstruction will require many years and tears.

Mr. Trump stands without any real rivals as the worst American president in modern history. In 2016, his bitter account of the nation’s ailments struck a chord with many voters. But the lesson of the last four years is that he cannot solve the nation’s pressing problems because he is the nation’s most pressing problem.

He is a racist demagogue presiding over an increasingly diverse country; an isolationist in an interconnected world; a showman forever boasting about things he has never done, and promising to do things he never will.

He has shown no aptitude for building, but he has managed to do a great deal of damage. He is just the man for knocking things down.

As the world runs out of time to confront climate change, Mr. Trump has denied the need for action, abandoned international cooperation and attacked efforts to limit emissions.

He has mounted a cruel crackdown on both legal and illegal immigration without proposing a sensible policy for determining who should be allowed to come to the United States.

Obsessed with reversing the achievements of his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, he has sought to persuade both Congress and the courts to get rid of the Affordable Care Act without proposing any substitute policy to provide Americans with access to affordable health care. During the first three years of his administration, the number of Americans without health insurance increased by 2.3 million — a number that has surely grown again as millions of Americans have lost their jobs this year.

He campaigned as a champion of ordinary workers, but he has governed on behalf of the wealthy. He promised an increase in the federal minimum wage and fresh investment in infrastructure; he delivered a round of tax cuts that mostly benefited rich people. He has indiscriminately erased regulations, and answered the prayers of corporations by suspending enforcement of rules he could not easily erase. Under his leadership, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stopped trying to protect consumers and the Environmental Protection Agency has stopped trying to protect the environment.

He has strained longstanding alliances while embracing dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, whom Mr. Trump treats with a degree of warmth and deference that defies explanation. He walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a strategic agreement among China’s neighbors intended to pressure China to conform to international standards. In its place, Mr. Trump has conducted a tit-for-tat trade war, imposing billions of dollars in tariffs — taxes that are actually paid by Americans — without extracting significant concessions from China.

Mr. Trump’s inadequacies as a leader have been on particularly painful display during the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of working to save lives, Mr. Trump has treated the pandemic as a public relations problem. He lied about the danger, challenged the expertise of public health officials and resisted the implementation of necessary precautions; he is still trying to force the resumption of economic activity without bringing the virus under control.

As the economy pancaked, he signed an initial round of aid for Americans who lost their jobs. Then the stock market rebounded and, even though millions remained out of work, Mr. Trump lost interest in their plight.

In September, he declared that the virus “affects virtually nobody” the day before the death toll from the disease in the United States topped 200,000.

Nine days later, Mr. Trump fell ill.

The foundations of American civil society were crumbling before Mr. Trump rode down the escalator of Trump Tower in June 2015 to announce his presidential campaign. But he has intensified the worst tendencies in American politics: Under his leadership, the nation has grown more polarized, more paranoid and meaner.

He has pitted Americans against each other, mastering new broadcast media like Twitter and Facebook to rally his supporters around a virtual bonfire of grievances and to flood the public square with lies, disinformation and propaganda. He is relentless in his denigration of opponents and reluctant to condemn violence by those he regards as allies. At the first presidential debate in September, Mr. Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists. He responded by instructing one violent gang, the Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by.”

He has undermined faith in government as a vehicle for mediating differences and arriving at compromises. He demands absolute loyalty from government officials, without regard to the public interest. He is openly contemptuous of expertise.

And he has mounted an assault on the rule of law, wielding his authority as an instrument to secure his own power and to punish political opponents. In June, his administration tear-gassed and cleared peaceful protesters from a street in front of the White House so Mr. Trump could pose with a book he does not read in front of a church he does not attend.

The full scope of his misconduct may take decades to come to light. But what is already known is sufficiently shocking:

He has resisted lawful oversight by the other branches of the federal government. The administration routinely defies court orders, and Mr. Trump has repeatedly directed administration officials not to testify before Congress or to provide documents, notably including Mr. Trump’s tax returns.

With the help of Attorney General William Barr, he has shielded loyal aides from justice. In May, the Justice Department said it would drop the prosecution of Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn even though Mr. Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. In July, Mr. Trump commuted the sentence of another former aide, Roger Stone, who was convicted of obstructing a federal investigation of Mr. Trump’s 2016 election campaign. Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, rightly condemned the commutation as an act of “unprecedented, historic corruption.”

Last year, Mr. Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation of his main political rival, Joe Biden, and then directed administration officials to obstruct a congressional inquiry of his actions. In December 2019, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Mr. Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors. But Senate Republicans, excepting Mr. Romney, voted to acquit the president, ignoring Mr. Trump’s corruption to press ahead with the project of filling the benches of the federal judiciary with young, conservative lawyers as a firewall against majority rule.

Now, with other Republican leaders, Mr. Trump is mounting an aggressive campaign to reduce the number of Americans who vote and the number of ballots that are counted.

The president, who has long spread baseless charges of widespread voter fraud, has intensified his rhetorical attacks in recent months, especially on ballots submitted by mail. “The Nov 3rd Election result may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED,” he tweeted. The president himself has voted by mail, and there is no evidence to support his claims. But the disinformation campaign serves as a rationale for purging voter rolls, closing polling places, tossing absentee ballots and otherwise impeding Americans from exercising the right to vote.

It is an intolerable assault on the very foundations of the American experiment in government by the people.

