Archives for category: Hoax

Political reporter David Sanger wrote a fascinating analysis of Trump’s attempt to reverse the results of the election. Trump lost the electoral college; Biden won 306 votes, surpassing the necessary 270. Trump lost the popular vote by nearly six million votes. He obviously forgot that he swore an oath on the Bible to defend the Constitution. He is actively subverting it.

David Sanger wrote:

President Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election are unprecedented in American history and an even more audacious use of brute political force to gain the White House than when Congress gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency during Reconstruction.

Mr. Trump’s chances of succeeding are somewhere between remote and impossible, and a sign of his desperation after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won by nearly six million popular votes and counting, as well as a clear Electoral College margin. Yet the fact that Mr. Trump is even trying has set off widespread alarms, not least in Mr. Biden’s camp.

“I’m confident he knows he hasn’t won,” Mr. Biden said at a news conference in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday, before adding, “It’s just outrageous what he’s doing.” Although Mr. Biden dismissed Mr. Trump’s behavior as embarrassing, he acknowledged that “incredibly damaging messages are being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions.”

Mr. Trump has only weeks to make his last-ditch effort work: Most of the states he needs to strip Mr. Biden of votes are scheduled to certify their electors by the beginning of next week. The electors cast their ballots on Dec. 14, and Congress opens them in a joint session on Jan. 6.

Even if Mr. Trump somehow pulled off his electoral vote switch, there are other safeguards in place, assuming people in power do not simply bend to the president’s will.

The first test will be Michigan, where Mr. Trump is trying to get the State Legislature to overturn Mr. Biden’s 157,000-vote margin of victory. He has taken the extraordinary step of inviting a delegation of state Republican leaders to the White House, hoping to persuade them to ignore the popular vote outcome.

“That’s not going to happen,” Mike Shirkey, the Republican leader of the Michigan State Senate, said on Tuesday. “We are going to follow the law and follow the process.”

Beyond that, Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, could send Congress a competing electoral slate, based on the election vote, arguing that the proper procedures were ignored. That dispute would create just enough confusion, in Mr. Trump’s Hail Mary calculus, that the House and Senate together would have to resolve it in ways untested in modern times.

Federal law dating to 1887, passed in reaction to the Hayes election, provides the framework, but not specifics, of how it would be done. Edward B. Foley, a constitutional law and election law expert at Ohio State University, noted that the law only required Congress to consider all submissions “purporting to be the valid electoral votes.”

But Michigan alone would not be enough for Mr. Trump. He would also need at least two other states to fold to his pressure. The most likely candidates are Georgia and Arizona, which both went for Mr. Trump in 2016 and have Republican-controlled legislatures and Republican governors.

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona has said he will accept the state election results, although only after all the campaign lawsuits are resolved. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, where a hand recount reaffirmed Mr. Biden’s victory on Thursday, has not publicly said one way or another who won his state.

Mr. Trump has said little in public apart from tweets endorsing wild conspiracy theories about how he was denied victory. Yet his strategy, if it can be called that, has become clear over two days of increasingly frenetic action by a president 62 days from losing power.

In just that time, Mr. Trump has fired the federal election official who has challenged his false claims of fraud, tried to halt the vote-certification process in Detroit to disenfranchise an overwhelmingly Black electorate that voted against him, and now is misusing the powers of his office in his effort to take Michigan’s 16 electoral votes away from Mr. Biden.

In many ways it is even more of an attempted power grab than the one in 1876. At the time, Hayes was governor of Ohio, not president of the United States. Ulysses S. Grant was, and when Hayes won — also by wrenching the vote around in three states — he became known as “His Fraudulency.”

“But this is far worse,” said Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian and author of “Presidents of War.” “In the case of Hayes, both sides agreed that the outcome in at least three states was in dispute. In this case, no serious person thinks enough votes are in dispute that Donald Trump could have been elected on Election Day.”

“This is a manufactured crisis. It is a president abusing his huge powers in order to stay in office after the voters clearly rejected him for re-election.”

He added: “This is what many of the founders dreaded.”

Mr. Trump telegraphed this strategy during the campaign. He told voters at a rally in Middletown, Pa., in September that he would win at the polls, or in the Supreme Court, or in the House — where, under the 12th Amendment, every state delegation gets one vote in choosing the president. (There are 26 delegations of 50 dominated by Republicans, even though the House is in the hands of the Democrats.)

