One More Fraudulent DCPS Leader Out

Antwan Wilson just resigned.

Good.

But:

The interim successor to Antwan Wilson needs to be asked when, exactly, did she realize that:

1. Her boss, Michelle Rhee’s claimed miraculous teaching accomplishments were fraudulent;

2. Her boss, Michelle Rhee was asking principals to cheat;

3. Noyes principal Wayne Ryan was committing massive fraud by “fixing” student answer sheets;

4. Ryan had no business being promoted to supervising other principals;

And

5. Why Ryan was quietly allowed to resign;

6. When she realized that attendance rates, suspension stats, grades, and graduation rates at all comprehensive DCPS high schools were all fraudulent;

7. Why she didn’t speak up about any of those frauds.

I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath waiting for answers.

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Published in: on February 20, 2018 at 6:01 pm  Comments (4)  

State-Wide Teacher Strike This Week in West Virginia?

If it happens, it’ll be a first in the nation since a very long time, but long overdue.

Details here.

Published in: on February 19, 2018 at 7:15 pm  Comments (4)  

Both Cars and Guns Are Dangerous. Regulate Both!

I own cars, and I own some guns.

In every country I know of, you must register your car, prove that you know how to drive safely, and even have insurance. Why not for guns as well?

According to the CDC, the number of gun deaths is almost exactly equal to the number of car deaths: 33,594 versus 33,736.

Cars are pretty much essential for survival today. Guns in private hands? Not so much. Sure, hunting deer and target shooting are fun, and challenging, but I don’t NEED to eat venison or rabbit or squirrel. We are way beyond the point where private ownership of guns with large magazines, bump stocks, or armor-piercing bullets make any sense at all.

Handguns don’t make families safer, but rather the exact opposite. If students walk out en masse on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine massacre, I will support them any way I can.

Here is a great graphic:

Published in: on February 18, 2018 at 10:08 am  Comments (3)  

Mark Twain on Christianity and Other Religions

Mark Twain was a wonderful writer and thinker. He helped organize against imperialism, both American and European, and the basic message of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was anti-racism.

He was also very critical of organized religion. If you want to read some of what he wrote on this issue, check out “Letters From the Earth”, which you can read here.

Published in: on February 17, 2018 at 9:02 pm  Comments (1)  

DC’s Education ‘Reformers’ Have No More Morals or Ethics Than Trump and his Mafia Cronies

I’m not going to list all the ways that the Trump organization caters to foreign dictators, launders money for corrupt kleptocrats, lies about how they are ‘for the American worker’ while giving enormous tax breaks to American billionaires, and so on.

But let’s list some of the ways that DC’s education ‘Reformers’ (starting with Michelle Rhee) have lied and defrauded the citizens, students, teachers and other staff in Washington, DC.

Latest: Brand-new Chancellor Antwan Wilson pulls strings with the Deputy Mayor of Education for DC (Jenny Niles) so that he can transfer his kid from Duke Ellington School of the Arts to Woodrow Wilson SHS. Niles is caught red-handed and is forced to resign. (One difference: Donald Trump never resigns, never admits fault under any circumstances, no matter how obviously guilty he is)

[edit: Of course, this is not the first time that DC has seen such string-pulling to bypass the supposedly fair lottery system: there were similar scandals just last year. I guess the difference was that this time, someone resigned (or was forced to), and it was the Chancellor who was the personal beneficiary of the change. Last year, nobody resigned, and it was the Chancellor who was pulling those strings for other high-ranking DC officials.]

Before that: All of the DC education brass, including previous Chancellor Kaya Henderson and Michelle Rhee, as well as current mayor Bowser keep patting themselves on the back for supposedly having the fastest-improving school system in the nation, with dramatic reductions in suspensions and increases in graduation rates.

Later the facts came out: many of the students who misbehaved were put out of school and told not to return until their parents came in for a conferencer, but were not officially listed as suspended. So, the numbers of official suspensions went down, but the actual suspensions didn’t.