Other modern presidents have behaved illegally or made catastrophic decisions. Richard Nixon used the power of the state against his political opponents. Ronald Reagan ignored the spread of AIDS. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying and obstruction of justice. George W. Bush took the nation to war under false pretenses.

Mr. Trump has outstripped decades of presidential wrongdoing in a single term.

Frederick Douglass lamented during another of the nation’s dark hours, the presidency of Andrew Johnson, “We ought to have our government so shaped that even when in the hands of a bad man, we shall be safe.” But that is not the nature of our democracy. The implicit optimism of American democracy is that the health of the Republic rests on the judgment of the electorate and the integrity of those voters choose.

Mr. Trump is a man of no integrity. He has repeatedly violated his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Now, in this moment of peril, it falls to the American people — even those who would prefer a Republican president — to preserve, protect and defend the United States by voting.

Bill Phillis, founder of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding explains here where the funding comes from for vouchers: public schools pay from their budgets. The cost this year is nearly $350 million, deducted from the public schools that enroll nearly 90% of the state’s children. A study funded by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute showed that vouchers are ineffective and that children who use them fall behind their peers in public schools. Yet the Leislature wants to increase the funding for vouchers. Why invest in failure?

Deductions from school districts to voucher schools increased from $42,355,792 in FY 2008 to $349,304,605 in FY 2021

In 13 years, voucher deductions have increased each year except for FY 2011 to FY 2012 wherein there was a decrease of 9%. The percentage increase during the period from FY 2008 to FY 2020 has fluctuated between 7.2% and 86%. See the table below:

2008 to 2009  34%

2009 to 2010  22.8%

2010 to 2011 13.2%

2011 to 2012 -9%

2012 to 2013 86%

2013 to 2014 15.3%

2014 to 2015 15%

2015 to 2016 12%

2016 to 2017 9.1%

2017 to 2018 11.8%

2018 to 2019 7.20%

2019 to 2020 23.3%

2020 to 2021 0%

If the HB 166 EdChoice voucher expansion goes into effect next year, there will be a dramatic surge in voucher deductions.

The voucher advocates have powerful winds behind their sails. They will surge forward until state officials cave in to their demands—a voucher for every student.

No school district will be spared; hence, it is imperative that every district join the EdChoice voucher lawsuit.

Bob Shepherd is an editor, author, and recently retired teacher in Florida. He worked for many years as a developer of curriculum and assessments. He posted this comment here.

Combating Standardized Testing Derangement Syndrome (STDs)

The dirty secret of the standardized testing industry is the breathtakingly low quality of the tests themselves. I worked in the educational publishing industry at very high levels for more than twenty years. I have produced materials for all the major standardized test publishers, and I know from experience that quality control processes in that industry have dropped to such low levels that the tests, these days, are typically extraordinarily sloppy and neither reliable nor valid. They typically have not been subjected to anything like the standardization procedures used, in the past, with intelligence tests, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and so on. The mathematics tests are marginally better than are the tests in ELA, US History, and Science, but they are not great. The tests in English Language Arts are truly appalling. A few comments:

The state and national standardized tests in ELA are invalid.

First, much of attainment in ELA consists of world knowledge–knowledge of what–the stuff of declarative memories of subject matter. What are fables and parables, how are they similar, and how do they differ? What are the similarities and differences between science fiction and fantasy? What are the parts of a metaphor? How does a metaphor work? What is American Gothic? What are its standard motifs? How is it related to European Romanticism and Gothic literature? How does it differ? Who are its practitioners? Who were Henry David Thoreau and Mary Shelley and what major work did each write and why is that work significant? What time is it at the opening of 1984? What has Billy Pilgrim become “unstuck” in? What did Milton want to justify? What is a couplet? terza rima? a sonnet? What is dactylic hexameter? What is deconstruction? What is reader response? the New Criticism? What does it mean to begin in medias res? What is a dialectical organizational scheme? a reductio ad absurdum? an archetype? a Bildungsroman? a correlative conjunction? a kenning? What’s the difference between Naturalism and Realism? Who the heck was Samuel Johnson, and why did he suggest kicking that rock? Why shouldn’t maidens go to Carterhaugh? And so on. The so-called “standards” being tested cover ALMOST NO declarative knowledge and so miss much of what constitutes attainment in this subject. Imagine a test of biology that left out almost all world knowledge (How do vertebrates differ from invertebrates? What is a pistil? A stamen? What are the functions of the Integumentary System? What are mycelia? What is a trophic level?) and covered only biology “skills” like–I don’t know–slide-staining ability–and you’ll get what I mean here. This has been a MAJOR problem with all of these summative standardized tests in ELA since their inception. They don’t assess what students know. Instead, they test, supposedly, a lot of abstract “skills”–the stuff on the Gates/Coleman Common [sic] Core [sic] bullet list, but they don’t even do that.

