The covered-up history of emancipationist* Robert Carter III

I bet you never heard of him.

At great risk to his personal safety, this Robert-Carter-the-third freed HUNDREDS of the slaves he had inherited from his grandfather, the famous Robert “King” Carter.

In Virginia. Starting in 1791.

Up until then it was ILLEGAL to give any slave their freedom, except upon death of their owner (if so specified in their will).

RCIII was one of George Washington’s neighbors, and a friend of Thomas Jefferson, but unlike his wealthy neighbors, RCIII not only freed his slaves while he was alive, but hired them as workers and gave them land.

He even helped found early local Baptist churches that had black and white members as equals.

So, not every single White American plantation owner took the same path of continuing to buy and sell people and exploiting them.

There were other choices that the Founding Fathers could have taken, had they actually meant the words of the Declaration… you know, the ones proclaiming that “all men are created equal.” If they hadn’t been so concerned about their own luxurious lifestyles enabled by unremitting exploitation of the hard labor of so many hundreds of thousands of enslaved people, they could have chosen justice.

This fellow did.

But I never had heard of Robert Carter III, before today.

Had you?

He’s in Wikipedia. Thank goodness.

And apparently CNN actually just did a feature on him, today. Kudos!

Go look him up. I’ll wait.

For his day, he was a very honorable person.

Even though I was a History major at Dartmouth College, and had helped my father on a multi-volume translation of the travel diaries of a French nobleman in the United States from 1792-1795, I don’t recall him being mentioned. I’ll go look him up in the still-unpublished MS down in my basement after I’m done posting this.

Even though I had read about the Liberation of the people of Haiti, and about Nat Turner and John Brown and the 54th Massachusetts, I never heard of the ‘good’ Robert Carter.

I lived through a good bit of the Civil Rights Movement. Even though I had worked against racism and South Afrrican apartheid. And even though I prided myself on learning about the history of anti-racist, anti-slavery, and pro-working class struggles, I had never heard of the guy. I knew about Tulsa (1921) and Wilmington (1898). I had read Foner on Reconstruction and gave reports on Benjamin Banneker’s mathematics and geometry using Bedini as a source.

Amazing. There were people willing to kill or beat RCIII for his opposition to slavery.

Here is part of his deed of manumission. Can you read it? It’s slower going that ordinary text, but interesting nonetheless.

The CNN article reads, in part,

“To grasp the oddness of his erasure, it’s necessary to understand his lofty station among the Virginia gentry of his day. He counted Washington’s half-brother, Lawrence, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson as friends; he regularly dined with and loaned money to the latter. Washington himself was a neighbor, and Robert E. Lee’s mother was the great granddaughter of his grandfather, Robert “King” Carter.

The book The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter is unfortunately not in print any more. I will need to get it on Nook or something like that, I guess.

EDIT: I changed the title to “Emancipationist” rather than ‘Abolitionist’.

I found Levey’s book on him at an online used-book store and have ordered a copy.

I have just looked through my parents’ notes for their book on Larochefoucauld-Liancourt‘s (LRL) travels in America but have not yet found any mention of Robert Carter III, but certainly quite a few mentions of slavery and such. (LRL pulled quite a few punches regarding Jefferson’s treatment of his slaves, because he wanted Jefferson to write him some letters of recommendation so that he (LRL) could return to France, from which he had to flee during the most radical period of the French Revolution.

Was the COVID risk overblown?

I have seen people claim that COVID wasn’t any worse than the flu, and that the toll from the disease was smaller than the number of people killed in traffic accidents each year.

Is that correct? Sources of data on deaths from all kinds of causes are easy to find. I will limit myself to the US.

Let’s see:

Today’s WorldOMeter says the US has had 666,627 deaths since the start of this pandemic, starting almost exactly 18 months ago (mid-March of 2020 to 9/7/2021).

That number of deaths, divided by 18 months, works out to a monthly death toll from COVID of about 37,000 per month.

Flu, however, takes roughly a full year to kill that many.

If we multiply the 37 thousand by 12 months, you get 444,000 killed by COVID in a year.

Flu’s Toll over the Past Decade

The CDC says that up to but not including the pandemic, influenza has inflicted, per year:

between 9 million and 45 million illnesses

between 140,000 and 810,000 hospitalizations

between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths (so by WorldOMeter’s numbers, COVID has been between 6 and 37 times more deadly)

Traffic deaths

For automobiles, the annual death rate had been about 36,000 people killed per year (up until 2019, and not including any pandemic months)

So COVID is more deadly than traffic accidents of all sorts by a factor of about 12 to one if we use WorldOMeter’s data.

Covid’s Toll

Now let’s compare those figures with the ones from COVID. I think you will see that COVID has been in fact much more dangerous.

Over the past 18 months, the CDC (as opposed to WorldOMeter) says we have had:

120.2 Million Estimated Total Infections (this includes both those who did NOT have any symptoms, as well as those who DID; this can’t really be compared to the figures for the flu)

101.8 Million Estimated Symptomatic Illnesses (since this is more than a year, to be fair, we should adjust by a factor equal to the ratio of 12 months to 18 months, or 2/3. Doing so, I get about 67 million symptomatic COVID infections per year, which is between 2 to 6 times larger than for the flu!)