(From my own position as a retired teacher, I do think that there are times that a student must, in fact, be removed from a classroom until he/she calms down, makes restitution, has a conference with administrators and parents, or some such event. Schools that basically forbid a teacher ever to send a child out of the classroom for misbehavior are schools where chaos will reign. And I have seen such schools, both charters and regular public schools, here in DC. I have heard from teachers at schools that were pressured to reduce suspensions (e.g. one or more of the KIPP schools) that you then have kids roaming the halls.)

Also: news recently came out that enormous numbers of graduating seniors in DCPS had so many unexcused absences that they could not have passed even a single one of their courses. Massive fraud was imposed on the schools because teachers were forced to give nearly every single student a passing grade, even though on any given day, perhaps only 20% of the students enrolled in any given course were actually present. The truancy rate is mind-boggling, and actually has been getting worse since Rhee took power.

Let’s also recall that Michelle Rhee’s resume was full of lies, most a complete fabrication, from her completely fabricated 90-13-90-90 statistics from Baltimore in the mid-1990s, to her nonexistent glowing writeups in the Wall Street Journal.  She also illegally fired hundreds of DC teachers and lied about the reasons. She lied when she claimed that the teachers’ union prevented her from giving grants to teachers for supervised after-school study sessions. She essentialy forced all of her principals to promise to reach nearly-impossible-to-reach goals on test scores, without providing them with extra resources like counsellors, social workers, bilingual teachers, or anything else. Principals took the strong hint and held ‘eraser parties’ where they erased wrong answers on answer sheets, and bubbled in the correct answers with #2 pencils. Quite a few ended up winning large bonuses. Former Noyes principal Wayne Ryan, who was apparently the most prolific organizer of this sort of cheating, got promoted to deputy chancellor for instruction.

[Edit: after USA printed a series of hard-hitting articles outlining the fraud, an outside commercial firm (A&M) with no expertise in cheating on tests was brought in and whitewashed whatever they could. Controls were tightened up to prevent cheating, and guess what: the schools where evidence showed that staff had erased and fixed the largest number of answers — saw the largest drops back to test levels more in line with what they were obtaining before the cheat-fest.]

Of course, when the news came out of how he had won those awards, instead of being publically repudiated and terminated, Ryan was quietly allowed to resign. And so did Rhee.

Of course, Rhee wasn’t so quiet. She claimed she was going to raise billions of dollars from millions of citizens and set up a “reform” organization to fight against teacher unions and so on. Her organization raised a few million from a few billionaires, but quietly went out of business.

[edit: Also recall that Rhee and Henderson signed an agreement committing themselves to truly astonishing numerical growth goals in education in DC. The other partners to this set of promises were foundations set up by a handful of billionaires such as the Broad Walton, and Arnold foundations (I see that my link to the original document has died, and I am not sure to find it any more). Inspired by information compiled by my former colleague Erich Martel, I wrote a long series of articles examining how well R&H did. They didn’t score a zero, as you might expect. I found that their score was 2.8%. Yes, they failed to reach 97.2% of their goals. But they didn’t quit in shame over that; nor did the press even mention it. ] 

 

More on the DC Education Frauds

This article appeared in Education Week, which is behind a paywall, so I’m pasting it here. In case you haven’t been watching, just about all of the supposed improvements in DC’s publicly-funded education sector have either been:

(a) continuations of trends begun before Mayor Fenty took control of DC Public Schools in 2007 and appointed Michelle Rhee Chancellor; or

(b) the result of changing demographics (more white kids, more black kids from relatively-affluent families, and fewer kids from highly-poverty-stricken families; or

(c) simply the result of fraud.

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

NEWS

D.C.’s Scandal and the Nationwide Problem of Fudging Graduation Numbers

Edweek.org

The headlines made a big splash, and yet they were strangely familiar: Another school system was reporting a higher graduation rate than it deserved.

The most recent scandal-in the District of Columbia-is just the latest example in a growing case file of school systems where investigators have uncovered bogus graduation-rate practices.

Those revelations have unleashed a wave of questions about the pressures and incentives built into U.S. high schools, and fueled nagging doubts that states’ rising high school graduation rates-and the country’s current all-time-high rate of 84 percent-aren’t what they seem.

