Archives for category: Testing

I am sorry that I frequently ask for your financial support, but crowd-sourcing is the best way for parents and public education activists to make their case. Unfortunately, we do not have the deep pockets of the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation, or hedge fund managers. If 1,000 people who read this appeal and others each send a gift of $10 or $20, it will make a difference.

Colleen Wood, a parent of students in Florida public schools and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education, asks for your help for parents who are in court fighting the state’s third grade retention law:

Friends – I know we are pulled in so many different directions, but I’m asking for your help in Florida.

Florida has a mandatory retention policy for 3rd graders who do not pass the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment). Statute spells out good cause exemptions and there are ways for districts to look at a portfolio of the students work all year, and to promote. There are also ways for the districts to fight parents, to force them to have their child take some standardized tests.

This group of 3rd grade parents refused and are now suing the state to have their students promoted to 4th grade. These are students whose teachers have testified they are on grade level, but certain districts are still refusing to promote them to make a point.

It is insane that we have to sue to do what is right, but we do. And 3rd grade retention is a central tenant of Jeb Bush’s education reform policies, even though we know there is no sound research supporting automatic retention. Discrediting it in court would be a huge step to undoing the damage he has brought to our state.

In court yesterday, Mary Jane Tappen, the Vice Chancellor for all Florida public schools said under oath that a student could have F’s all year and get a 2 on the FSA and be promoted. Or they could have A’s all year, not score at least a 2 on the FSA and be retained. Out loud. She said that out loud. District lawyers argued that report cards are meaningless. At least we’re getting them on record.

But here’s where we need your support:

financially – https://www.gofundme.com/stopgr3retention

Click here to support 3rd Grade Parents v. FLDOE by cindy Hamilton

http://www.gofundme.com

David v Goliath: Parents prepare to challenge the FL DOE This past spring, hundreds of families consciously chose to participate, though only minimally, in the Third Grade FSA and their children, therefore, received no test scores. Many students (including many who failed the FSA) were promoted

donate here if you are able. The districts are now petitioning for a change in venue and want to have the case heard in each individual district, which would make the costs prohibitive to most parents. And FLDOE is burying the lawyers in paperwork to continually drive up the costs.

share on social media – please link to the donation page, use #180DaysCount or link to any stories. Here are a few:

http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/florida-third-grade-retention-case-returns-to-state-court-today/2290483

Parents challenge Bush-era third-grade retention law in nine-hour hearing in state court

http://www.politico.com

TALLAHASSEE – Parents whose children were retained after ‘opting out’ of standardized testing challenged a Jeb Bush-era state law requiring third graders to pass state reading tests in order to be promoted during a nine-hour long hearing in state court on Monday.

I am not a plaintiff in this lawsuit, but feel like these parents are doing what we have been asking and we need to provide all the support we can, in all the ways we can, as often as we can.

Thank you!

Colleen

A state court judge in Florida will soon issue a ruling that will either validate or refute parents’ right to opt their child out of state testing. The specific issue is the high-stakes third grade reading test; if students don’t pass it, they may be held back, even if their teacher says they are proficient readers.

A state judge is weighing a decision that could shake Florida’s education-accountability system following a marathon hearing Monday in Tallahassee.

After nearly nine hours of testimony and arguments, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers wrapped up a hearing on state and local policies for allowing students to move to the fourth grade but did not rule on a request that would allow about a dozen students across Florida to advance.

The practical effect of Gievers’ decision, and the appeals that are almost certain to follow, could either validate or shatter the “opt out” movement led by parents who say a state standardized test should not decide whether their children are allowed to move from third grade to fourth grade.

The parents of the students involved in the case told their children to “minimally participate” in the Florida Standards Assessment for third grade by filling in their names, breaking the seals on the tests and then refusing to answer any questions.

Those parents believe state law gives them the right to tell their children not to answer questions on the test. But while the law spells out ways to advance that don’t require passing the assessment, the Florida Department of Education and school districts say that doesn’t give students the opportunity to refuse to take it.

Gievers, who seemed in an earlier hearing to sympathize with the parents, gave no clear indication of how she intended to rule on the request for an injunction.