6.2 Million Estimated Hospitalizations (adjusting as before, this is like 4 million hospitalizations per year, which is between 5 and 29 times worse than the flu)

767,000 Estimated Total Deaths (this is like 511,000 deaths per year – between 8 and 43 times worse than the flu!)

So, those arguments are full of nonsense, to put it politely.

The risk was NOT overblown.

I wish everybody in the US and abroad was permitted to take the vaccine, and did so!

I want this to be over.

======================================================================

My sources were:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/index.html regarding influenza

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/burden.html for COVID-19

https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/yearly-snapshot for automobiles

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/#graph-deaths-daily for WorldOMeter’s estimates

What the hell…???

I am utterly confused.

Why on earth would DC’s Department of Transportation purposely leave streets alone that are in poor shape, on the one hand, while they mill and re-pave streets that don’t need it at all?

Is there actually a good explanation? Or even an evil explanation?

Take a look at two maps of my section of Northeast DC (Brookland).

Perhaps the answer is just that the two maps are both out of date and inaccurate?

But, the way it looks to me, then out of 38 blocks around me that are listed by DC-Dot as needing repaving, only ONE (count’em 1) is listed as about to be milled and repaved.

While 8 other blocks that are NOT in bad shape are going to be milled and re-paved without needing it.

What’s going on? Why?? WTF?

Who benefits from this? I don’t get it.

Look for yourself.

I agree – the ones marked as bad streets really are bad. And the others are really OK to good. But why does the second map indicate (in pink, sorry, not the clearest color, my poor choice) that many roads that are in FINE shape are about to get dug up, neglecting lots of blocks in poor shape?

Can anyone explain?

================

Edit: I’ve looked at parts of Anacostia and Wards 3 and 4. Once again, I see no correlation between the streets that DC’s DOT lists as needing to be fixed, and the streets that are on the schedule to get milled and paved. Look for yourself and see if you can explain.

Published in: on June 9, 2021 at 1:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Yet another former charter school teacher, now disillusioned, tells all

This is a long article printed on Alternet. A teacher believed so much all the hype about magical charter schools that she tried twice to form her own charter school. (She failed to get approval, rightly so, she says.)

So she went to work for an existing charter school (whose name she doesn’t provide) in Los Angeles and the scales fell from her eyes.

Here is the link.

Liz Davis

A remote memorial for my former colleague, fellow union member, friend and ally, Elizabeth Davis, is scheduled for May 6.

(Apparently I recorded an incorrect date. For details and to register for the on-line event, go to the website of the Washington Teachers’ Union.)

(If you didn’t know, Liz was the president of the WTU until her tragic death in a car crash on Easter Sunday. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.)

During my very first year teaching, Liz and I happened to be posted at the same school, a big new open-space building almost as far south as you can get and still be in DC.

Interesting times — there was a teacher strike that year, and we both were definitely doing our best to be on the left, progressive, anti-racist side of things. Looking back, I feel that I mostly made a hash of it. Liz was much more of a fighter than I was, frankly.

I haven’t been to a general membership meeting of the WTU since I retired in 2009, and I unfortunately don’t have a good reading on how well she was running things.

I only recall one serious disagreement with her, which I should explain later, but in hindsight on the event, I see we were both partly right and both partly wrong. Long story. I should write it up.

DC OSSE Shenanigans deprive DC youngsters of an education

This is amazingly damning stuff from Valerie Jablow. For example the charts at the very end of this post shows that in DC’s >>charter<< schools, as a whole the attendance figures are mostly lies, and a huge number of charter students miss most of the school year but are marked present.


Bottom line: while the attendance and scholarship problems of DCPS have been widely publicized, the ones in the charter schools are not only worse but are actively hidden.

From: educationdc <comment-reply@wordpress.com>
Date: April 9, 2021 at 11:57:38 AM EDT
To:gfbrandenburg@gmail.com
Subject:[New post] The March 2021 Auditor’s Report: Or, How DC Fails To Provide All Students Their Educations
Reply-To: educationdc <comment+z_ioq3tk92pflg6rtzqshm0c@comment.wordpress.com>



post on educationdcThe March 2021 Auditor’s Report: Or, How DC Fails To Provide All Students Their Educationsby Valerie Jablow[Ed. Note: Over just a few years, DC’s auditor has produced many pages detailing shockingly poor practices in DC’s public schools, whether mis-use of at risk fundsinequitable modernizationshigh school admissions bias, and segregation and funding inequities arising from school choice.

The auditor’s latest report on DC’s publicly funded schools, released on March 10, takes it up a notch. Spelling out how our state superintendent of education (OSSE) spent tens of millions of dollars in both federal and DC taxpayer funds to create a database of educational data to better track student data, this latest report shows that database not only doesn’t exist as promised, but the failures of OSSE to collect actionable data, and to act on the data it already has, means DC students and their educations are literally being left behind.

On March 19, the DC Council held a hearing about this report. Reality itself seemed to be on trial, as government witnesses from various DC education agencies disputed the report’s findings. The council invited public testimony, albeit written. Below is my contribution to the DC Council. Though that window for testimony has passed, these issues are not going away. More to the point: Our children depend on ALL DC elected officials being held accountable for the educationally harmful events documented herein and in the report.

I am Valerie Jablow, a DCPS parent, and this is my testimony about the March 2021 DC auditor’s report on the work of our state education agency, OSSE.The auditor’s report is disturbing validation of years of testimony by DC education advocates, as well as of news reports, about the failure of DC to provide equitable education to all its children.