The newest round of reflections was triggered by an investigation, ordered by the D.C. mayor’s office, that found that 34 percent of last year’s senior class got diplomas even though they’d missed too much school to earn passing grades, or acquired too many credits through quick, online courses known as credit recovery. Only three months earlier, the school system touted a 20-point rise in its graduation rate over the last six years.

“It’s been devastating,” said Cathy Reilly, the executive director of the Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals, and Educators, a group that focuses on high school issues in the District of Columbia. “It’s made people here feel that our graduation rate gains weren’t real.”

A National Problem

Such revelations are hardly confined to the nation’s capital. In the last few years, a federal audit found that California and Alabama inflated their graduation rates by counting students they shouldn’t have counted. News media investigations showed that educators persuaded low-performing students in Atlanta and Orlando, Fla., to transfer to private or alternative schools to eliminate a drag on their home schools’ graduation rates.

See AlsoThe D.C. Public School Attendance Scandal: Where’s the Outrage? (Commentary)The drumbeat of graduation-rate fudging has opened the door to renewed attacks on the pressures imposed on schools by accountability rules, particularly the high stakes that some systems attach to specific metrics. In the District of Columbia, for instance, high school teachers and principals are evaluated in part on their schools’ graduation rates.

With those kinds of stakes, teachers can feel immense pressure to award passing grades to students who haven’t earned them, a dilemma that intensifies in schools with high rates of chronic absenteeism and academically struggling students.

In a survey of 616 District of Columbia teachers conducted after the scandal broke, 47 percent said they’d felt pressured or coerced into giving grades that didn’t accurately reflect what students had learned. Among high school teachers, that number rose to 60 percent. More than 2 in 10 said that their student grades or attendance data had been changed by someone else after teachers submitted them.

Scott Goldstein oversaw the survey as the founder of EmpowerEd, a year-old coalition of D.C. teachers that works to strengthen teacher leadership. To him, the results cry out for a new conversation about the “moral dilemmas” embedded in accountability systems that rely heavily on just a few metrics, like graduation rates.

“If you pass students [who haven’t completed course requirements], you’re leading them into a world they’re unprepared for. But if you fail them, you’re harming their lives in other ways,” said Goldstein, a social studies teacher at Roosevelt High School. Teachers’ decisions should rest on a professional appraisal of student mastery, not on fear for their own jobs, he said.

Pressure From the Top

Pressure to Graduate: Perspectives From Educators … read moreEven in school systems that don’t reward or penalize educators for their schools’ accountability metrics, teachers can feel immense pressure from administrators on their grading practices.

In postings on social media, Education Week asked high school teachers if they’d ever felt pressure to give passing grades to students who hadn’t done the work.

“Never mind high school. I feel that pressure in 3rd grade,” said Annie, an elementary school teacher in central Virginia. She asked Education Week not to identify her so she could discuss sensitive issues.

She said her principal has cautioned her not to fail any student or recommend that they repeat a grade because she “doesn’t want anyone to feel bad about not succeeding.” When she gave a student a D recently, she was summoned to a meeting with the principal, Annie said.

“She was upset. She said, ‘Why didn’t you work harder to get the student to turn in missing work, or re-do work?’ She sees a D as a teacher’s failure. But I think it’s a disservice to kids to give them grades they haven’t earned.”

John R. Tibbetts, who teaches economics at Worth County High School in rural Sylvester, Ga., and is the state’s 2018 teacher of the year, said his district’s policy doesn’t include course-failure rates in teachers’ evaluations. But his principal recently sent teachers an email conveying word from their superintendent that “failure rates … will be taken into consideration” in their evaluations anyway.

A Change of Approach

Tibbetts said he would like to replace that “threatening” posture with a more collaborative one.

“If the superintendent is concerned with course-failure or graduation rates, what we really need is for him to have a conversation with teachers about what we need to do to improve, what policies we can implement,” he said.

Education advocates who believe accountability can be a force for good worry that graduation-rate scandals could tarnish a tool that’s important for shining a light on inequities and applying pressure for school improvement.

They hope, instead, that uncovering problems can spark a rebalancing of the pressures and supports built into accountability systems, and change school practice to respond better to issues like students’ poor academic skills and chronic absenteeism.