“You’ve given me a lot to look at, and I plan to do this the right way,” she said.

But the hearing laid bare not only the legal questions at the heart of the case, but the philosophical ones: Is a report card based on a year’s worth of work a better measure of a student’s knowledge, or is an objective test the proper measure? Where is the balance between a parent’s right to control his or her child’s education and the state’s right to determine how to measure learning?

Kevin Ohlandt blogs at Exceptional Delaware.

He left the following comment in response to Peter Greene’s post about “Lab Rats for America.”

“But where oh where would all of this become incorporated? Look no further than the home of 85% of U.S. companies… the First State… Delaware. On May 2nd, Delaware Governor Jack Markell announced his state would begin to look at changes in state regulations and state code to allow for Blockchain start-ups to come to Delaware.

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/governor-markell-launches-delaware-blockchain-initiative-300260672.html

“As well, we have a coding school in Delaware which was founded by Ben DuPont, of the legendary DuPont family of Delaware. The same family that actually created many of the “brown schools” in our state in the early 20th Century. Also a big supporter of charter schools.

“This is what is has all been leading up to. And opt out? They love it. As long as they resist it just enough to issues threats and build the base for more parents opting out. Not wholesale, but steady increases. That way they can “realize the error of their ways” and lead us to a digital personalized learning competency-based education paradise where the state assessment is no longer given once a year, but throughout – in the form of end of unit online assessments. At the end of the year, the total scores will be calculated and serve as the official state assessments.

“Because these are also part of students grades and their ability to move on, the ability to opt out becomes moot. Teachers (or rather, glorified digital moderators), will get immediate feedback. The tests won’t be as long, so parents won’t have to worry.
They are three steps ahead of us, always. While we are lashing out about PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and teacher evaluations, they are laying the groundwork for all of this.

“They can say this is an attempt to erase all inequity, but we know that is a false narrative. This is the corporate takeover of America. This is the end of public education.
But the question we ALL need to ask ourselves… how do we stop it? We are seeing coding classes in 3rd grade in Delaware. Are kids actually laying the groundwork for a lot of this already? You know this is a data-mining paradise for them.

“The Rodel Foundation of Delaware has been pushing this in our state for a long time. Our State Board of Education and Dept. of Education are the most deceptive and fraudulent parts of our state.

“If we want to save public education and, I’m going to say it, the future of the country, we have to act now.”

Our poet is missing. Poet, come back! We need your voice, your wit, your passion.

“The Billionaire’s Burden” (based on
“The White Man’s Burden”, by Rudyard
Kipling”)

 

 

Take up the Billionaire’s burden,
Send forth the tests ye breed
Go bind your schools to test style,
To serve his market’s need;
The weight of heavy VAMness,
On captive folk and mild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half teacher and half child.

 

Take up the Billionaire’s burden,
In patience to abide,
To veil the scheme for teach-bots,
The prime intent to hide;
With coded speech of Orwell,
You really must take pains
To make a hefty profit,
And see the major gains.

 

Take up the Billionaire’s burden,
The public schools to fleece—
Fill full the days with testing
And Common Core disease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end that you have sought,
Destroy the Opt-out movement
Lest work be all for naught.

 

Take up the Billionaire’s burden,
A tawdry rule of Kings,
The toil of IT keeper,
The sale of software things.
The data ye shall enter,
On privacy to tread,
To make a “decent” living,
Until they all are dead.

 

Take up the Billionaire’s burden
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard—
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:—
“Why brought he us from bondage,
From stupid blissful night?”

 

Take up the Billionaire’s burden,
Ye dare not stoop to less—
So fulminate ‘gainst Apple
To cloak your Siri-ness;
And strategize in whispers,
For all ye leave or do,
Or silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh Diane on you!

 

Take up the Billionaire’s burden,
Have done with childish ways—
The Kindergarten playing,
The test-less former days
Come now, to join Reform-hood,
The pride of Duncan years
Cold, edged with Gates-bought wisdom,
The plan of Billionaires!