Second, much of attainment in ELA involves mastery of procedural knowledge–knowledge of what to do. E.g.: How do you format a Works Cited page? How do you plan the plot of a standard short story? What step-by-step procedure could you follow to do that? How do you create melody in your speaking voice? How do you revise to create sentence variety or to emphasize a particular point? What specific procedures can you carry out to accomplish these things? But the authors of these “standards” didn’t think that concretely, in terms of particular procedural knowledge. Instead, in imitation of the lowest-common-denominator-group-think state “standards” that preceded theirs, they chose to deal in vague, poorly conceived abstractions. The “standards” being tested define skills so vaguely and so generally that they cannot, as written, be sufficiently operationalized, to be VALIDLY tested. They literally CANNOT be, as in, this is an impossibility on the level of drawing a square circle. Given, for example, the extraordinarily wide variety of types of narratives (jokes, news stories, oral histories, tall tales, etc.) and the enormous number of skills that it requires to produce narratives of various kinds (writing believable dialogue, developing a conflict, characterization via action, characterization via foils, showing not telling, establishing a point of view, etc.), there can be no single prompt that tests for narrative writing ability IN GENERAL. But this is a broader problem. In general, the tests ask one or two multiple-choice questions per “standard.” But what one or two multiple-choice questions could you ask to find out if a student is able, IN GENERAL, to “make inferences from text” (the first of the many literature “standards” at each grade level in the Gates/Coleman bullet list)? Obviously, you can’t. There are three very different kinds of inference–induction, deduction, and abduction–and whole sciences devoted to problems in each, and texts vary so considerably, and types of inferences from texts do as well, that no such testing of GENERAL “inferring from texts” ability is even remotely possible. A moment’s clear, careful thought should make this OBVIOUS. So, the tests do not even validly test for what they purport to test for, and all this invalidity in testing for each “standard” doesn’t–cannot–add up to validity overall.

Third, nothing that students do on these exams even remotely resembles what real readers and writers do with real texts in the real world. Ipso facto, the tests cannot be valid tests of actual reading and writing. People read for one of two reasons—to find out what an author thinks about a subject or to have an interesting, engaging, vicarious experience. The tests, and the curricula based on them, don’t help students to do either. Imagine, for example, that you wish to respond to this post, but instead of agreeing or disagreeing with what I’ve said and explaining why, you are limited to explaining how my use of figurative language (the tests are a miasma) affected the tone and mood of my post. See what I mean? But that’s precisely the kind of thing that the writing prompts on the Common [sic] Core [sic] ELA tests do and the kind of thing that one finds, now, in ELA courseware. This whole testing enterprise has trivialized education in the English language arts and has replaced normal interaction with texts with such freakish, contorted, scholastic nonsense.

Fourth, a lot of attainment in ELA is not about explicit learning, at all, but, rather, about acquisition via automatic processes. So, for example, your knowledge (or lack thereof) of explicit models of the grammar of your native tongue has almost nothing to do with your internalized grammar of the language. But the ELA standardized tests and the “standards” on which they are based were conceived in blissful ignorance of this (and of much else that is now known about language acquisition).

Fifth, standard standardized test development procedures require that the testing instrument be validated. Such validation requires that the test maker show that results for the the test and for particular test items and test item types correlate strongly with other accepted measures of what is being tested. No such validation has been done for any of the new generation of state and national standardized ELA tests. None. And, given the vagueness of the “standards,” none could be. Where is the independent measure of proficiency on Common Core State Standard ELA.11-12.4b against which the items on the state and national measures have been validated? Answer: There is no such measure. None. So, the tests fail to meet a minimal standard for a high-stakes standardized assessment–that they have been independently validated.

The test formats are inappropriate.

The new state and national tests consist largely of objective-format items (multiple-choice and so-called evidence-based selected response items, or EBSR). On these tests, such item formats are pressed into a kind of service for which they are, generally, not appropriate. They are used to test what in EdSpeak is called “higher-order thinking.” The test questions therefore tend to be tricky and convoluted. The test makers, these days, all insist on all the multiple-choice distracters, or possible answers, being “plausible.” The student is to choose the “best” answer from among a list of plausible answers. Well, what does plausible mean? It means “reasonable.” In other words, on these tests, many reasonable answers are, BY DESIGN, wrong answers! So, the test questions end up being extraordinarily complex and confusing and tricky–impossible for kids to answer, because the “experts” who designed these tests didn’t understand the most basic stuff about creating assessments, for example, that objective question formats are generally not great for testing so-called “higher-order thinking” and are best reserved for testing straight recall. The use of these inappropriate formats, coupled with the sloppiness of the test-creation procedures, results in question after question where there is, arguably, no correct answer among the answer choices given or one or more choices that are arguably correct. Often, the question is written so badly that it is not, arguably, answerable given the actual question stem and text provided. I did an analysis of the sample released questions from a recent FSA ELA practice exam and demonstrated that such was the case for almost all the questions on the exam, so sloppily had it been prepared. But I can’t release that for fear of being sued by the scam artists who peddle these tests to people who aren’t even allowed to see them. Hey, I’ve got some great land in Flor-uh-duh. Take my word for it. Available cheap (but not available for inspection).

The tests are diagnostically and instructionally useless.

Many kinds of assessment—diagnostic assessment, formative assessment, performative assessment, some classroom summative assessment—have instructional value. They can be used to inform instruction and/or are themselves instructive. The results of the high-stakes standardized tests are not broken down in any way that is of diagnostic or instructional use. Teachers and students cannot even see the tests to find out what students got wrong on them and why. The results always come too late to be of any use, anyway. So the tests are of no diagnostic or instructional value. None. None whatsoever.

The tests have enormous opportunity costs.