This report outlines how OSSE’s poor stewardship of DC public education data, and that data’s widespread lack of reliability and validity, results in what amounts to a denial of education.Take this figure from p. 35 of the report as an example:

Copyright DC Auditor 2021The

data points on the chart on the right not aligned with the diagonal line show DC students not consistently accounted for in a way that is actionable OR trackable by OSSE and most LEAs. Those students are thus highly likely to not be receiving the educations they are entitled to–with little hope of help, because there is no systematic and comprehensive tracking of them or their records across LEAs.

And the adults in charge of those LEAs and this data testified at the council hearing on March 19 that they were OK with this.

In fact, OSSE has spent millions in federal funds to perpetuate this lack of actionable data instead of using that money for its intended purpose—which includes ensuring that all attendance in DC’s publicly funded schools is tracked accurately and is actionable by every single LEA and education actor.And yet, as bad as that is, absolutely none of this is new!

That is: Education leaders in DC have longknown how DC education data lack reliability and validity, as the report outlines, and are abused regularly.

Here are just a few examples that I (a parent without access to privileged information that every single DC education leader who testified about this auditor’s report can access) personally know about, all presented in the last few years via publicly available council testimony and reports (commissioned and/or journalism):–

OSSE has for years combined PARCC scores of math tests of different levels of difficulty, pretending that exercise is statistically meaningful;–

OSSE does not promulgate a common definition for attendance (see the auditor’s report and figure above), so attendance stats for DC charters are meaningless as a measure for >40,000 DC charter students as well as the schools they attend;–


OSSE doesn’t fulsomely track student mobility, even though students who are highly mobile experience huge academic issues and the schools that receive them mid-year (often DCPS schools with high percentages of at risk students) do not get any resources to help them;–

As the auditor’s report notes, OSSE doesn’t track courses, grades, or credit toward graduation requirements in charters, so students cannot be helped well if they change schools and are off track to graduate;–

OSSE was unconcerned with reports about a graduation scandal in two charter schools, when employees showed evidence of grade and attendance fixing;–

OSSE refused to have an independent investigation of charter school graduation data when the Ballou scandal came out, despite the auditor’s evidence that charter graduation data is problematic, as graduating classes may differ significantly from entering classes;–

OSSE has not removed the STAR rating from any school description—even though it is based on flawed attendance records (see pages 35ff and 79ff of the auditor’s report);–

OSSE was unaware that legally required science and social studies classes were not being provided at several DCPS middle schools;–

OSSE was not vetting interim education providers in charters, leaving students in terrible situations;–

OSSE has not been enforcing the Healthy Schools Act, while presenting the nonenforcement as success;–

OSSE not only falsely accused dozens, if not hundreds, of Ellington families of residency fraud, but an OSSE lawyer tried to slow-walk the investigation for political purposes;–

OSSE appeared unconcerned by nonreporting of suspension rates by charters and used data to obfuscate suspensions;–

OSSE has no guidance for LEAs regarding credit recovery;–

OSSE interfered with the process by which an independent research practice partnership would be created for DC education data;–

OSSE failed to appropriately track residency fraud for years.This is not to mention the auditor’s OTHER reports of DC education, including misuse of at risk funds and segregation arising from school choice, data for which appear to be actively ignored by DC education leaders despite OSSE being able to help.

For instance, OSSE could implement a finer assessment of who is at risk and a more granular understanding of demographics and achievement (per Robert White’s excellent question at the 3/19 hearing). And OSSE certainly could push for better use of at risk and other, targeted funds (along with tracking those funds) as well as supporting existing schools as much as the agency currently ensures greater mobility through promoting school ratings and the lottery even in the face of declining enrollments.

Yet after all these years—YEARS!–of reports, investigations, and testimony outlining continued dereliction of DC education data duty and its resulting harm to DC children, we have no substantive changes. No one at OSSE or the charter board has been fired over this as far as I know, and no one is promulgating rules to stop the democratically deviant data behaviors of these agencies or their leaders outlined in this current report.

Rather, we have expressions of shock and bewilderment, as if no one has ever heard any of this before! It’s the very definition of gaslighting: Millions of dollars spent annually on stuff that everyone in charge pretends never happened or, if it did, it was a long, long time ago in a place far, far away—hakuna matata!

But this is not a fairy tale or a movie plot. This is actually happening, right now, with our education data:–students not tracked, including some of the most vulnerable in the city, like the kids from Washington Met, more than 40 of whom NO ONE in DC has any idea where they went after the school’s closure nor how they are doing;–money not following students, including those kids kicked out of charters into DCPS schools with the highest percentages of students in poverty (which the charter board executive director noted during the 3/19 hearing she has no information about);–bankrupt school ratings based on invalid data and demographics of a cartoonishly simplistic variety that result in school closures, increasing student mobility and enriching charters that gain the buildings and “marketshare”; and–a state-level education agency governed by someone who also controls both school spending and decision making so that the data itself is inevitably politicized and abused.

As a DC taxpayer, I have to ask:Is there anything that will cause OSSE, the charter board, the mayor, and/or the DC Council to actually protect DC children from all of those things detailed above—to ensure that all student records and recordkeeping are accurate, consistent, and shared across agencies and LEAs fulsomely so KIDS are not lost; that our school ratings are not based on manipulated and incomplete data that prevent accurate assessments of student growth while pushing wrongful closures; that the education services our students are entitled to are provided at every turn; and that those services are legally adequate, safe, and equitable?