This is an unusual political campaign. Matthew Fitzpatrick, an educator in Orange County, Florida, is running for a seat on the district school board on a platform opposed to the evaluation methods of Robert Marzano. Now, I have no views for or against Mr. Marzano since I am not a classroom teacher and I am not familiar with his method, but I have seen remarkable pushback on this blog from teachers. Since I too oppose the reduction of teaching to numerical measurements, I am sympathetic to his arguments.

He gives 40 reasons to oppose the Marzano method. I am posting only four of them. Read his post if you want to see the other 36.

My name is Matthew J. Fitzpatrick, and I am running for the District 7 Seat on the Orange County School Board. I am currently an Assistant Director at Orange Technical College, Westside Campus in Winter Garden. I’ve been in education for 23 years — 12 years as a teacher, and 11 years as a school and district administrator. In all my years of being involved in education, in my opinion, I have never seen a more demoralizing and destructive system than the OCPS implementation of the Marzano Teacher Evaluation system. I believe the Marzano system, more than anything else, is driving teachers out of education…and thus, OCPS has long lists of teacher vacancies. I believe this enough that I am willing to set aside my own administrative career and take a 50% pay cut in order to bring common sense back to the classroom. We must turn things around now.

Here are my first 40 Reasons to Replace the Marzano Teacher Evaluation System…splitting hairs on a system designed to split hairs on the art of teaching…

1. Dr. Marzano himself said on page 4 of his famous book, The Art and Science of Teaching, that, “It is certainly true that research provides us with guidance as to the nature of effective teaching, and yet I strongly believe that there is not (nor will there ever be) a formula for effective teaching.” If Dr. Robert J. Marzano says there is not a formula for effective instruction, who am I to argue with him? Why have we settle for a cookie-cutter approach to teaching?

2. Non-educators may not completely understand all of this “teacherese” jargon about teacher evaluations, but simply mention the name Marzano to an Orange County Public School teacher and take note of how they react…watch what happens to their face…feel the emotions of their words. Anything that causes such disdain among the very lifeblood of education–the teachers–surely is not good for education…no matter how much the sanitized research is quoted in support of it.

3. Where are the amazing results from using the “research-proven” Marzano strategies? Our District’s test scores and grades went down in many areas and schools. Why haven’t 6 years of Marzano transformed our District? If something is not delivering results, and at the same time it is driving great teachers out of the profession, we must make a data-driven decision and move in another direction…for the sake of our students and teachers.

4. Teaching should not be reduced to the numerical measurements of individual instructional strategies. Just as Mr. Keating (Robin Williams), in Dead Poets Society instructed his students to resist the armies of academics who want to reduce poetry to a passionless score that misses its true beauty and purpose, so, too, must students, parents, teachers and administrators stand against such a heartless, nitpicking view of the art of instruction. We must “Rip It Out” as an evaluation tool in our District.

A reader who works for a software company explains why it is so difficult to teach the standards effectively and so unfair to judge teachers by an impossible task: It takes 300 days to teach them, but there are only 180 days in a school year. Oops!

 

 

Here is the main problem with these tests. The FLDOE has absolutely no clue on how long it takes to teach each standard effectively. So the question is, “can a teacher teach the standards in the allotted time during the year?” As an educational software company we looked at the standards that a fifth grade teacher is required to teach effectively and stopped counting when we found it would take a minimum of at least 300 school days to teach the standards to an effective level. This does not include teaching a child how to type effectively if the state required typing on the writing portion of the test. The problem is, it’s impossible for an elementary school teacher or for that matter anybody including the testing companies to teach the standards that are on the test in a school year. In order for a teacher or school to score effectively on these tests you have to hope that the students that are coming into your classroom have at least some prior knowledge of the standards.

 

 

You have to understand that these tests are not built to test your child’s learning knowledge, they are built to evaluate the schools and teachers on their effectiveness on teaching the standards. Finally, ask yourself this question… “Who benefits if the teachers and schools FAIL teaching the standards effectively?” Teachers? Schools? Children? No benefit here!… Private Charter Schools? Testing Companies? Publishers? ED Tech Companies? Lobbyists and the list goes on and on and on…..