“I don’t want to end up in the Supreme Court, and I don’t want to go back to Congress, even though we have an advantage if we go back to Congress,” he said then. “Does everyone understand that?”

Now that is clearly the Plan B, after the failure of Plan A, an improvisational legal strategy to overturn election results by invalidating ballots in key states. In state after state, the president’s lawyers have been laughed out of court, unable to provide evidence to back up his claims that mail-in ballots were falsified, or that glitches on voting machines with software from Dominion Voting Systems might, just might, have changed or deleted 2.7 million votes.

Those theories figured in a rambling news conference that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, held with other members of his legal team on Thursday. The group threw out a series of disconnected arguments to try to make the case that Mr. Trump really won. The arguments included blaming mail-in ballots that they said were prone to fraud as well as Dominion, which they suggested was tied to former President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela (who died seven years ago), and had vague connections to the Clinton Foundation and George Soros, the philanthropist and billionaire Democratic fund-raiser.

“That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history,” Christopher Krebs, who was fired Tuesday night by Mr. Trump as the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Thursday afternoon.

“And possibly the craziest,” he went on. “If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re lucky.”

Mr. Krebs has often noted that the purpose of a reliable election system is to convince those who lost elections that they have, indeed, lost.

Even some of Mr. Trump’s onetime enthusiasts and former top aides have abandoned him on his claims, often with sarcastic derision. “Their basic argument is this was a conspiracy so vast and so successful that there’s no evidence of it,” said John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s third national security adviser, who was ousted last year.

“Now if that’s true, I really want to know who the people are who pulled this off,” he said on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “We need to hire them at the C.I.A.”

On this subject, here is another excellent article:

WHY TRUMP IS LIKELY TO FAIL IN HIS EFFORTS TO UNDERMINE DEMOCRACY.


Rob Schofield of North Carolina Policy Watch lives in a state taken over by the Tea Party, who are intent on selling off whatever they can to private industry.

We have fallen victim to corporate propaganda and allowed the corporate foxes into our henhouses.

He has written a brilliant article about what we are losing as our public sector is diminished and privatized. Americans who are concerned about our culture and our society should join the fight against the privatization of everything.

Something strange happened in my neighborhood the other day. It was a warm and pleasant Thursday – the day on which a city sanitation truck arrives each week to empty the trash bins.

The truck just didn’t come.

A couple of days later, another equally strange thing occurred: Our postal carrier didn’t make it to our neighborhood.

There were no holidays that I’d missed and no readily discoverable public explanations for the lapses.

Of course, neither of these developments was completely unprecedented. In the past, during hurricanes and snowstorms, such services have occasionally been interrupted. And neither was a life and death matter. The trash truck finally arrived a few days later and our mailbox was fairly stuffed the next day.

My guess/fear was that COVID might have taken a toll on the local sanitation team. And we all know of the struggles the U.S. Postal Service has been enduring.

But, in both instances – modest and unexplained failures in two core public services that have been utterly reliable for decades – there was something disquieting and noteworthy.

There was a time in our country – not that long ago – in which top-notch public services and structures were not just taken for granted, but widely accepted as points of common civic pride. Almost all Americans knew of the U.S. Postal Service motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Public schools and city halls often featured architecturally impressive buildings that served as important community hubs and gathering places. And public service employment – as a teacher, an employee of a state administrative agency, or yes, a postal worker or a trash truck driver – was widely viewed as an honorable and respectable middle-class career.

Today, it seems, our attitudes and expectations have been altered by a half-century of relentless and cynical messaging from conservative politicians, media outlets and think tanks that has helped set in motion a kind of vicious cycle.

First, government services and structures are demonized as inherently corrupt, inefficient and “the problem.”

Next, politicians demand that these structures and services operate “more efficiently” – “like a business” – so that taxes can be reduced.

After that – not surprisingly given the fact that most private businesses in a capitalist economy fail – numerous public structures and services (like schools, transportation, parks and even mail delivery and trash services) struggle to fulfill their missions.

After that, the whole cycle is repeated again and again until, at some point – especially in moments of crisis and extra stress like, say, a health pandemic – structures and services simply start to crumble and even fade away.

We’re witnessing this phenomenon play out right now in our public schools in North Carolina – particularly in some smaller and mid-sized counties, where the relentless pressure brought on by a decade of budget cuts, privatization (i.e. competition from voucher and charter schools that’s siphoning off families of means), and now the pandemic, is posing what amounts to an existential threat.