I estimate that, nationwide, schools are now spending a third of the school year on state standardized tests. That time includes the actual time spent taking the tests, the time spent taking pretests and benchmark tests and other practice tests, the time spent doing test prep materials, the time spent doing exercises and activities in textbooks and online materials that have been modeled on the test questions in order to prepare kids to answer questions of those kinds, and the time spent on reporting, data analysis, data chats, proctoring, and other test housekeeping. That’s all lost instructional time.

The tests have enormous direct, incurred costs.

Typically, the US spends 1.7 billion per year under direct contracts for state standardized testing. The PARCC contract by itself was worth over a billion dollars to Pear$on in the first three years, and you have to add the cost of SBAC and the other state tests to that. No one, to my knowledge, has accurately estimated the cost of the computer upgrades that were (and continue to be) necessary for online testing of every child, but those costs vastly exceed the amount spent on the tests themselves. Then add the costs of test prep materials and staff doing proctoring and data chats and so on. Then add the costs of new curricula that have been dumbed down to be test preppy. Billions and billions and billions. This is money that could be spent on stuff that matters—on making sure that poor kids have eye exams and warm clothes and food in their bellies, on making sure that libraries are open and that schools have nurses on duty to keep kids from dying. How many dead kids is all this testing worth, given that it is, again, invalid as assessment and of no diagnostic or instructional value?

The tests dramatically distort curricula and pedagogy.

The tests drive how and what people teach and much of what is created by curriculum developers. These distortions are grave. In U.S. curriculum development today, the tail is wagging the dog. To an enormous extent, we’ve basically replaced traditional English curricula with test prep. Where before, a student might open a literature textbook and study a coherent unit on The Elements of the Short Story or on The Transcendentalists, he or she now does random exercises, modeled on the standardized test questions, in which he or she “practices” random “skills” from the Gates/Coleman bullet list on random snippets of text. There’s enormous pressure on schools to do all test prep all the time because school and student and teacher and administrator evaluations depend upon the test results. Every courseware producer in the U.S. now begins every ELA or math project by making a spreadsheet with a list of the “standards” in the first column and the place where the “standard” will be “covered” in the other columns. And since the standards are a random list of vague skills, the courseware becomes random as well. The era of coherent, well-planned curricula is gone. I won’t go into detail about this, here, but this is an ENORMOUS problem. Many of the best courseware writers and editors I know have quit in disgust at this. The testing mania has brought about devolution and trivialization of our methods and materials.

The tests are abusive and demotivating.

Our prime directive as educators should be to nurture intrinsic motivation in order to create independent, life-long learners. The tests create climates of anxiety and fear. Both science and common sense teach that extrinsic punishment and reward systems like this testing system are highly DEMOTIVATING for cognitive tasks. See this:

The summative standardized testing system is a backward extrinsic punishment and reward approach to motivation. It reminds me of the line from the alphabet in the Puritan New England Primer, the first textbook published on these shores:

The idle Fool
Is whip’t in school

The tests have shown no positive results; they have not improved outcomes, and they have not reduced achievement gaps.

We have been doing this standards-and-standardized-testing stuff for more than two decades now. Richard Rothstein, the education statistician, has shown that turning our nation’s schools into test prep outfits has resulted in very minor increases in overall mathematics outcomes (increases of less than 2 percent on independent tests of mathematical ability) and NO IMPROVEMENT WHATSOEVER in ELA. Simply from the Hawthorne Effect, we should have seen some improvement. Rothstein also showed that even if you accept as valid the results from international comparative tests, if you correct for the socioeconomic level of the students taking those tests, US students are NOT behind those in other advanced, industrialized nations. So, the rationale for the testing madness was false from the start. The issue is not “failing schools” and “failing teachers” but POVERTY. We have a lot of poor kids in the US, and those kids take the tests in higher numbers than elsewhere. Arguably, all the testing we’ve been doing has actually decreased outcomes, which is consistent with what we know about the demotivational effects, for cognitive tasks, of extrinsic punishment and reward systems. Years ago, I watched a seagull repeatedly striking at his own reflection in a plate glass window, until I finally drove him away to keep him from killing himself. Whatever that seagull did, the one in the reflection kept coming back for more. It’s the height of stupidity to look at a clearly failed approach and to say, “Gee, we should do a lot more of that.” But that’s just what the Gates-funded disrupters of U.S. education–those paid cheerleaders for the Common [sic] Core [sic] and testing and depersonalized education software based on the Core [sic] and the tests are asking us to do. Enough.

In state after state in which the new generation of standardized tests has been been given, we have seen enormous failure rates. In the first year, fewer than half the students at New Trier, Adlai Steven, and Hinsdale Central–the best public schools in Illinois–passed the new PARCC math tests. In New York, in the first year of PARCC, 70% of the students failed the ELA exams and 69% the math exams. In New Jersey, 55% of students in 3-8 failed the new state reading test, and 56% the new math test. The year after, Florida delayed and delayed releasing the scores for its new ELA and math exams. Then they announced that they weren’t going to release only T-scores and percentiles but were still working on setting cut scores for proficiency. LOL. Criterion-based testing, as opposed to norm-referenced testing, is supposed to set absolute standards that students must meet in order to demonstrate proficiency. I suspect that what happened that year in Florida–the reason for the resounding silence from the state–is that the scores were so low that they couldn’t set cut scores at any reasonable level without having everyone fail.