“We shouldn’t stop paying attention to high school grad rates, or not have them in accountability systems,” said Michael Cohen, the president of Achieve, which works with states to raise academic expectations.

“The right response to all of this is to double down on efforts to support students, and to support teachers, early and consistently, so they’re not pressured to game the system and they can give kids what they need.”

Experts who study and track graduation rates acknowledge that in some places, the rates are inflated by cheating or inaccurate reporting. But they contend that those cases account for a tiny share of schools overall. Robert Balfanz, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who studies graduation rates, estimates that those cases account for 2 to 4 percentage points in the national graduation rate.

‘Hard-Earned Gains’ Are Real

John Bridgeland, the chief executive officer of Civic Enterprises, a think tank that examines graduation rates for the annual “Grad Nation” reports, said his team has visited dozens of schools to find out what they’re doing to produce significant gains in their graduation rates.

In a few places, he said, he and his colleagues have had to shave 2 to 4 percentage points off the rates districts were reporting because they were improperly counting some types of students who shouldn’t be included, such as those who started home schooling in their junior year of high school.

But with few exceptions, Bridgeland said, his team has found that “the hard work” of better instruction and student support explains higher graduation rates.

“We need to call out the problems when gaming or cheating appears,” he said. “But at the same time, taking isolated examples of gaming the system and saying that high school grad rates are not real diminishes and undermines the many schools, districts, and states that have hard-earned gains and clear progress to showcase,” he said.

Those who study graduation-rate calculations point out that while they’re still imperfect, they’ve been much more reliable since 2008 when federal regulations began requiring all schools to calculate them the same way-the portion of each freshman class that earns regular diplomas four years later.

Balfanz said that more stringent calculation and reporting requirements “without a doubt” have been responsible for a very real rise in states’ graduation rates.

“People don’t remember the bad days before 2008, when schools were allowed to measure graduation rates however they wanted,” he said. “Kids dropped out, schools would code them as ‘whereabouts unknown,’ not as a dropout. No one knew, and no one cared. That wasn’t a good place. Accountability makes schools pay attention to a key outcome, like graduating our kids from high school.”

But even those experts acknowledge that there are still too many hidden variations in the way states report graduation-rate data. To get a more accurate understanding of schools’ graduation rates, they’ve quietly identified about a dozen variations that should be ferreted out and handled in uniform ways.

For example, even though federal rules don’t allow states to count summer graduates, or those who earn high school equivalency certificates, some still do. Some schools include summer graduates, or students in juvenile justice facilities. Others include teenagers who “transfer” into home schooling late in high school.

What’s Behind the Record Rises in U.S. Graduation Rates?

Education Week
New Federal Rule Could Force States to Lower Graduation Rates

Education Week
NCLB Rules Back Common Rate

What is America?

“[I]t’s… a nation built by enslaved peoples on the carcasses of First Peoples for the benefit of people who escaped colonizers only to multiply colonialism in the form of globalism. The three branches of our government have synthesized, compartmentalized, suppressed, and packaged our voices for a handful of wealthy people to make decisions that inevitably affect the majority of us. This handful then consolidates power through handshakes we never see and codes we never learn.”

Very apt. Despite the propaganda, nobody gets to be President, Senator, Representative or Governor without getting the approval and cash of a number of members of our Ruling Class; in that process, they do learn the secret codes of how to maintain the rule of our overlords.

Read the rest of this here.

Published in: on February 12, 2018 at 7:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

How do financial columnists know what causes the stock market to rise and fall?

I doubt that financial columnists really do know what causes the stock market to go where it goes. I don’t think they instantly take a random survey of “investors” to find out what they are thinking at the moment. For one thing, a very large fraction of the transactions are now handled by computer algorithms that conduct trades in milliseconds or microseconds. While people did write the code that underlies those algorithms, there are so many computer programs, and so much real-time data that changes so fast, that nobody can predict what will happen in general at any given time.

(In the case of insider trading, yes, the insiders can guess pretty well what will happen to one type of stock or bond when a certain event becomes common knowledge; they then capitalize on that private knowledge, at the risk of being found out and fined. But that’s not the same thing as knowing what’s going to happen on the NYSE or any other such market.)