At the hearing, the auditor’s office made clear that we already have the tools to do all that–and more.But as far as I can see, it’s not happening with anyone at OSSE, the charter board, or the mayor! Instead, testimony at the hearing on this report on behalf of those agencies and the mayor was first and foremost about validating the status quo and the freedom, privacy, and security ofCharter schools and/orThe adults in charge of our schools and/orThe DC education leaders over all of them, up to and including the mayor

Bottom line: All these folks are OK with every single bad thing in the auditor’s report—and more.If that seems harsh, it’s not nearly as harsh as what the DC public lives with as a consequence. To wit:

How can DC ed leaders NOT know where all Wash Met students are?

How can DC ed leaders NOT know what courses all our students have taken?

How can DC ed leaders NOT know that some schools are not providing legally required courses?

How can DC ed leaders NOT know what interim education providers are doing?

How can DC ed leaders NOT know what students have attended school–and when and why?

How can DC ed leaders NOT know where students are and account for it accurately and reliably everywhere?

Do not think for a minute that this auditor’s report is simply about data, a database, a data “journey,” or whatever quaintly beneficent term was floated during that hearing by the agencies defending the status quo.This report is a clear outline of how DC is FAILING to provide all its children their educations.So: What are YOU going to do about it?

Valerie Jablow | April 9, 2021 at 11:56 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: https://wp.me/p6Dj0P-3WjComment   See all comments   

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Published in: on April 9, 2021 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

10 Year Assessment of Education Reform in DC — a Fraud, says its former director of assessments, Richard Phelps

Stolen from Valerie Jablow:

Looking Back on DC Education Reform 10 Years Later, Part 1: The Grand Tourby Valerie Jablow

[Ed. Note: As DC’s office of the state superintendent of education (OSSE) seeks a waiver of PARCC testing again (recall that OSSE waived PARCC last school year due to the pandemic) and the DC auditor just released a bombshell report of poor stewardship of DC’s education data, it is time to revisit how standardized test data, teacher evaluations, and harsh school penalties were united by ed reformers in DCPS under mayoral control. This first-hand account of what went down in DCPS, the first of two parts by semi-retired educator Richard P. Phelps, appeared in Nonpartisan Education Review in September 2020 and is reprinted here with permission. The author thanks DC budget expert Mary Levy and retired DCPS teacher Erich Martel for their helpful comments in the research of this article.]

By Richard P. Phelps

Ten years ago, I worked as the director of assessments for DCPS. My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as chancellor. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary.

My primary task was to design an expansion of that testing program that served the IMPACT teacher evaluation system to include all core subjects and all grade levels. Despite its fame (or infamy), the test score aspect of the IMPACT program affected only 13% of teachers, those teaching either reading or math in grades four through eight. Only those subjects and grade levels included the requisite pre- and post-tests required for teacher “value added” measurements (VAM). Not included were most subjects (e.g., science, social studies, art, music, physical education), grades kindergarten to two, and high school.

Chancellor Rhee wanted many more teachers included. So, I designed a system that would cover more than half the DCPS teacher force, from kindergarten through high school. You haven’t heard about it because it never happened. The newly elected Vincent Gray had promised during his mayoral campaign to reduce the amount of testing; the proposed expansion would have increased it fourfold.

VAM affected teachers’ jobs. A low value-added score could lead to termination; a high score, to promotion and a cash bonus. VAM as it was then structured was obviously, glaringly flawed, as anyone with a strong background in educational testing could have seen. Unfortunately, among the many new central office hires from the elite of ed reform circles, none had such a background. (Even a primary grades teacher with the same group of students the entire school day had those students for less than six hours a day, five days a week, for less than half the year. All told, even in the highest exposure circumstances, a teacher interacted with the same group of students for less than a tenth of each student’s waking hours in a year, and for less than a twentieth in the tested subjects of English and math. In the lowest exposure circumstance, a high school teacher might interact with a class of English or math students for less than three percent of a student’s annual hours.

Before posting a request for proposals from commercial test developers for the testing expansion plan, I was instructed to survey two groups of stakeholders—central office managers and school-level teachers and administrators.

Not surprisingly, some of the central office managers consulted requested additions or changes to the proposed testing program where they thought it would benefit their domain of responsibility. The net effect on school-level personnel would have been to add to their administrative burden. Nonetheless, all requests from central office managers would be honored.

The Grand Tour

At about the same time, over several weeks of the late spring and early summer of 2010, along with a bright summer intern, I visited a dozen DCPS schools. The alleged purpose was to collect feedback on the design of the expanded testing program. I enjoyed these meetings. They were informative, animated, and very well attended. School staff appreciated the apparent opportunity to contribute to policy decisions and tried to make the most of it.

Each school greeted us with a full complement of faculty and staff on their days off, numbering a several dozen educators at some venues. They believed what we had told them: that we were in the process of redesigning the DCPS assessment program and were genuinely interested in their suggestions for how best to do it.

At no venue did we encounter stand-pat knee-jerk rejection of education reform efforts. Some educators were avowed advocates for the Rhee administration’s reform policies, but most were basically dedicated educators determined to do what was best for their community within the current context.