Decades of mandated federal high-stakes testing hasn’t improved outcomes and hasn’t reduced achievement gaps. NAEP results improved a tiny, tiny bit in the first years of the testing because when you teach kids the formats of test questions, their scores will improve slightly. Then, after that, NAEP results went FLAT. No improvement, whatsoever, for a decade and a half. But the testing has had results: it has trivialized ELA curricula and pedagogy and wasted enormous resources that could have been used productively elsewhere.

The test makers are not held accountable.

All students taking these tests and all teachers administering them have to sign forms stating that they will not reveal anything about the test items, and the items are no longer released, later, for public scrutiny, and so there is no check whatsoever on the test makers. They can publish any sloppy crap with complete impunity. I would love to see the tests outlawed and a national truth and reconciliation effort put into place to hold the test makers accountable, financially, for the scam they have been perpetrating.

Anyone who supports or participates in this testing is committing child abuse. Have you proctored these tests and seen the kids squirming and crying and throwing up? Have you seen them FURIOUS afterward because of the trickiness of the tests? I have.

Standardized testing is a vampire. It sucks the lifeblood from our schools. Put a stake in it.

NB: I would love to be able to post, here, analyses of the sample release questions from ELA tests by the major companies, but I can’t because I would be sued. However, it’s easy enough to show that most of the questions are so badly written that AS WRITTEN, they don’t have a single correct answer, have more than one arguably correct answer, or are unanswerable.

It’s time to make the testing companies answerable for their rapacious duplicity and for stealing from any entire generation of kids the opportunity for humane education in the English language arts.

Peter Goodman, former teacher and frequent blogger about education in New York City and New York State, reviews Bill Gates’ next big idea to reform education: Redesign Algebra 1.

He begins:

From Small High Schools to Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) to Value-Added Measurements (VAM) to the Common Core State Standards, the Gates Foundation has been searching for the magic bullet, a vaccine for curing education, and the “cures” have proven fruitless (See links above)

The next magic bullet is a cure for Algebra 1, the course viewed as standing in the way of graduation and success in the post graduate world.

The Gates Foundation released an application for a new initiative: “Balance the Equation.”

Goodman warns that Gates is wandering into another mess:

Why is the Gates funding another algebra initiative? Why not expand the Moses Algebra Project?

Bill is tip-toeing into another education morass.

If so, at least his record is consistent.

A new reader to the blog posted her own recipe to describe “reform,” which has an unfortunate habit of failing again and again but being revived by Betsy DeVos and/or Bill Gates and the Walton Family:

Sandy Dixon Forrest Recipe for sucking in public tax money and making obscene profits on the backs of public school teachers and students: FINANCE inappropriate “standards” to be implemented by all teachers, REQUIRE the use of products which financially benefit the creator of the “goals,” SMILE as hired “cheerleaders” tout the benefits of the mandated program, BEAM proudly as profits roll into the companies producing the “magic” solution, CRINGE privately at dismal results, REWRITE the “cheerleader” script, AND THEN…drum roll, please.. BLAME the teachers for disappointing results of the non-educators’ (but obscenely wealthy) magic elixir to cure the problems of all public school students. RESULTS?! The sponsors of this hoax made buckets of money! Wave goodbye to the career teachers; TFA folks are cheaper and more (desperate) cooperative anyway. Don’t worry about the kiddos; just give them a double dose of grit. It’s all good…right?


William J. Gumbert has studied the performance of charter schools in Texas and has consistently documented that they are inferior to public schools. Their promoters have sold the Legislature a Bill of goods, meaning that their results are nowhere as impressive as their promises. In this post, he shows that charter graduates are poorly prepared for higher education.

Privately Managed, College Preparatory Charter Schools:
A Common Approach and a Common Result – Graduates Underperform in College

By: William J. Gumbert

Without any notices or disclosures, the Texas Legislature has been experimenting with students in public education for 25 years. The experiment allows a separate system of taxpayer funded, privately managed charter schools (“State Charters”) to recruit students from locally governed school districts. In this regard, the State provides approximately $10,000 for each student that a State Charter recruits from local school districts. In total, the State has diverted over $25 billion of taxpayer funding from local school districts to fund its separate system of privately managed State Charters.

With State Charters receiving taxpayer funding for recruiting students to attend a low-performing school and with the flexibility to relocate underperforming schools to another community, it is not surprising that State Charters are rapidly expanding. It is also not surprising that many State Charters are targeting the enrollment of low-income, minority students. In low-income communities across the State of Texas, the “sales pitch” is the same and it goes like this:

“Because school districts offer limited high-quality educational options, privately managed charters were created to provide a tuition free, college preparatory education to close the achievement gap for low-income and minority families. As highlighted in our recruiting brochures, our schools are nationally recognized and 100% of the graduates are accepted to college every year. We are a non-profit organization with a mission to ensure that all students get in and through college. With limited seats, please contact our full-time staff of student recruiters to assist with the submission of an application”.

However, these promotions are disingenuous and “very economical with the truth” as the facts document that school district graduates, from Dallas to Houston to the Rio Grande Valley, outperform State Charter graduates upon enrolling in college.

