What about that High School Dropout Crisis?

Apparently the dropout rates among US high school students are at record LOWS, not highs, according to this article by the Pew research group:


Published in: on October 6, 2014 at 5:18 pm  Comments (1)  

Russ Walsh on the many failures of economists


Russ Walsh does a good job skewering many of the ways that economists have failed to predict or prevent recessions and do an even worse job in thinking up fancy mathematical schemes that have nothing to do with the real world. He thinks that “value-added” is the worst of the lot.

Published in: on October 1, 2014 at 6:26 am  Comments (1)  

Overall results of mayoral control of DC Public Schools, continued

Continuation from the previous post…

First, math:

percent proficient in math by subgroups, 2005-2014

Here we can see the effect of changing from one test to another quite clearly. 2005 was the last year for the SAT-9. In 2006, DCPS changed to the DC-CAS for its system-wide standardized test, and scores plummeted, as is normal for this sort of thing. We then had three years of steady growth up until 2009, when Rhee, Kamras and Henderson instituted IMPACT and incredible rates of churn among teachers. Since that time, scores in virtually every single subgroup has stayed essentially flat. But you won’t hear that fact ballyhooed in the editorial pages of the Washington Post or Education Week. The only group with any real growth is Hispanic students, and that means that they have finally matched the levels they showed under the previous test, the SAT-9, eight years ago.

The gaps between the proficiency rates of white students and the other groups have not really been reduced much at all. What exactly is there to celebrate?

Last graph will be for math, same subgroups.

percent proficient in reading by subgroups, 2005-14

Here we see that there was not nearly as much of a drop in scores from 2006 to 2007 with the change of exam. English teachers familiar with both tests can perhaps enlighten us. But since 2009, when IMPACT began and every single teacher had to follow the rigid Teaching and Learning Framework, those scores have either stayed flat or have actually decreased a bit.

Can someone please explain why Henderson and Kamras still have jobs, and why we still have IMPACT running our schools, and why we still have majoral control of the schools instead of a democratically-elected school board? Their record is pitiful!






Published in: on September 30, 2014 at 9:35 am  Comments (4)  

Professors on Food Stamps? Yup.

One way to see that this country is screwed up is to realize that an adjunct professorship doesn’t even pay minimum wage. In other words, a lot of college professors are on food stamps.

This article is not about the handful of mega-celebrity professors who earn millions from speaking gigs or business ventures.

We are talking about adjunct professors (not ‘assistant’ or ‘full’ professors) who teach a single college course for one to three grand per semester per course, with no benefits at all. It’s not unusual for such a professor to earn less than they would earn at the minimum wage (I calculate $7.50/hr x 40 hrs/wk x 50 wks/ year = $15,000. Obviously people who have adjunct or minimum wage jobs will earn varying number of hours per week, and varying number of weeks, so this is just a single comparison pont)

Don’t forget that the adjunct prof probably has an enormous student debt to pay off, too.

With no benefits – no medical, no dental, no paid vacations, yet expected to work endless hours developing an original course, from scratch, holding office hours and so on, and making up and grading all the assignments. Yes, it’s nice to be on a campus, and many college students are great people to be around (they don’t go around assaulting their teachers, which sometimes happens in high-poverty schools). But it certainly isn’t what was essentially promised to people who worked really hard in school, did every single assignment and aced them all, probably took and passed a whole bunch of Advanced Placement courses in high school, graduated from college, and then most likely went on to earn a Masters or Doctorate in whatever field they chose to specialize in.

No, these are not ne’er-do-wells and layabouts or people who just plain were stupid, or simply committed crimes, didn’t learn anything in school, or never learned to follow the rules. No, these are the young people that the promise was, “Work hard, be nice, and you’ll have a wonderful and comfortable life when you grow up!”

The article is here, and it’s definitely worth reading or at least skimming.