Teacher and historian John Thompson writes here about the reflection that seems to be occurring among “reformers” as they realize that their test-and-punish reforms produce limited gains and limited outcomes. He wonders how different our federal and state policies would be had reformers strived to implement research-based reforms instead of ideas that had intuitive appeal.

He writes:


Something important is stirring in terms of education research. We’ve always gone through cycles, mostly notably in the aftermath of the Coleman Report, during debates over the so-called “culture of poverty,” and during the contemporary data-driven, market reform era, where scholars have had to think twice when analyzing where the evidence leads. This last month, however, a variety of social scientists have candidly expressed the facts that corporate reformers deride as an “excuse.”

Heather Hill’s review of the Coleman Report recalls the seminal study’s finding, “One implication stands out above all: That schools bring little influence to bear on a child’s achievement that is independent of his background and general social context.” Hill reviews the subsequent analyses of Coleman, and the findings of Tony Bryk and Stephen Raudenbush, who “show that differences among schools accounted for about one-fifth of the variability in student outcomes.” The bottom line, she reports is that “schools still pack a weaker punch than many imagine.”

Neither did the Chalkbeat editors pull any punches. Its subtitles clearly convey the message that has been condemned as heresy over the last two decades:

Meanwhile, evidence mounted for one central conclusion: schools matter – but not as much as people might think; and

The logical conclusion: You can’t fix schools without trying to fix broader social inequality, too.

Similarly, Stephen Dubner’s begins his recent Freakonomics Radio program with the words, “in our collective zeal to reform schools and close the achievement gap, we may have lost sight of where most learning really happens — at home.” Dubner concludes, “Most of us probably think too much about cognitive skills and not enough about non-cognitive. Most of us probably put way too much faith in the formal education system, when, in fact, the path to learning begins way before then, at home.” In between, we hear from economist John List, “Schools only have kids for a handful of hours per day, but who, really, will mold kids through their lives are the parents.” Also, early education expert Dana Suskind concludes, that we need preventive, not remediative programs. “About the only way” that we can “move the needle,” she says, is through science-based programs which begin the learning process at birth or before.

Even the most steadfast true believers in accountability-driven, competition-driven reform seem to finally be facing reality. The first words of a NBER paper by John List, Roland Fryer and Stephen Levitt are President Barack Obama’s 2009 statement that, “There is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent-teacher conferences … Responsibility for our children’s education must begin at home.”

And, even the TNTP seems to be questioning its blind faith that the answers for poverty can be found inside the four walls of the classroom. Its modest pilot project taught Ariela Rozman, Timothy Daly and David Keeling that, “We have a new appreciation for the annual catastrophe that is summer learning loss—and what a headache summer is for the families we work with in general. The out-of-school opportunity gap has received increased attention in recent years … because it is becoming clearer that it is a substantial driver of long term inequality.” After a year of working with real-life families in actual schools the TNTP acknowledges:

Some people argue the post-Katrina choice-based system has led to large, sustained improvements in performance and should become a model for the rest of the country. Others say it’s still largely a low performing system and the process of creating it profoundly disrupted its workforce and community.

That brings us to the research of Douglas Harris, the Tulane University Education Research Alliance, and their recent conference on early education in New Orleans. Harris has documented major post-Katrina gains in New Orleans test scores, while acknowledging that “critics are concerned that schools under reforms are too focused on test scores.” Moreover, he notes that “disadvantaged groups always see a smaller effect than the advantaged groups early in the reforms.” Especially before 2012 or so, there were “real horror stories about how special education students and others were suspended and expelled at high rates,” and “it remains unclear whether the problems are solved.” Harris sees “signs that high school dropouts are being under-reported,” and he says that NOLA’s decentralization can “negatively impact vulnerable groups.”

I sometimes question Harris’s confidence that oversight and accountability can mitigate such problems, but I trust his judgment in regard to the initial beliefs of NOLA reformers, “The original idea was that charters would create some degree of choice and competition, allow some schools more autonomy, facilitate innovation and diversify options. “Replacing” traditional public schools was almost never part of the conversation.” On the other hand, he doesn’t deny the current threat to traditional public schools, “Yet, this is exactly what is happening in New Orleans, Detroit, and some other cities (albeit to very different effect).”