Results in First Year of College Indicates Probability of Graduation: Many studies have indicated that students with a low-grade point average (“GPA”) in their first-year college are less likely to persist in college and graduate. According to the published article: “First Semester GPA a Better Predictor of College Success than ACT Score” by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, students with a first semester GPA below 2.33 were half as likely to graduate from college in comparison to higher performing students. For low-income students, a GPA below 2.0 (a “D” average or below) has the potential added consequence of losing their student loans or financial scholarships/grants that make college an option. The consequences of a failing GPA for low-income students are a reminder that college acceptance is one thing and succeeding in college is another. As such, prior to college enrollment it is vital for students to be academically, emotionally, and socially prepared to succeed. If not, students are being set-up to fail.

State Charters and School District Graduates – Comparison of College GPAs: Given the relationship between first year GPA’s and college graduation, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (“THECB”) tracks the first year GPA’s of Texas students that enroll at a 4-year public university. The table below compares the GPA’s of State Charter and school district graduates within the Class of 2018 that enrolled in a 4-year public university in 2019. As shown, almost 30.3% of State Charter graduates had a failing GPA versus 17.5% of school district graduates. In addition, the percentage of State Charter graduates achieving a GPA or 3.0 or above lagged school district graduates by 15.4%.

College Preparatory State Charters Targeting Low-Income, Minority Families: There are 4 primary State Charters in Texas that target the recruitment of low-income, minority students with the allure of a “college preparatory” education (referred to as the “CP Charters” herein). As shown in the table below, the enrollment at CP Charters is 115,791 students (which is approximately 33% of the enrollment in all State Charters) and over $1.0 billion of taxpayer funding will be provided in the current year. It is noteworthy that after 20 years, CP Charters produced 3,338 high school graduates in 2018. In comparison, Humble ISD with an enrollment of 43,441 produced a comparable number of high school graduates and it will receive $403 million of taxpayer funding this year.

CP Charter Graduates Underperform in College: Although touted as “tuition-free” college preparatory schools, 39.0% of CP Charter graduates had a GPA below 2.0 upon enrolling in a 4-year public university in 2019. In comparison, only 17.5% of school district graduates had a similarly low GPA. In addition, 27.0% of CP Charter graduates excelled with a GPA of 3.0 or above, which is about half of the 53.0% of school district graduates with a GPA of 3.0 or above.

While this general comparison of college GPA’s does not account for the difference in the student populations that are enrolled at CP Charters and school districts, it does indicate that CP Charters are not successfully closing the “achievement gap” for the low-income, minority students that are actively recruited.

Comparison of College GPA’s – IDEA Public Schools, Brownsville ISD and Edinburg CISD: To compare the postsecondary success of CP Charter and school district graduates that serve similar student populations, a comparison of IDEA Public Schools (“IDEA”), Brownsville ISD (“BISD”) and Edinburg CISD (“ECISD”) is included below. IDEA Public Schools currently enrolls 7,972 students within BISD and ECISD and each school system had a similar percentage of economically disadvantaged graduates within the Class of 2018. For purposes of comparison, we will ignore that both BISD and ECISD had a higher number of graduates and a higher percentage of “At Risk” and “Special Education” graduates.

As highlighted in the graph below, the college GPA’s of BISD and ECISD graduates are similar. But despite serving a comparable student population, the GPA’s of IDEA graduates are well below BISD and ECISD graduates. For instance, 35% of IDEA graduates had a GPA below 2.0 versus only 18% of BISD graduates. In addition, the percentage of IDEA graduates that earned a GPA of 3.0 or above was 14% – 16% lower than ECISD and BISD graduates.

Comparison of GPA’s — KIPP Texas, YES Prep and Uplift Education: To further compare the GPA’s of CP Charter graduates to school district graduates with similar student populations, the GPA’s of KIPP Texas and YES Prep graduates are compared to Houston ISD graduates on the following page. KIPP Texas and YES Prep collectively enroll 20,957 students within Houston ISD. In addition, a comparison of the GPA’s of Uplift Education graduates and Dallas ISD graduates is included. Uplift Education currently enrolls 9,549 students within Dallas ISD.

The results of these comparisons are consistent with previous GPA comparisons, as a significantly higher percentage of KIPP Texas, YES Prep and Uplift Education graduates had a GPA below 2.0 as compared to Houston ISD/Dallas ISD graduates that enrolled in a 4- year public university. In fact, at least 40% of KIPP Texas, YES Prep and Uplift Education graduates had a GPA below 2.0 upon enrolling in a 4-year public university in 2019. Furthermore, the percentage of KIPP Texas and YES Prep graduates that earned a GPA of 3.0 or higher was equal to about half of the Houston ISD graduates that obtained a comparable GPA.

Common Attributes of CP Charters: With the strikingly similar low postsecondary performance of CP Charter graduates relative to school district graduates, there are numerous other commonalities among CP Charters that may be contributing to these results as discussed below.
Funded and Directed by Special Interests:
Every CP Charter has received millions of dollars from private foundations to expand in local communities. A few of the private foundations that are financially supporting CP Charters is included below. To maintain ongoing influence on public education in local communities and to oversee their financial investments, it is common for trustees of private foundations to be appointed to the governing boards of CP Charters. For example, Ms. Victoria Rico, Chairwomen of the George W. Brackenridge Foundation, has served on the Board of IDEA Public Schools and Ms. Carrie Walton Penner, a Board member of The Walton Family Foundation, serves on the Board of KIPP.