Last week, a former school board member in Granville County told Policy Watch education reporter Greg Childress that the public school system there has entered something akin to a death spiral in response to these pressures.

Reports from other counties sound disturbingly similar.

Meanwhile, in New Hanover County, a recent story in the Port City Daily paints a sobering, if familiar, portrait of how performance in that county’s system has been badly damaged by the resegregation that has followed in the wake of the county’s decision to, in effect, heed “market forces” – in this case, the demand of more affluent, mostly white families for “neighborhood schools.”

And so it goes for many other public structures and services as well.

From our torn and threadbare mental health system to our eviscerated environmental protection structures to our frequently overwhelmed courts, prisons and jails to our dog-eared parks and highway rest stops, the destructive cycle of reduced services and disinvestment continues to repeat itself.

All we lack right at present is the awareness, imagination and will to make it happen.

Sam Wineburg and Nadav Ziv, professor and student at Stanford University, maintain that it is crucial to teach students how to recognize misinformation, a point that the recent election made clear. The Republican Party repeatedly called Democratic candidates “radical socialists” and smeared any proposal to improve the lives of people as “socialism.”

They wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

The 2020 election has once again demonstrated how easy it is to spread misinformation online. And universities across the U.S. are failing in teaching students how to identify it. Many colleges offer students guides to evaluate the trustworthiness of websites. But too many of them base their advice on a report from 1998. That’s nine years before the first iPhone, and 18 years before Russian interference sparked an urgent discussion on how we interpret information online.

There’s something deeply wrong with using advice on the internet of 20 years ago to teach students how they should interact with the internet of today. That demands 21st century skills. 

In a report released last month that we co-authored for the Stanford History Education Group, we saw what happens when educators provide students with outdated advice. Most of the 263 college students we tested floundered when trying to discern fact from fiction online.

Students viewed a post of a “news story” from the Seattle Tribune, a satirical site whose masthead proudly proclaimed that “any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental.” Two-thirds failed to identify the story as satirical.

On another task, students examined a site offering “nonpartisan” research that argued against raising the minimum wage. The site is actually run by a PR firm that also represents the restaurant industry. Nine in 10 students never made that connection.

Why are intelligent students falling for misinformation they could easily identify with a quick search? It’s not that they lacked strategies. It’s that the strategies deployed were forged during the internet’s Paleolithic era. To students’ detriment, many of these strategies remain prominent on colleges’ and universities’ guides for web credibility.

Students displayed an almost religious faith in the meaning of domains — particularly dot-orgs. “Reliable sources have .org at the end of the URL,” said one sophomore. Numerous college internet guides suggest that dot-orgs are credible because they are restricted to nonprofits. That’s just plain wrong. Anyone can purchase or acquire a dot-org, including for-profit companies such as Craigslist and hate groups such as Stormfront.

Students similarly turned to a site’s “About” page to determine credibility. One prominent university says an About page can “help determine a mission, point of view, or agenda.” A media outlet tells readers to be skeptical if the About page’s language is “melodramatic and seems overblown.” But dispassionate language is just as dangerous when it confers legitimacy on a shady site. Students should be told that, like Instagram profiles, About pages present curated portraits of how people and organizations want to be perceived.

One of the most common tools for teaching web credibility is called the CRAAP test (standing for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose), popularized by a librarian at Cal State Chico. Versions of it are used by universities across the United States, including at other schools in the Cal State and University of Californiasystems.

The CRAAP test assumes that websites are like print texts — the best way to evaluate them is to read them carefully. Except skilled web searchers do the opposite. When professional fact-checkers land on an unfamiliar site, their first move is to leave it by opening new tabs and checking other sources.

There’s good news too. Our study shows that students who followed the same method as professional fact-checkers upped their chances for success. They learned that the Seattle Tribune was fake news and discovered that the “nonpartisan” Employment Policies Institute was managed by a PR firm that also represents the restaurant industry and opposes raising the minimum wage.

Some institutions, including Rowan University and the University of Louisville, are creating materials based on what fact-checkers do. Their lesson plans equip students with strategies to be intelligent digital consumers. And even modest interventions — in one case just 150 minutes in two college classes — can lead to marked improvements.

We’re in the midst of an infodemic that imperils our students’ ability to make informed decisions. Changing course will require multiple tactics. First and foremost, we need to cut the CRAAP and stop teaching ineffective strategies. We need to create a menu of regularly updated courses that teach students how to recognize misinformation, empowering them to be engaged and thoughtful citizens.