I also sense that the participants in the ERA conference saw the multiple, often contradictory, outcomes of the radical NOLA reform, and that they are mostly preoccupied with addressing its remaining weaknesses. While they may or may not be fully aware of the national campaigns to impose their charter-driven system on cities across the nation, conference attendees mostly see the NOLA model as a “done deal” in their city. They are more concerned about the need to organize, fund, and implement early education programs than in other districts’ need to beat back corporate reforms.

I can appreciate those feelings, but I may have been alone in seeing one graphic as telling the most important story about New Orleans preschool, at least in terms of the lessons it holds for the rest of the country. Pre-kindergarten is only one part of the early education system that we need, but it is illustrative of the “opportunity costs” of the contemporary school reform movement. The percentage of NOLA’s students who attended pre-k dropped from 60% in 2007 to 40% in 2011. That’s a 33% drop at a time when the city’s schools were being funded at a level beyond the imaginations of most educators. Yes, the percentage of students who attend pre-k has increased since then, but in NOLA and across the U.S., we are now facing budget crises.

It’s bad enough that reformers let pre-school slide but, worse, the money for the gold-plated corporate reforms is gone. I doubt that anyone would claim that these reforms were cost effective, and now we have to tackle the complex early education challenge at a time when all of the participating education and social service providers face enormous budgetary constraints.

And that brings us back to the question of what would have happened if we had followed a science-based path to school improvement, as opposed to the test, sort, reward, and punish experiment, known as corporate reform. Granted, Katrina took New Orleans by surprise. It’s not like the city had the time and the inclination to study education research, debate policy options, and plan and implement the best possible reform policies. Not surprisingly, when offered a test-driven, competition-driven model, as well as enormous amounts of funding, they rushed the Billionaires Boys Club’s preferred approach into place.

On the other hand, if Katrina hadn’t hit during the accountability-driven, choice-driven craze, if edu-philanthropists had been assisting a science-based campaign to provide high-quality early education and to align and coordinate socioemotional supports, think of the great good that could have come from the rebuilding of New Orleans education and social service systems. In such a case, NOLA could have turned to state of the art, evidence-based solutions, not the endless edu-politics of destruction.

Yeah, in addition to the down sides of NOLA reforms, bubble-in scores are up. Those metrics probably reflect some meaningful learning, as well are the learning of the destructive habits that are nurtured by retrograde, teach-to-the-test instruction. Is there any doubt that students and families would have chosen humane, high-quality, aligned and coordinated early education programs over the competitive culture of today’s NOLA? And, had such a nurturing, science-based system been built in New Orleans, wouldn’t educators across the nation be welcoming – not shunning – help in replicating it?

Recently, Checker Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute wrote an open letter to you, proposing that you stay the course with the failed reforms of the past fifteen years. Marc Tucker wrote an open letter to you, disagreeing with Checker. He said that all of Checker’s proposals were tinkering at the margins (Teach for America, New Leaders, scholarships, charter schools), and he recommended that you invest in improving the education system with an eye to the high-performing nations of the world. If Marc was thinking about Finland, my personal favorite, I endorse what he says; Finland emphasizes highly educated teachers, minimal testing, pre-school education, medical care, no charters, no vouchers, and lots of emphasis on creativity and play.

You may be tired of receiving open letters. But I want to put in my open letter now that it is open-letter season.

Dear Mark and Priscilla,

I hope you won’t mind some unsolicited advice from someone you don’t know. I am writing you because you have the resources and the energy to make a real difference in the lives of millions of children and families, as well as their teachers and schools. Your great wealth can be squandered–as it was in Newark–where your $100 million gift disappeared down a very dark hole and did nothing for the children of that city. Or your great wealth can be used to strengthen the one institution that touches the lives of most children: their public school.