Expenditure Model: Prior studies have indicated that higher funding for student educational programs improves student outcomes. But each CP Charter deploys a conflicting “expenditure model” that devotes fewer dollars for student programs/services. In comparison to the state average of all public schools, CP Charters allocate up to $928 less per student for student “Instruction/Instructional Resources”, while allocating as much as $1,014 more per student for “Administration/Leadership” costs as summarized in the table below.

To illustrate the magnitude of the difference in the expenditures that CP Charters deploy to serve primarily low-income and minority families, the table below compares the “Instruction/Instructional Resources” and “Administration/Leadership” expenditures of IDEA Public Schools to the state average. Based upon the enrollment of 54,459 students, IDEA annually devotes $48.6 million less for student “Instruction/Instructional Resources” than the average public school in Texas and $55.2 million more for “Administration/Leadership”. To put it another way, if the 54,459 IDEA students were enrolled in a school district, an additional $48.6 million would be annually directed to support the instructional needs of students from low-income homes and $55.2 million fewer taxpayer dollars would be siphoned to pay the administrative costs of the private organizations within the State’s separate system of State Charters.

Teacher Staffing Model: There have been multiple studies concluding that teachers with more experience and lower teacher turnover improve student achievement. This includes information published by “tpier-Texas Education Reports” that is co-managed by the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”). According to “tpeir-Texas Education Reports”, teachers with 1-3 years of experience have 6% fewer students that pass the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness” (“STAAR”) test than teachers with 10 years of experience. Despite these findings, CP Charters impose an unorthodox approach that does not value teacher experience, teacher certifications, or teacher persistence. As demonstrated in the table below, as much as 87% of the teaching staffs at CP Charters have fewer than 5 years of experience, and in some cases, almost 60% of teachers are “non-certified”. In addition, with an annual teacher turnover rate of over 25% – 35%, the ability of CP Charters to implement consistent instructional practices and develop long-term, nurturing relationships with students is diminished relative to school districts.

Families Transfer from CP Charters to Another Texas Public School at High Rates: CP Charters recruit new families by marketing the perception that students will be enrolled in a prestigious and nationally acclaimed, tuition-free private school. But upon acceptance and witnessing the educational experience offered by CP Charters, 13.5% of the student enrolled in CP Charters in grades 7-12 transferred to another Texas public school in 2019/20. Comparatively, the student transfer rate at Brownsville ISD and Edinburg CISD that have been bombarded with the expansion of State Charters is 6.1% and 5.8%, respectively. This revolving door means that up to 75% of the students enrolled at a CP Charter in grade 7 are not enrolled in grade 12. This high transfer rate is concerning given the growing evidence that academic outcomes can be negatively impacted as students change schools.

If a restaurant or local business were required to replace 75% of its customers every 5-years, it would likely indicate a flawed business model and the restaurant or local business would be forced to close. But the business model of CP Charters anticipates the loss of students. Which is why CP Charters devote millions of dollars each year to develop a “wait list” of new families to replace those that transfer to another Texas public school each year.

Limited CP Charter Graduates Have Earned a 4-Year College Degree: While each CP Charter has been operating in Texas for at least 20-years, the number of graduates that have earned a 4-year college degree remains very limited. According to “tpeir – Texas Education Reports”, the table below summarizes the number of graduates from the Classes of 2007-2012 at IDEA Public Schools, Uplift Education, and YES Prep Public Schools that earned a 4-year college degree by 2018 (i.e. 6 or more years after high school graduation). It is noted that KIPP Texas was excluded from the table as only 13 graduates were shown to have earned a 4-year college degree and that appeared to be potentially misleading. From the 6 graduating classes in years 2007 – 2012, a total of 458 CP Charter graduates earned a 4-year college degree. For perspective, the number of CP Charter college graduates represents 0.0014% of the total graduates within the State of Texas that earned a 4-year college degree during this time and the number of CP Charter college graduates is 6.3X lower than Ysleta ISD in El Paso.

The point is not to criticize the number of CP Charter graduates that have earned 4-year college degrees. Rather, it is to highlight that the State continues to permit CP Charters to rapidly expand and recruit additional low-income families, despite the limited evidence that CP Charters are adequately preparing students to be successful in college.

Conclusion: In our public schools, students are taught to use the “scientific method” to analyze and answer questions. In this regard, students perform extensive research, formulate a hypothesis, conduct an experiment to test the hypothesis, analyze the data, and draw an evidence-based conclusion.

However, to establish public education policies the Texas Legislature does not rely upon research to form its hypothesis that privately managed State Charters will produce better student outcomes than locally governed school districts. For the last 25 years, the State has conducted a $25 billion taxpayer funded experiment to test its hypothesis about State Charters. The data produced by the State’s experiment documents that State Charters have consistently produced lower student outcomes than school districts as measured by the State’s own academic metrics. These metrics include results of the STAAR test, district and campus academic ratings, graduation rates, financial standards, etc. The difference in the postsecondary outcomes of State Charter and school district graduates referenced herein is further evidence.

So why does the State ignore the facts of its privatization experiment and continue to support the rapid expansion of State Charters in local communities? To answer that question, I conducted my research, formed a hypothesis, analyzed the facts of the experiment, and formed an evidence-based conclusion that the State’s separate system of privately managed State Charters is not about improving student outcomes for low-income and minority students. Rather, the State’s separate system of privately managed State Charters is to please the billionaire, political donors that desire to transfer the governance and taxpayer funding of public education to private organizations.