The Grand Tour was insightful, too. I learned for the first time of certain aspects of DCPS’s assessment system that were essential to consider in its proper design, aspects of which the higher-ups in the DCPS Central Office either were not aware or did not consider relevant.

The group of visited schools represented DCPS as a whole in appropriate proportions geographically, ethnically, and by education level (i.e., primary, middle, and high). Within those parameters, however, only schools with “friendly” administrations were chosen. That is, we only visited schools with principals and staff openly supportive of the Rhee-Henderson agenda.

But even they desired changes to the testing program, whether or not it was expanded. Their suggestions covered both the annual districtwide DC-CAS (or “comprehensive” assessment system), on which the teacher evaluation system was based, and the DC-BAS (or “benchmarking” assessment system), a series of four annual “no-stakes” interim tests unique to DCPS, ostensibly offered to help prepare students and teachers for the consequential-for-some-school-staff DC-CAS. (Though officially “no stakes,” some principals analyzed results from the DC-BAS to identify students whose scores lay just under the next higher benchmark and encouraged teachers to focus their instructional efforts on them. Moreover, at the high school level, where testing occurred only in grade 10, students who performed poorly on the DC-BAS might be artificially re-classified as held-back 9th graders or advanced prematurely to 11th grade in order to avoid the DC-CAS.)

At each staff meeting I asked for a show of hands on several issues of interest that I thought were actionable. Some suggestions for program changes received close to unanimous support. Allow me to describe several.

***Move DC-CAS test administration later in the school year. Many citizens may have logically assumed that the IMPACT teacher evaluation numbers were calculated from a standard pre-post test schedule, testing a teacher’s students at the beginning of their academic year together and then again at the end. In 2010, however, the DC-CAS was administered in March, three months before school year end. Moreover, that single administration of the test served as both pre- and post-test, posttest for the current school year and pretest for the following school year. Thus, before a teacher even met their new students in late August or early September, almost half of the year for which teachers were judged had already transpired—the three months in the spring spent with the previous year’s teacher and almost three months of summer vacation.

School staff recommended pushing DC-CAS administration to later in the school year. Furthermore, they advocated a genuine pre-post-test administration schedule—pre-test the students in late August–early September and post-test them in late-May–early June—to cover a teacher’s actual span of time with the students.

This suggestion was rejected because the test development firm with the DC-CAS contract required three months to score some portions of the test in time for the IMPACT teacher ratings scheduled for early July delivery, before the start of the new school year. Some small number of teachers would be terminated based on their IMPACT scores, so management demanded those scores be available before preparations for the new school year began. (Even a primary grades teacher with the same group of students the entire school day had those students for less than six hours a day, five days a week, for less than half the year. All told, even in the highest exposure circumstances, a teacher interacted with the same group of students for less than a tenth of each student’s waking hours in a year, and for less than a twentieth in the tested subjects of English and math. In the lowest exposure circumstance, a high school teacher might interact with a class of English or math students for less than three percent of a student’s annual hours.)

The tail wagged the dog.

***Add some stakes to the DC-CAS in the upper grades. Because DC-CAS test scores portended consequences for teachers but none for students, some students expended little effort on the test. Indeed, extensive research on “no-stakes” (for students) tests reveal that motivation and effort vary by a range of factors including gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, the weather, and age. Generally, the older the student, the lower the test-taking effort. This disadvantaged some teachers in the IMPACT ratings for circumstances beyond their control: unlucky student demographics.

Central office management rejected this suggestion to add even modest stakes to the upper grades’ DC-CAS; no reason given.

***Move one of the DC-BAS tests to year end. If management rejected the suggestion to move DC-CAS test administration to the end of the school year, school staff suggested scheduling one of the no-stakes DC-BAS benchmarking tests for late May–early June. As it was, the schedule squeezed all four benchmarking test administrations between early September and mid-February. Moving just one of them to the end of the year would give the following year’s teachers a more recent reading (by more than three months) of their new students’ academic levels and needs.

Central office management rejected this suggestion probably because the real purpose of the DC-BAS was not to help teachers understand their students’ academic levels and needs, as the following will explain.

***Change DC-BAS tests so they cover recently taught content. Many DC citizens probably assumed that, like most tests, the DC-BAS interim tests covered recently taught content, such as that covered since the previous test administration. Not so in 2010. The first annual DC-BAS was administered in early September, just after the year’s courses commenced. Moreover, it covered the same content domain—that for the entirety of the school year—as each of the next three DC-BAS tests.

School staff proposed changing the full-year “comprehensive” content coverage of each DC-BAS test to partial-year “cumulative” coverage, so students would only be tested on what they had been taught prior to each test administration.

This suggestion, too, was rejected. Testing the same full-year comprehensive content domain produced a predictable, flattering score rise. With each DC-BAS test administration, students recognized more of the content, because they had just been exposed to more of it, so average scores predictably rose. With test scores always rising, it looked like student achievement improved steadily each year. Achieving this contrived score increase required testing students on some material to which they had not yet been exposed, both a violation of professional testing standards and a poor method for instilling student confidence. (Of course, it was also less expensive to administer essentially the same test four times a year than to develop four genuinely different tests.)

***Synchronize the sequencing of curricular content across the District. DCPS management rhetoric circa 2010 attributed classroom-level benefits to the testing program. Teachers would know more about their students’ levels and needs and could also learn from each other. Yet, the only student test results teachers received at the beginning of each school year was half-a-year old, and most of the information they received over the course of four DC-BAS test administrations was based on not-yet-taught content.