I am a historian of American education. I used to be part of the “reform movement,” but after too many years, I recognized that the reforms popular among policy makers are useless and counterproductive. I defected from the reform movement, because it has the wrong diagnosis and the wrong solutions. I didn’t want to be on the wrong side of history. I hope you too want to use your influence to make a genuine difference in the lives of children, instead of fattening the vast self-serving reform machine, which is already awash in millions and millions of dollars, all chasing the same failed ideas.

You need to understand that reformers live in an echo chamber. They talk to one another, they tell one another the same stories, they learn nothing new. They are sure that American public schools are failing, that public school teachers are ineffective, and that the steady application of standards, tests, punishments, and rewards will transform the lives of children; they believe that schools with low test scores should be privatized, turned into charters, and one day soon, there will be no more poverty. These assumptions are untethered to reality. Standards and tests will not help the children who typically score in the bottom half. Reformers slander a vital democratic institution and the millions of teachers who work for low pay because they have a sense of mission.

Despite what you may have heard, the test scores of American students are at their highest point ever. High school graduation rates are at an all-time high. Dropout rates are at an all-time low.

Why the continuing despair about the state of the schools? Some of it comes from elites who never set foot in a public school. They attended the best private schools, and they look down on public schools and their teachers with condescension.

I am not suggesting that all is well. In fact, the great crisis in our society, reflected in our schools, is a direct result of the high rates of childhood poverty. To our shame, we have the highest rate of child poverty of any advanced nation. Nearly one-quarter of our nation’s children are growing up without food security, without assurance of a decent home, without access to regular medical care.

Surely you are aware of the work of Nadine Powell Harris, who has gathered powerful evidence of the lasting effects of childhood trauma. The trauma she describes is closely correlated with extreme poverty and the stress of poverty. And yet reformers blame the public schools and their teachers for the failure of our society! Why have other countries made successful efforts to reduce childhood poverty, but we have not?

Priscilla, I have read that you attributed your personal success to public school teachers who encouraged you. Today, there are millions of teachers working to encourage and inspire children just like you, working to convince them to believe in themselves. These teachers do so despite the vilification that reformers continually direct at them.

Here is my advice to you:

Please join the fight to preserve and strengthen public schools.

Please do not contribute to the movement to privatize public schools.

Please support efforts to create community schools, which are equipped to meet the needs of children.

Please support efforts to establish medical clinics in every school, where children can receive dental care, routine check-ups, and be tested for vision problems, hearing problems, and lead in their blood.

Please insist that schools have the resources to meet the emotional and psychological needs of children.

Please use your influence to assure that every school has a library with a librarian and lots of books and computers.

Please support the right of teachers to bargain collectively. Unions built our middle class, and that middle class is now feeling stressed and under siege.

Please do not support efforts to eliminate the due process rights of teachers. Schools need stability, and teachers need to know that their academic freedom is protected.

Please understand that the expansion of charter schools harms public schools, which enroll the vast majority of children. Charter schools are not better than public schools. Those that get high test scores often do so by keeping out the children who might get low scores. Charter schools, including those that cherrypick their students, take resources away from public schools, as well as their best students.

Mark and Priscilla, we are at a critical juncture: the very survival of public education is at risk.

Public schools welcome all students: those with disabilities, those who don’t speak English, those who have low test scores. They teach us to live with others who are different from ourselves and our family. They are a basic, essential democratic institution. Schools are not businesses. They are a public service, a part of our common inheritance as citizens.

Do no harm. Strengthen democracy. Strengthen the public schools whose doors are open to all. Stand with the parents and educators who say no to privatization.

The privatizers don’t need you. They have a herd of billionaires in their fold.

We need you. Please help us transform our public schools into the great instrument of democracy and social justice that they must be.

Join the Network for Public Education and support the parents and educators across the nation who are trying, often with bare hands, to roll back the deluge of money dedicated to high-stakes testing and privatization.

We need you. Bill Gates and Eli Broad do not.

Diane Ravitch

School reform officials in Michigan announced that more public schools would be closed based on their test scores over the past three years.

Blogger Bill Boyle called the “The Politics of Cruelty.” It implies that the adults in the building are not trying, don’t care, or are incompetent.