Additionally, we need to work together across departments and specializations rather than mainly putting this challenge on the shoulders of college librarians. Overhauling a 20th century curriculum for a digital 21st century requires a group effort.

Doctors who develop a patient’s treatment plan without considering medical advances are negligent. And universities are derelict when they teach or provide source evaluation strategies without considering how today’s internet functions.

Because when anti-vaccine content goes mainstream, when Holocaust deniers peddle digital pseudo-histories, and when issues such as gerrymandering and police brutality are litigated online, no one can afford to shelter in place.

Sam Wineburg is a professor of education at Stanford University. His latest book is “Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone.)” Nadav Ziv is a junior majoring in international relations at Stanford.


Tom Ultican writes here about three major school board elections: Oakland, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis. These are districts that are in the crosshairs of the billionaire privatizers. No one can explain why billionaires want to privatize the public schools in these three districts (as well as dozens more). We now have nearly 30 years of evidence that neither charters nor vouchers produce educational miracles. New Orleans is not a national model: Last year, half the charter schools in this all-charter district were identified by the state as D or F-rated schools. Assignment to anyone: Why do the billionaires keep funding failure?

Ultican reports that the pro-privatization candidates vastly outspent the pro-public education candidates. In Oakland, the pro-public education slate won all but one seat (in that race, the pro-public education groups were divided, or they would have had a clean sweep).

In Los Angeles, the billionaires won one seat, enough to give them a single-seat majority of the school board.

In Indianapolis, the billionaires swamped the pro-public education candidates with their vast spending power.

It is an attack on democracy when billionaires from out-of-state (or from in-state) can drop a few million into a local school board race and make it impossible for ordinary citizens to compete. The individuals and the groups funding this assault on democracy–Michael Bloomberg, William Bloomfield, Stacey Schusterman, Arthur Rock, the Walton family, Reed Hastings, Doris Fisher, and other billionaires should hang their heads in shame. So should Stand for Children (which funnels billionaire money into races against public school advocates) and The Mind Trust.

For their ceaseless efforts to dismantle public schools and replace them with privately managed charters, I hereby place the following billionaires on this blog’s “Wall of Shame”: Michael Bloomberg, the Walton family, Reed Hastings, William Bloomfield, Doris Fisher, Arthur Rock, and Stacy Schusterman.

The same richly deserved dishonor goes to the infamous servant of the billionaires, Stand for Children.

NBC News assigned two investigative reporters to cover the Hunter Biden laptop story. What they discovered was worthy of a James Bond movie (farewell to Sean Connery, the best of the Bonds).

NBC investigators Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny pursued the origins of a document that was widely circulated on rightwing media.

One month before a purported leak of files from Hunter Biden’s laptop, a fake “intelligence” document about him went viral on the right-wing internet, asserting an elaborate conspiracy theory involving former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and business in China.

The document, a 64-page composition that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump, appears to be the work of a fake “intelligence firm” called Typhoon Investigations, according to researchers and public documents.

The author of the document, a self-identified Swiss security analyst named Martin Aspen, is a fabricated identity, according to analysis by disinformation researchers, who also concluded that Aspen’s profile picture was created with an artificial intelligence face generator. The intelligence firm that Aspen lists as his previous employer said that no one by that name had ever worked for the company and that no one by that name lives in Switzerland, according to public records and social media searches.

One of the original posters of the document, a blogger and professor named Christopher Balding, took credit for writing parts of it when asked about it and said Aspen does not exist.

Despite the document’s questionable authorship and anonymous sourcing, its claims that Hunter Biden has a problematic connection to the Communist Party of China have been used by people who oppose the Chinese government, as well as by far-right influencers, to baselessly accuse candidate Joe Biden of being beholden to the Chinese government.

The document and its spread have become part of a wider effort to smear Hunter Biden and weaken Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, which moved from the fringes of the internet to more mainstream conservative news outlets.

An unverified leak of documents — including salacious pictures from what President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and a Delaware Apple repair store owner claimed to be Hunter Biden’s hard drive — were published in the New York Post on Oct. 14. Associates close to Trump, including Giuliani and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, have promised more blockbuster leaks and secrets, which have yet to materialize.

The fake intelligence document, however, preceded the leak by months, and it helped lay the groundwork among right-wing media for what would become a failed October surprise: a viral pile-on of conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden.