As for cross-district teacher cooperation, unfortunately there was no cross-District coordination of common curricular sequences. Each teacher paced their subject matter however they wished and varied topical emphases according to their own personal preference.

It took DCPS’s chief academic officer, Carey Wright, and her chief of staff, Dan Gordon, less than a minute to reject the suggestion to standardize topical sequencing across schools so that teachers could consult with one another in real time. Tallying up the votes: several hundred school-level District educators favored the proposal, two of Rhee’s trusted lieutenants opposed it. It lost.

***Offer and require a keyboarding course in the early grades. DCPS was planning to convert all its testing from paper-and-pencil mode to computer delivery within a few years. Yet, keyboarding courses were rare in the early grades. Obviously, without systemwide keyboarding training in computer use some students would be at a disadvantage in computer testing.

Suggestion rejected.

In all, I had polled over 500 DCPS school staff. Not only were all of their suggestions reasonable, some were essential in order to comply with professional assessment standards and ethics.

Nonetheless, back at DCPS’s central office, each suggestion was rejected without, to my observation, any serious consideration. The rejecters included Chancellor Rhee, the head of the office of data and accountability—the self-titled “Data Lady,” Erin McGoldrick—and the head of the curriculum and instruction division, Carey Wright, and her chief deputy, Dan Gordon.

Four central office staff outvoted several hundred school staff (and my recommendations as assessment director). In each case, the changes recommended would have meant some additional work on their parts, but in return for substantial improvements in the testing program. Their rhetoric was all about helping teachers and students; but the facts were that the testing program wasn’t structured to help them.

What was the purpose of my several weeks of school visits and staff polling? To solicit “buy in” from school level staff, not feedback.

Ultimately, the new testing program proposal would incorporate all the new features requested by senior central office staff, no matter how burdensome, and not a single feature requested by several hundred supportive school-level staff, no matter how helpful. Like many others, I had hoped that the education reform intention of the Rhee-Henderson years was genuine. DCPS could certainly have benefitted from some genuine reform.

Alas, much of the activity labelled “reform” was just for show, and for padding resumes. Numerous central office managers would later work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Numerous others would work for entities supported by the Gates or aligned foundations, or in jurisdictions such as Louisiana, where ed reformers held political power. Most would be well paid.

Their genuine accomplishments, or lack thereof, while at DCPS seemed to matter little. What mattered was the appearance of accomplishment and, above all, loyalty to the group. That loyalty required going along to get along: complicity in maintaining the façade of success while withholding any public criticism of or disagreement with other in-group members.

Unfortunately, in the United States what is commonly showcased as education reform is neither a civic enterprise nor a popular movement. Neither parents, the public, nor school-level educators have any direct influence. Rather, at the national level, U.S. education reform is an elite, private club—a small group of tightly connected politicos and academics—a mutual admiration society dedicated to the career advancement, political influence, and financial benefit of its members, supported by a gaggle of wealthy foundations (e.g., Gates, Walton, Broad, Wallace, Hewlett, Smith-Richardson).

For over a decade, The Ed Reform Club exploited DC for its own benefit. Local elite formed the DC Public Education Fund (DCPEF) to sponsor education projects, such as IMPACT, which they deemed worthy. In the negotiations between the Washington Teachers’ Union and DCPS concluded in 2010, DCPEF arranged a 3-year grant of $64.5 million from the Arnold, Broad, Robertson, and Walton foundations to fund a 5-year retroactive teacher pay raise in return for contract language allowing teacher excessing tied to IMPACT, which Rhee promised would lead to annual student test score increases by 2012. Projected goals were not met; foundation support continued nonetheless.

Michelle Johnson (nee Rhee) chaired the board of a charter school chain in California and occasionally collects $30,000+ in speaker fees but, otherwise, seems to have deliberately withdrawn from the limelight. Despite contributing her own additional scandals after she assumed the DCPS chancellorship, Kaya Henderson ascended to great fame and glory with a “distinguished professorship” at Georgetown; honorary degrees from Georgetown and Catholic universities; gigs with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Broad Leadership Academy, and Teach for All; and board memberships with The Aspen Institute, The College Board, Robin Hood NYC, and Teach For America. Carey Wright is now state superintendent in Mississippi. Dan Gordon runs a 30-person consulting firm, Education Counsel, which strategically partners with major players in U.S. education policy. The manager of the IMPACT teacher evaluation program, Jason Kamras, now works as superintendent of the Richmond, VA public schools.

Arguably the person most directly responsible for the recurring assessment system fiascos of the Rhee-Henderson years, then chief of data and accountability Erin McGoldrick, now specializes in “data innovation” as partner and chief operating officer at an education management consulting firm. Her firm, Kitamba, strategically partners with its own panoply of major players in U.S. education policy. Its list of recent clients includes the DC Public Charter School Board and DCPS.

If the ambitious DC central office folk who gaudily declared themselves leading education reformers were not really, who were the genuine education reformers during the Rhee-Henderson decade of massive upheaval and per-student expenditures three times those in the state of Utah? They were the school principals and staff whose practical suggestions were ignored by central office glitterati. They were whistleblowers like history teacher Erich Martel, who had documented DCPS’s manipulation of student records and phony graduation rates years before the investigation of Ballou High School and was demoted and then “excessed” by Henderson. Or school principal Adell Cothorne, who spilled the beans on test answer sheet “erasure parties” at Noyes Education Campus and lost her job under Rhee.