With fewer resources and a limited political profile, the initial recruitment of low-income and minority families provided the path of least resistance to establish the State’s separate system of privately managed State Charters. With the State approving more and more State Charter expansions in suburban school districts such as, Conroe ISD, Frisco ISD, Hays CISD, New Braunfels ISD, Prosper ISD, Round Rock ISD, Sherman ISD, and Whitewright ISD to name a few, the next phase of the State’s efforts to privatize public education is well underway.

It is your students, your children, your grandchildren, your tax dollars, and your community. It is time for the State to serve students with the basic principles that our taught in our public schools: honesty, integrity, morality, equality, and the scientific method.

DISCLOSURES: This material solely reflects the opinions of the author and the author has not been compensated in any manner for the preparation of this material. The author is a voluntary advocate for public education. The material herein is based upon various sources, including but not limited to, the Texas Education Agency, Texas Academic Performance Reports, Public Education Information Management System, tpeir-Texas Education Reports, The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and other publicly available information. While the author believes these sources to be reliable, the author has not independently verified the information. All readers are encouraged to complete their own review of the State’s separate system of privately managed charter schools in Texas, including the material referenced herein and make their own independent conclusions.

Commonweal is a liberal Catholic magazine. I read its articles and editorials regularly for their common sense and intelligence.

What actually motivates us to vote in presidential elections, other than a sense of duty? The answer depends on the election. Once in a while, we have the luxury of voting enthusiastically for the better of two good candidates. Sometimes—too often—the choice is between mediocre candidates with uninspiring agendas, and then we must vote, without enthusiasm but with a clear conscience, for the better mediocrity. Unfortunately, this isn’t quite one of those elections either. This year, what will matter most to voters who care about the future of our democracy and the rule of law is the candidate they will be voting against, not the one they’ll be voting for.

That’s because Donald J. Trump is uniquely unfit for the office he holds. It is not just a matter of his administration’s failed policies or its odious ideological proclivities—though we should never forget these. What sets Trump apart, and makes this election so urgently important, is the viciousness of the man himself: his malice and well-documented mendacity, his callousness and incompetence, his total lack of scruples. Trump may be only a symptom of a political disease that started before him and will likely outlast him, but sometimes you have to treat the symptom first—or else it will kill you.

It will take years, maybe decades, to undo the damage Trump has done. The sooner we get started, the better.

It can be hard to keep in view the full scope of this president’s failures and offenses; they have come so thick and fast, and from so many different directions. Let’s begin abroad. In pursuit of an America-first foreign policy, Trump has turned his back on our allies and befriended dictators. “It’s funny, the relationships I have [with foreign leaders], the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them,” he told Bob Woodward. He has expressed envy for heads of state who get to rule for life and wondered aloud whether such an arrangement could be imported to the United States. (At his campaign rallies the chant is now “Twelve more years!”) After the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, had an American-based journalist murdered and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Trump boasted of protecting bin Salman from the consequences. “I saved his ass,” Trump told Woodward. “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone.” What mattered to Trump was only that Saudi Arabia buys expensive weapons from U.S. manufacturers for its war in Yemen. For this president and his administration, “America first” has always had less to do with American security or American values than with purely commercial considerations. Of course, other presidents have paid too little attention to our allies’ human-rights abuses, but Trump is the first to be openly indifferent to them. In general, cruelty does not seem to bother him, perhaps because it is a proof of power. Finally, Trump has invited foreign governments to interfere in U.S. elections and was even impeached for it—was it less than a year ago? But it says a lot about him that his impeachment may not even be one of the first things that come to mind when we remember what a disastrous president he was.

No, what will come to mind will be the thousands of migrant families he separated at the border, and the children he put in cages. It will be his unwillingness to condemn a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia; his habit of inciting violence against his political opponents, members of the press, and immigrants; his description of American soldiers who died on the battlefield as “suckers” and “losers,” and his disgust at the prospect of amputees appearing in military parades. We will remember that he had peaceful protesters tear-gassed to clear the way for a risible photo op; that he pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord and opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling; that, as the leader of the free world, he seemed to spend most of his time watching Fox News and retweeting conspiracy theories. Most of all, we will remember him as the president who misled us about a pandemic that has already killed more than 200,000 Americans, because he was afraid that telling us what he knew might spook the stock market and hurt his chances of reelection. As Trump’s presidency has degenerated from farce to tragedy, it’s become clear that his apparent cluelessness was often something much worse: a complete contempt for the truth and a lack of concern for anyone but himself.

It will take years, maybe decades, to undo the damage he has done. The sooner we get started, the better. Joe Biden is a decent and thoughtful man, curious about the world and capable of empathy. He may be past his prime; his agenda may be inadequate to the scale of the many crises we face; he still seems to be harboring sentimental illusions about the willingness of a post-Trump GOP to compromise. For now, none of that matters. What matters is that he isn’t Donald Trump, already the worst president in this country’s history and an existential threat to its future.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision that Governor Bill Lee’s voucher plan is unconstitutional.

The voucher plan was supposed to be installed only in Memphis and Nashville, over the objections of their representatives. The deciding vote was cast by a legislator from Knoxville, after he was promised that the voucher program would not include his district.

A victory for friends of public schools and communities in Tennessee!