(I’m glad I decided against trying to be a college professor like my dad*  It’s a lot different now than when he taught history at American U and Hood College in the 1950s – 1980s. There are SOOO many young folks today with marvelous educations who can’t find any work that is befitting their advanced education.

Not just in Egypt or Syria or Russia or Philippines or India or sub-Saharan Africa is there a huge surplus of “over”-educated young people doing work that they are amazingly overqualified for, if they can find jobs at all.

It’s in the US, too. I have relatives tending bar who graduated from top colleges; perhaps earning more than an adjunct college professor. I used to coach MathCounts teams here in DC for over 20 years when I taught JHS/MS math, so I got to know some kids who were really, really, really good at math and who also loved it. A few of them are, in fact, in some sort of science-technology-engineering-math field, but I was very surprised at the number who weren’t doing anything of the sort, even though I had been told for years that we had an enormous STEM-grad shortage.

No wonder a lot of students don’t try hard in school and don’t care if they graduate or even attend class. They probably see the pitiful state of many folks who really did try to follow all the rules in school, did all the work, graduated, went to college, and for what? To graduate with a mountain of debt that cannot be discharged, and still to be working for essentially minimum wage.

Really makes you wonder….


*[nor to be a lawyer or engineer like my two grand-dads or an artist like my mom and grand-moms, but that's another story]

Published in: on September 28, 2014 at 11:32 pm  Comments (1)  

Would kids at Exeter or Choate or Sidwell or Lakeside choose to go to a no-excuses “college prep” public charter school?

Let’s see. That would mean that Exeter kids would no longer have classes of the 12 students sitting around a very large purpose built oval table where they discuss whatever the topic of the class is with their very-experienced instructor. Who makes up the curriculum and designs the projects and the tests and grades them him/herself, often by the very next class.
No, in Bloomberg’s model charter school (or in Rocketship Academies) they would sit in a class of about 100 with a neophyte temporary teacher and are expected to teach themselves from laptop computers.
A model that we now know (MOOCs) is about as successful as ” programmed instruction” in the 1950s and 1960s or “remote tv instruction” was back then:
Not at all.
A few kids out of every thousand succeed. The rest all give up.

Oh, and the tests are all given online, written by some low-paid crew of temps that will never ever meet the students and are not required to have any actual classroom experience. Just a pulse and an ability to follow rubrics and to write sentences in the proper format. Which is I guess what we’re training these kids to do, right? Follow directions very carefully and don’t expect anybody to listen to your ideas.

Yup, that’ll go over well at Sidwell or the Chicago Lab School.

Oh, and no sports or extracurricular activities and essentially no art, music, or any other hands-on activities. And no talking between classes, March on the proper linoleum tiles, in silence.
And double periods of test prep in math and reading. About that reading: no novels or short stories. Just passages and then a bunch of tricky-to-idiotic multiple-choice or BCR responses, by computer. No discussion.

Yeah, right.

And KIPPsters claim that’s college prep?

Published in: on September 15, 2014 at 11:19 am  Comments (1)  

Compare an education at Choate with one at a charter school.

Very important. Please read and disseminate:


Published in: on September 15, 2014 at 10:26 am  Leave a Comment  

New conversation needed on education

Read here:


Published in: on September 14, 2014 at 6:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is The Harlem Success Academy a Success, or just a Fraud?

A researcher has looked into the claims of Eva Moskowitz and her Harlem Success Academy that they do a much better job of educating the exact same types of kids than do the local public schools.

The writer shows that none of those claims are true: these Moskowitz Academies do NOT enroll the same types of students; they have enormous attrition rates; and even with all that skimming and “creaming”, they are not very successful.

The post is at Diane Ravitch’s blog at http://dianeravitch.net/2014/09/12/researcher-charter-chain-built-on-hyperbole/ .

Published in: on September 12, 2014 at 9:39 pm  Comments (2)  

Marion Brady on How to Fix American Eduction

This is insanely brilliant. Brady explains quite clearly  how people like Bill Gates have really perverted everything about education in America by turning the entire motivation schemata upside down — and he also explains how to fix it in a very humane manner. Here is an excerpt:

Read the whole thing. and don’t let the title convince you it’s just a rant, because it’s not.