Nonetheless, we get prose like this:

“Investors concluded that interest rates would rise faster than they had anticipated, almost certainly in the United States, and perhaps eventually in Europe and Asia, too. They yanked their treasure out of stocks and entrusted it to safer repositories of wealth like bonds and cash.

“A wave of selling commenced in New York on Friday, continued in Asia and Europe on Monday, and then completed its trans-global journey with a sharp drop where it had all started.”

Maybe. This following paragraph makes more sense:

“Even as unemployment rates have lowered drastically in Britain, Japan and the United States, companies have continued to find new ways to make more products and sell more services without paying more to their employees. This has been a major source of unhappiness among working people, and a subject of consternation among policymakers.”

Published in: on February 7, 2018 at 10:17 am  Comments (3)  

Dont Sell Off Puerto Rico’s Schools!

Gadfly On The Wall Explains the horrible privatization plan there.

https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/07/crippled-puerto-rico-offered-school-privatization-as-quick-fix-for-woes/

Published in: on February 7, 2018 at 9:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Michelle Rhee: Is She Merely A Liar, or is She Just Stupid? You Decide

I’m revisiting this because I hope that Michelle Rhee is investigated, indicted, put on trial, convicted, and sentenced. I also help that her appeals all get denied, that much of her wealth is confiscated, and that she ends up serving many years behind bars for educational and financial fraud. Along with a number of other present and former administrators in DCPS and the charter schools here.

Jay Matthews* of Class Struggle at WAPO wrote a few years ago that I was being too harsh on Michelle Rhee: it’s not a lie if she thought it was true, he implied; her defense was that she was just going by what her principal told her and she hadn’t written any of the numbers down.

Well, Jay, let’s assume you’re right for a moment: let’s assume Rhee really thought that she had taken on a class of (IIRC) 3rd graders that had 90% of them scoring at or below the 13th percentile, and in only two years Rhee had managed somehow to make it so that 90% of them were now … wait for it …. above the 90th percentile!

(If you didn’t know: Rhee and her team-teacher  ‘followed’ that class from one grade to the next so they had them for two years, back in the early 1990s. This was at Harlem Park Elementary, in a poor inner-city region of Baltimore, as part of a fairly well-controlled experiment to see if in fact a for-profit “charter-like” educational business could manage inner-city schools better than the traditional, public school system. Statistics were generated on many things, such as teacher and student attendance, grades on state tests, satisfaction, and so on. Both Baltimore Public Schools and Edison/Tesseract were given nine schools, which were measured by UMBC researchers for several years. I looked at the report, and so can you. If you can’t find it, I can send anybody an electronic copy (put a note in the comments). )

Why is this a miracle?

It’s like having a class of incoming, tiny, little second graders, all girls, who almost all weigh 46 pounds or less. Then in just two years you feed and strengthen them and somehow ensure that their bones grow as well, so that when they reach the age of ten, almost every single one of the girls now weighs 105 pounds or more. At age ten.

That sort of growth spurt is extremely rare in any single person. But a whole class? Give me a break. It doesn’t matter how much you feed them or how many pullups you have them do! Entire grade school classrooms of kids don’t ever change that much!

But – suppose this miracle had actually happened.

What would have been the results?

Well, anybody in education who heard of such a modern-day educational loaves-and-fishes miracle like this one would want to hear and know all about it. Word of mouth would have caused ENORMOUS amount of attention from educators all over. Every teacher in every inner school in the country would want to know what their secrets were, and they would be sitting on the floor, in rapt attention, trying to learn lessons from these undisputed master teachers. Their lesson plan files would have been nation-wide best sellers, and probably would have been translated into numerous foreign languages. Teachers from Finland, Singapore, Japan, Shanghai, Germany, and South Korea would have been making pilgrimages in order to discover these amazing American educational secrets.

Verily I say unto thee, their fame would have spread far and wide.