Real reformers with “skin in the game” can’t play it safe.Valerie Jablow | March 11, 2021 at 4:28 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: https://wp.me/p6Dj0P-3TL

Reasons for DC statehood

Someone recently wrote a screed in the Chevy Chase DC neighborhood list-serve, opposing DC statehood, basically saying that DC government already spends too much and would see statehood as a new gravy train.

The attack on DC statehood sounded to me very much like a veiled attack on the regime of the long-dead Marion Barry and a supposedly graft-ridden city infested with too many Black folks — but maybe that’s just me being too sensitive? True, he didn’t use any racist code-words, but…)

The measured response below was written by somebody named Ed Myers.

I did a little research myself and found that a lot of other state governments with about the same population as DC or even less, have state legislatures much larger than DC’s city council and who are each paid a fair amount of money.

Now, if you have 10 times more legislators than DC does, as some of these states do, and if the state pays them 1/2 as much as the DC government pays its city council, then that would still mean that DC pays one-fifth as much for its full-time legislative body as those states do. Just sayin‘.

A brief calculation reveals that Vermont, with fewer people than DC, has a combined Senate and Legislature of 180 elected citizens. Adding up their weekly stipend and the number of weeks they are actually in session, I found that Vermont pays them just under two million dollars per year. DC pays its 12 ordinary members $140K per year, with the Chairman earning $210K. If you add those up, you get just about the same compensation for our full-time City Council as Vermont does for its enormous part-time legislature.

I’ll run the numbers again later.

With the matter of the SUVs: Kwame Brown did this 10 years ago and was roundly excoriated. Notice that he’s not on the council any more!

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By Ed Byers
A few thoughts, subject to refinements, on some statehood questions:

1. Would statehood for DC mean an expansion of our DC government?

DC already has the responsibilities of a state; just not the rights.  It is doubtful that we will need much governmental expansion in our new state. DC’s proposed constitution (see link) does not seem to contain much, if any, of a power grab. DC would pick up some responsibilities in criminal justice. If the new state government wanted expansion beyond its current levels, it would have to pass its budgets through the usual public process. If the Governor and Legislative Assembly proposed excessive budgets, in DC resident views, then they would be subject to being voted out.

https://statehood.dc.gov/page/draft-constitution

2. Does DC have excessive bureaucracy?

A concern was expressed that, “We already have 4 times as many city/county/state workers as any other major city in the country.” It is inaccurate to compare DC’s state/county/municipal workforce size to the workforces of other municipalities, which lack county and state responsibilities. Nonetheless, I would like to see some citation on the “4 times” data?  A US Census Bureau special study on DC’s workforce size, conducted many years ago, found that we are in line with other jurisdictions, once state, county, and city functions are combined. This study could be updated, at low cost.

3. Would statehood result in expansion of the DC Council?

A concern has been expressed that the DC Council with 13 members is already excessive in size, on a per capita basis, compared to New York City.  It is inaccurate to compare a city council in another state’s city with DC’s council size, since we have all of our state and county responsibilities added in to what our DC Council does.  Looking at the size of some state legislatures:

DC has more voting age population than Alaska. Alaska has 60 members in its Senate/House legislative body. Wyoming, with far fewer people than DC in population, has a combined Senate/House total of 90 members. Vermont has fewer people than DC, and it has 180 members. Other states with similar populations to DC’s could also be cited, with similar results. Of course many of those members are paid low salaries or stipends. This will all have to be argued out in DC, as we become a new state. 

According to a Washington Post (May 6, 2016) view of potential expansion of the government resulting from statehood, just looking at the proposed DC constitution:

…the District would not create many new positions, such as a lieutenant governor or a 40-member legislature. Rather, it would keep the current city council size of 13 members, elect them in the same fashion but call the body a state legislature.

4. Is DC economically viable enough to be a state?

As noted earlier, DC’s population is greater than that of Vermont and Wyoming, and we have a larger voting age population than Alaska. We would be first among states in GDP per capita, first by median household income, and 34th by total GDP among all states.

5. What is DC’s tax burden?  Would it grow if we no longer got federal help?

DC already pays more federal taxes in absolute dollar amounts than do 22 states. In per capita taxes, DC ranks number one in federal taxes paid. When Congress adopted COVID relief to states, DC’s share was at a far lower level than a state’s per capita share; we were treated as a territory, even though (unlike territories) we pay the same federal tax rates as do the states.

DC receives between 25 and 30 percent of its budget from the feds. This is less than found in five states and on par with three others.  We should keep in mind that half of our land is tax exempt due to federal and foreign government land use, with much of it (to be computed) outside the proposed federal enclave.  Moreover, national charitable organizations are given property tax exemptions via special act of Congress. We should not lose compensation for continuing conditions.

Most importantly, every state in America has the power to tax the income of nonresidents earning income within its borders. This is the standard non-resident income tax (as distinct from a commuter tax that some cities have), with a full credit given on home state taxes. Some adjustment in the new state for non-resident taxation would provide for significantly lower DC residents’ tax burdens in a new state. 