The story about Hunter Biden’s laptop first appeared in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post in mid-October. The gist of the story is that Hunter Biden allegedly dropped off computers at a repair shop in Delaware in 2019, telling the shop owner that they had suffered water damage and needed to be fixed. He never returned to pick them up.

The shop owner decided to examine the contents of the hard drive and discovered emails that showed that Hunter had introduced his father to officials in Ukraine, that he had persuaded his father to get involved in a business deal in China in 2017 (when Joe Biden was a private citizen), and salacious videos of Hunter Biden. The shop owner says he turned over the hard drive to Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, and to the FBI. Giuliani then distributed the contents of the hard drive to the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.

The story was supposed to be the Trump campaign’s October surprise, an expose that would destroy Biden. But the mainstream media was wary and treated the story skeptically. The reporter for the New York Post who wrote it refused to put his name on it. Some wondered why Hunter Biden, who lives in Los Angeles, would fly to Philadelphia and take a train to Wilmington to have his computer repaired, then forget to retrieve it.

As soon as the New York Post published the expose about Hunter’s emails, Devin Coldewey of TechCrunch wrote that the provenance of the laptop was extremely fishy. Some suspected that Russian disinformation was involved. Coldewey wrote, “But even supposing no global influence effort existed, the provenance of this so-called leak would be difficult to swallow. So much so that major news organizations have held off coverage, and Facebook and Twitter have both limited the distribution of the NY Post article.” As a techie, he finds the whole story not credible. He gives several reasons why it defies common sense. He writes:

It is beyond the worst operational security in the world to give an unencrypted device with confidential data on it to a third party. It is, however, very much a valid way for someone to make a device appear to be from a person or organization without providing any verification that it is so...

The repair shop supposedly could not identify Hunter Biden, who lives in Los Angeles, as the customer. But the invoice (for $85 — remarkably cheap for diagnosis, recovery, and backup of three damaged Macs) has “Hunter Biden” written right on it, with a phone number and one of the email addresses he reportedly used. It seems unlikely that Hunter Biden’s personal laptop — again, loaded with personal and confidential information, and possibly communications with the VP — would be given to a small repair shop (rather than an Apple Store or vetted dealer) and that shop would be given his personal details for contact...

The idea that Biden or his assistant or whoever would not return to pick up the laptop or pay for the services is extremely suspicious. Again, these are supposedly the personal devices of someone who communicated regularly with the VP, and whose work had come under intense scrutiny long before they were dropped off. They would not be treated lightly or forgotten. On the other hand, someone who wanted this data to be inspected would do exactly this…

That the laptops themselves were open and unencrypted is ridiculous. The serial number of the laptop suggests it was a 2017 MacBook Pro, probably running Mojave. Every Mac running Lion or later has easily enabled built-in encryption. It would be unusual for anyone to provide a laptop for repair that had no password or protection whatsoever on its files, let alone a person like Hunter Biden — again, years into efforts to uncover personal data relating to his work in Ukraine. ..

That this information would be inspected by the repair shop at all is very suspect indeed. Recovery of an ostensibly damaged Mac would likely take the form of cloning the drive and checking its integrity against the original. There is no reason the files or apps themselves would need to be looked at in the course of the work in the first place. Some shops have software that checks file hashes, if they can see them, against a database of known child sex abuse material. And there have been notable breaches of trust where repair staff illicitly accessed the contents of a laptop to get personal data. But there’s really no legitimate reason for this business to inspect the contents of the devices they are working on, let alone share that information with anyone, let alone a partisan operative. The owner, an avid Trump supporter, gave an interview this morning giving inconsistent information on what had happened and suggested he investigated the laptops of his own volition and retained copies for personal protection.

The data itself is not convincing. The Post has published screenshots of emails instead of the full text with metadata — something you would want to do if you wanted to show they were authentic. For stories with potential political implications, it’s wise to verify.

Since Trump can’t explain his inability or unwillingness to control the pandemic, since he refuses to admit that his administration is trying to have the Affordable Care Act thrown out by the Supreme Court, since he can’t produce the health insurance plan that he claims will be better than the Affordable Care Act, since he has no policies that he can defend, all he has left is throwing mud at Joe Biden. Let’s hope the American people are not fooled.


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?

We have heard a lot about some cult-like group called QAnon, but I for one know very little about it. I think it had some connection to Pizzagate, the incident when some guy rushed into a pizza place in D.C. with an assault weapon, in search of a basement where Hillary Clinton supposedly had imprisoned little children who were going to be sexually abused or someone was planning to drink their blood. As it turned out, there were no children, there was no basement. Fortunately, no one was killed.