He wrote:


I could write how many of the so-called “failing” schools are under the auspices of the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA), a state-run school district that was created to turn around so-called “failing schools.” We know how that has worked.

Boyle notes a strange coincidence:

Under the state’s emergency control, authorities decided to cut off the water to people who didn’t pay the water bill.


As most know, the city of Detroit was under the control of a state appointed Emergency Manager beginning in March, 2013, before it began the process of bankruptcy. This is important history. In May of 2014, while under the control of the state of Michigan, it was determined that those unwilling or unable to pay their water bills would have their water shut off.

Boyle wrote in an earlier blog:


“In May of this year, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department began a crusade to collect unpaid fees by residents of Detroit. They are currently shutting off water access to any Detroit resident who is either $150 or two months behind in payment. This will affect over 120,00 account holders over a 3 month period at a rate of 3,000 shut offs per week. (The suspicion of many is that the shut offs are occurring in the midst of Detroit’s bankruptcy in order to make DWSD more attractive for privatization.)

Mind you, this is occurring in a major US city, the richest country in the world, that has a poverty rate of 44%, is over 80% black, whose residents have already have their democratic vote similarly cut off, in a state that is surrounded by 4 of the largest fresh water lakes in the world.”

Boyle says that Pershing High School, which was moved into the EAA, is likely to be on the closure list.


It is not surprising to find that this high school exists in one of the neighborhoods most affected by water shut offs and home foreclosures. It’s a neighborhood, in other words, whose existence is in peril. Students show up to school hungry, thirsty and homeless. This is undeniable, but it is obscured by the talk of “failing schools.” And to deny it, to allow it to be obscured, is cruel. To close a school in a community such as this, to take one more piece of property out of a neighborhood that has had its water stolen, its homes stolen, and now its school threatened, is simply, callously cruel.

A Democratic legislator said the school closing plan was “irresponsible.”

The state official referred to schools with low scores as “failing schools.” Here’s a prediction: the vast majority of schools identified as “failing” will have large enrollments of children who are poor, children of color, children who don’t read English, and children with disabilities. In addition, they will be highly segregated.

Do you think the state will offer the displaced students the opportunity to enroll in excellent suburban schools?

Neither do I.

Statisticians Mark Palko and Andrew Gelman explain why a relentless obsession with test scores ruins the value of the scores. As their prime example, they refer to Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies, where children and teachers live for higher scores. Not only are the children’s names and ranking posted, so are the teachers’.

You remember Campbell’s Law? That’s the axiom that says when you attach consequences to a measure, the measure loses its validity.

They write:

“When a school uses selection and attrition policies that effectively filter out many of the extremely poor, students speaking English as a second language, and the learning disabled, that clearly calls into question test score advantages that such a school might have over an ordinary public school.

“But the problems run even deeper than most critics realize: A look at the data combined with some basic principles of social science suggests that the practices of no-excuses charters are undermining the very foundation of data-based education reform.

“As statisticians with experience teaching at the high school and college level, we recognize a familiar problem: A test that overshadows the ultimate outcomes it is intended to measure turns into an invalid test.

“Back in the old Soviet Union, factories would produce masses of unusable products as a result of competition to meet unrealistic production quotas. Analogously, many charter schools, under pressure to deliver unrealistic gains in test scores, are contorting themselves to get the numbers they’ve promised. They’re being rewarded for doing so. But that monomaniacal focus on test scores undermines the correlation between test scores and academic accomplishment that originally existed.”

They note that Success Academy has astonishingly high test scores, yet for two years in a row, not a single one of their eighth grade students won admission to one of the city’s elite high schools. In the third year, some did (11% of those who took the test from SA).

In a comment on this post, Gary Rubinstein (a blogger who teaches at Stuyvesant High School, an exam school) writes:

“One thing to note, the 11% specialized HS acceptance rate–6 out of 54–is inflated since there were 200 kids who feasibly could have sat for that test but only 54 did.” Of 200 students at Success Academy who were eligible to take the test, 54 did, and 6 gained admission.

It is better to have high scores than low scores, but they should never be the measure of teacher quality or school quality. Making them too important ruins their value.

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