6. Is DC statehood just a Democratic Party power play to change the composition of the Senate?

The US Senate already has a strong rural bias, with low-population states like Wyoming having the same number of senators as California. Allowing DC citizens to have the same democratic rights as do other citizens in the 50 states would mean correcting for some, and far from all, of the Senate’s current rural bias.

7.  Further resident participation in shaping DC Statehood

HR 51 provides for adoption of a state constitution in Sec. 401 (5), which has already taken a number of steps. From H.R. 51:

The term “State Constitution” means the proposed Constitution of the State of Washington, D.C., as approved by the Council on October 18, 2016, pursuant to the Constitution and Boundaries for the State of Washington, D.C. Approval Resolution of 2016 (D.C. Resolution R21–621), ratified by District of Columbia voters in Advisory Referendum B approved on November 8, 2016, and certified by the District of Columbia Board of Elections on November 18, 2016.

An 18-member Statehood Transition Commission is established in Sec 402 of H.R. 51 to provide detailed guidance, composed of federal and DC members. The Commission is authorized to hold public hearings as their work proceeds.

8. Is DC ready for statehood?

Concerns are at times expressed about DC’s lack of responsible behavior. For example, did the Council vote themselves $50,000 SUVs, as has been commented? Maybe (I can’t find anything on that). The other side of that same coin:  DC every day overcomes challenges of deep poverty concentrations (zoned into DC by our suburbs, and implemented by the feds before home rule). DC welcomes these opportunities to help people lift themselves from poverty concentrations. DC does so while achieving good performance ratings on the full variety of DC services and with balanced budgets. 

DC is long overdue (and more than just “ready”) for democracy and the rights of citizenship experienced throughout the USA. The nation could learn much from us if we could participate fully in our democracy.

Ed Meyers

Published in: on February 16, 2021 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

It’s Way Past Time for D.C. Statehood — but we can do it NOW!!

We DC residents have long complained about not having any representation in Congress.

Boys and girls, WE CAN FIX THIS, RIGHT NOW!

A bill to admit most of the land, and nearly all the people, residing inside Washington DC into the Union as an ordinary state, has actually passed the US House of Representatives.

All we need now is FIVE more senators to sign on and to reverse this long-standing wrong, where over seven hundred thousand citizens of the US, who pay loads of federal taxes and are subject to the draft, can at long last have a Member of Congress and two Senators, just like Vermont or Wyoming, which both have fewer inhabitants than DC does. (We are almost caught up with Alaska, too!)

You may think that admitting DC as the 51st state would require a constitutional amendment, but it doesn’t. Under the law now pending in the Senate, the Federal City would shrink down basically to the part that most tourists visit, along the National Mall and from the Jefferson Memorial to the White House and Supreme Court/Library of Congress. All the rest of the roughly 60 square miles of the city would be admitted as Washington, Douglas Commonwealth, under the normal procedures for admitting a state. (Yes, DC residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of statehood just two years ago.) No constitutional amendment or supermajority is needed; the Federal CIty as outlined in the Constitution would remain; it would just be smaller.

So if we get five more senators to come out in favor of accepting DC as a state, THEN IT WILL HAPPEN, and a plurality-Black city with more citizens than two other states would finally get to have their votes matter!

If you are not sure of why this is needed, check out https://www.the51st.org/.

So, here are the five senators. If you live in their states, please call them or text them or write them a letter, tweet them, etc etc. Ask your friends and relatives as well, if they live in their districts.

Thank you!

AlaskaLisa MurkowskiRepublican
ArizonaKyrsten SinemaDemocratic
MaineSusan CollinsRepublican
MaineAngus KingIndependent
West VirginiaJoe ManchinDemocratic

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Published in: on February 5, 2021 at 7:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Road Not Taken

A few quotes from Lerone Bennett’s article in Ebony 50 years ago. It opened my eyes.

The race problem in America was a deliberate invention of men who systematically separated blacks and whites in order to make money. This was, as Kenneth Stampp so cogently observed, a deliberate choice among several alternatives. Slavery, he said,

“cannot be attributed to some deadly atmospheric miasma or some irresistible force in the South’s economic evolution. The use of slaves in southern agriculture was a deliberate choice (among several alternatives) made by men who sought greater returns than they could obtain from their own labor alone, and who found other types of labor more expensive…”

It didn’t have to happen that way. Back there, before Jim Crow, before the invention of the Negro or the white man or the words and concepts to describe them, the Colonial population consisted largely of a great mass of white and black bondsmen, who occupied roughly the same economic category and were treated with equal contempt by the lords of the plantations and legislatures. Curiously unconcerned about their color, these people worked together and relaxed together. They had essentially the same interests, the same aspirations, arid the same grievances. They conspired together and waged a common struggle against their common enemy — the big planter apparatus and a social system that legalized terror against black and white bondsmen. No one says and no one believes that there was a Garden of Eden in Colonial America. But the available evidence, slight though it is, suggests that there were widening bonds of solidarity between the first generation of blacks and whites. And the same evidence indicates that it proved very difficult indeed to teach white people to worship their skin.”

(From Lerone Bennett, The Shaping of Black America. Chicago: Johnson Publishing Co., 1975, pp. 61-82. Originally published in Ebony, vol. 25 (August, 1970), pp. 71- 77). Copied and pasted from https://multiracialunity.org/2016/05/22/the-road-not-taken-by-lerone-bennett/

Published in: on February 1, 2021 at 10:38 pm  Comments (2)  
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