QAnon is back in the news after Trump was asked about them,and he feigned ignorance (he has praised them in the past).

I know far less about QAnon than Trump (who gets briefed by the FBI). So when I saw that the Financial Times, a reputable publication, had released this video that is supposed to explain QAnon, I watched it.

I am now more confused than ever. I feel like I just slipped down a rabbit hole, but it’s not Wonderland.

Here is CNN’s summation of a very peculiar belief system.
https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/16/tech/qanon-believer-how-he-got-out/index.html

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:

https://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=mcafee&type=C111US662D20151202&p=daniel+pink+drive+rsa

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:

F
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.


Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics, has been studying the spread of the fake “reform” efforts across the nation (aka the Destroy Public Education Movement).

In this post, he reviews the damage done by authoritarian education “leaders” who have robbed students and teachers of the joy of learning while attacking public schools. He names names.

He begins:

For more than two decades, bureaucratic style top down education “reform” has undermined improvement efforts by professional educators. For budding teachers, beginning in college with the study of education and their own personal experience as students, an innate need to better education develops. However, in the modern era, that teacher energy to improve education has been sapped by the desperate fight to save public education from “reformers,” to protect their profession from amateurs and to defend the children in their classrooms from profiteers. 

Genuine advancements in educational practices come from the classroom. Those edicts emanating from government offices or those lavishly financed and promoted by philanthropies are doomed to failure...

Sadly, every business and government sponsored education innovation for the past 40 years has resulted in harm to American schools. Standardized education, standardized testing, charter schools, school choice, vouchers, reading science, math and reading first, common core, value added measures to assess teachers and schools, mandatory third grade retention, computer based credit recovery, turnaround schools, turnaround districts, and more have been foisted on schools. None of these ideas percolated up from the classroom and all are doing harm.

The New York Times has a full copy of Trump’s tax returns. No mention of how they got them. Part 2 is a dissection of how eagerly he exploited his name and monetized his brand, no matter how low he had to go, including selling laundry detergent.

It begins:

From the back seat of a stretch limousine heading to meet the first contestants for his new TV show “The Apprentice,” Donald J. Trump bragged that he was a billionaire who had overcome financial hardship.

“I used my brain, I used my negotiating skills and I worked it all out,” he told viewers. “Now, my company is bigger than it ever was and stronger than it ever was.”

It was all a hoax.

Months after that inaugural episode in January 2004, Mr. Trump filed his individual tax return reporting $89.9 million in net losses from his core businesses for the prior year. The red ink spilled from everywhere, even as American television audiences saw him as a savvy business mogul with the Midas touch.

Twelve years later, that image of the self-made, self-saved mogul, beamed into the national consciousness, would help fuel Mr. Trump’s improbable election to the White House.

But while the story of “The Apprentice” is by now well known, the president’s tax returns reveal another grand twist that has never been truly told — how the popularity of that fictional alter ego rescued him, providing a financial lifeline to reinvent himself yet again. And then how, in an echo of the boom-and-bust cycle that has defined his business career, he led himself toward the financial shoals he must navigate today.

Mr. Trump’s genius, it turned out, wasn’t running a company. It was making himself famous — Trump-scale famous — and monetizing that fame.

By analyzing the tax records, The New York Times was able to place a value on Mr. Trump’s celebrity. While the returns show that he earned some $197 million directly from “The Apprentice” over 16 years — roughly in line with what he has claimed — they also reveal that an additional $230 million flowed from the fame associated with it.

Tax records show that Donald Trump earned $197 million directly from “The Apprentice,” and $230 million from licensing and endorsement deals that followed. Bill Tompkins/Getty Images
The show’s big ratings meant that everyone wanted a piece of the Trump brand, and he grabbed at the opportunity to rent it out. There was $500,000 to pitch Double Stuf Oreos, another half-million to sell Domino’s Pizza and $850,000 to push laundry detergent.

There were seven-figure licensing deals with hotel builders, some with murky backgrounds, in former Soviet republics and other developing countries. And there were schemes that exploited misplaced trust in the TV version of Mr. Trump, who, off camera, peddled worthless get-rich-quick nostrums like “Donald Trump Way to Wealth” seminars that promised initiation into “the secrets and strategies that have made Donald Trump a billionaire.”