A part of this essay that I would like to highlight is how Brady thinks we educators (and other citizens) should be approaching the entire question of school:

There’s a now-familiar ancient Chinese proverb which, loosely translated, says, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.”

When I made that radical switch, I began a search that continues, a search for experience-creating activities

   (a) so interesting, the teacher can leave the room and nobody notices,

   (b) so useful, the activity’s relevance is self-evident,

   (c) so complex, the smartest kid in the class is intellectually challenged,

    (d) so real-world, perceptions of who’s smartest constantly shift,

   (e) so theoretically sound, the systemically integrated nature of all knowledge is obvious,

    (f) so wide-ranging, the activities cover the core curriculum (and much more),

   (g) so varied, every critical thinking skill is exercised,

   (h) so scalable, concepts developed on a micro level adequately model macro phenomena

  , (j) so effective, when the activities themselves are forgotten, their benefits are fixed permanently in memory.

The raw material for creating a near-infinite number of activities that meet those nine criteria isn’t hard to find. It lies within the property boundaries of every school or randomly chosen slice of real life. Finding it is mostly a matter of looking at the too-familiar and the taken-for-granted until it becomes “strange enough” to see.

Entire URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/01/what-do-standardized-tests-actually-test/

which means this was published in the column of Valerie Strauss, at the Washington Post, who continues to be a great resource for all the rest of teachers and parents (not corporate executives). The only greater publicist for our cause that I know of is Diane Ravitch. I am glad that Valerie continues to be gainfully employed at WaPo even as her editorial writers consistently had a set of policies that were either at cross-purposes or diametrically opposed. I don’t know how she does it.


Unfortunately, Answer Sheet very seldom actually reaches the printed edition. It’s almost strictly online.

Then again, maybe that matters less, given publishing trends.

While obviously nothing is perfect I think that all of us members of the public who are concerned about schools* owe Valerie, whom’s I’ve never met in person, and the Washington Post itself, a debt for VS being able to continue being such a resource for so long!



So where are all those increases that Michelle Rhee promised — in writing?

The latest DC-CAS scores have been partly released, and at first glance, they appear to show the utter bankruptcy of all of the efforts if Rhee, Henderson and their hangers-on and billionaire sponsors.

Yes, they got rid of just about all the veteran teachers — fired without cause ( like some of my former colleagues) resigned under duress (ditto), or just plain retired (like me). And at some schools, more than 100% of the staff is turned over EVERY SINGLE YEAR as bright-eyed TFA and TNTP recruits are ground to shreds with insane demands and no support, so they quit mid-year.

By their admitted incompetence at running a school system, Rhee, Henderson et al managed to turn over 40% of the students in DC over to charter school operators, quite a few if whom have turned out to be embezzlers and con artists — or major league swindlers like one of the former principal at Noyes ES/EC just down the road from my house in Brookland .

You probably do not recall that when Michelle Rhee was still chancellor, she signed a binding agreement with the Walton and Gates foundations about all the miracles she would wreak when she got their money.

My colleague Erich Martel ( of Wilson and Phelps) went through that list and found that NOT A SINGLE ONE of those measurable targets had been reached.

Response from Rhee, Henderson, DCPS, OSSE, and those foundations?

Deafening silence.

Rhee continues to take in the big bucks (20 speeches a year at $50K each = $1 million!)

Now, the most recent results, if DCist is to be believed, show also that there has been essentially no progress on academic goals, if we measure that by the percentages if students deemed ” proficient” on the DC/CAS since 2008, Rhee’s first year.

I donno if you can see that but there were essentially NO increases in any subgroup since 2008 – six full years – in reading.

I’ll post some more when I’m at a real computer.

Published in: on July 31, 2014 at 7:07 pm  Comments (3)  

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