But back in the real world, nobody except Joel Klein and a few people at Teach for America had heard of Michelle Rhee until she was appointed Chancellor under DC Mayor Adrian Fenty as a total surprise to DC residents (including me). Neither Klein nor TFA was raving in public about those teachers’ amazing accomplishments. And while it took Rhee over a decade to reach fame and fortune (through this fraud and others, I would say), the other team teacher certainly never entered the public eye at all. Even I don’t recall her name.

When I read Rhee’s resume at the time she was appointed, I was thunderstruck. My jaw dropped — I think it literally hung open for a long time. Not figuratively. I looked up the references she gave about interviews she had given to various newspapers and found nothing about this miracle. (What’s more, one of the articles that supposedly extolled her teaching practices was allegedly in the Wall Street Journal. No such article on her from the 1990s in the WSJ exists.)

Now, if Rhee had really believed that she had accomplished moving 90% of a group of randomly selected kids moving from below the 13th to above 90th percentile, then she also would have gone to her employer (Edison/Tesseract), along with her principal, and all the data printouts from CTBS, proving that she had indeed performed this utter miracle. Tesseract then would have gone to the authorities in Baltimore and at UMBC and jumped up and down and demanded that their contract be continued, because they had this team of miracle-producing teachers in their successful, measured, experimental charter school, and they had beaten every expert everywhere and produced an educational miracle that had never been equaled, anywhere!

There would have been an enormous fuss. Rhee would have been world-famous, in the mid-90s, instead having to be plucked from obscurity by Joel Klein, Adrian Fenty, and a few billionaires, over a decade later. Her big mouth and anti-union and anti-teacher rhetoric made her very famous, which she certainly parlayed into great wealth — but it wasn’t that made-up miracle.

Instead, in the real world, Tesseract got closed down by Baltimore around 1995, because Edison cost a bit more money and got essentially the same or slightly worse results, while providing a slightly worse education overall, than the regular Baltimore public schools. Tesseract/Edison did protest, of course, but they lost. THEY NEVER SAID BOO about Rhee’s mythical miracle.

(I suspect that Rhee had not yet invented her miracle yet in 1995. It would be interesting to see when this 90-13-90-90 miracle began appearing on her resume over the years.

(Keep in mind: Rhee gave no fictitious credit to this almost-completely-unknown co-teacher. I can only wonder what kind of conversations she has had with her former colleague…)

So there are only two, not three choices. We know from the statistics that I unearthed and had confirmed by others, that there was no such miracle in Harlem Park under Michelle Rhee’s watch. Plus by this over evidence (like the ‘dog that didn’t bark in the night’) that I am adducing.

It’s clear that her numbers were made up by her — much the way Ronald Reagan and many politicians (like #45) do, because they sounded good.  Possibly, every time she told the story, the numbers became a little more miraculous. Was this self-delusion, or outright conscious lying?

In fact, my research does show that while there was some sort of a small increase in CTBS scores at her grade level. But there was also a very large decrease in the student population at her school, which could push the scores either up or down, depending on which kids leave or who replaces them. And there was a very high proportion of kids whose scores were so low that they weren’t counted — and that will necessarily and HUGELY improve a class’ average.

Either:

(1) Rhee is too mathematically illiterate to know how statistically impossible her made-up figures are. She also blinded herself to, or was too mathematically ignorant to realize, the likely effect of cutting out all the low-scoring students’ scores. If this is the case, then Michelle Rhee is too innumerate to hold any job in education. Ever.

or

(2) She understood the statistics just fine and decided to go with the lie because she knew that most people (that includes most reporters and politicians) don’t understand mathematics or statistics well enough and are intimidated by anybody who spouts numbersm and that she could gain a lot of fame, power, and wealth by doing so.

So —

Michelle Rhee is either hugely stupid or a big fat liar.

Which is it?

(PS: I don’t think she’s stupid at all. I can only guess what her personal fortune is now. Lying can be very, very profitable.)

I hope she gets her just deserts. And no desserts for her in prison.

============————–

  • Jay’s wife helped expose a lot of the educational malfeasance in Atlanta and DC when she was at USAToday.  Disclosure: my wife tells me that she had one of Jay’s kids in her class many years ago, and that the ‘kid was a riot’.

 

Published in: on February 2, 2018 at 4:17 pm  Comments (8)  
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