It’s not so much that we have bad teachers (even tho they do exist): It’s an incoherent educational system that is at fault

Very interesting article in Atlantic by E.D. Hirsch on the problems facing American education. Among other things, he finds (as I do) that Value-Added Measurements are utterly unreliable and, indeed, preposterous. But most of all, he finds that the American educational system is extremely poorly run because its principal ideas lack any coherence at all.

Here are a couple of paragraphs:

The “quality” of a teacher doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Within the average American primary school, it is all but impossible for a superb teacher to be as effective as a merely average teacher is in the content-cumulative Japanese elementary school. For one thing, the American teacher has to deal with big discrepancies in student academic preparation while the Japanese teacher does not. In a system with a specific and coherent curriculum, the work of each teacher builds on the work of teachers who came before. The three Cs—cooperation, coherence, and cumulativeness—yield a bigger boost than the most brilliant efforts of teachers working individually against the odds within a system that lacks those qualities. A more coherent system makes teachers better individually and hugely better collectively.

American teachers (along with their students) are, in short, the tragic victims of inadequate theories. They are being blamed for the intellectual inadequacies behind the system in which they find themselves. The real problem is not teacher quality but idea quality. The difficulty lies not with the inherent abilities of teachers but with the theories that have watered down their training and created an intellectually chaotic school environment. The complaint that teachers do not know their subject matter would change almost overnight with a more specific curriculum with less evasion about what the subject matter of that curriculum ought to be. Then teachers could prepare themselves more effectively, and teacher training could ensure that teacher candidates have mastered the content they will be responsible for teaching.”


A Whole Bunch of Things that Standardized Tests Cannot Measure

BS tests can't measure this

Published in: on March 24, 2017 at 9:37 pm  Comments (1)  

Trump-Don’t Care Is Dead!!

Yahoo! Biggest Loser, MangoMussolini, Old Rot 45, has lost again!

He pulled his nasty Trump-Don’t-Care (AHCA) written by evil Orc Paul Ryan.

That being said, I don’t see why it’s a CONSERVATIVE position to wish millions of your fellow-citizens to go bankrupt from medical bills that they can’t possibly pay. That doesn’t sound like conserving anything – you know, keeping people safe … ?

I say that because the far right wing of the Republican party reportedly rebelled against allowing people to get insurance with pre=existing conditions, or allowing young people to stay on their parents’ plan until they are 26. (At which point there is a slight possibility that said young adult just might find an actual job with benefits, if they are lucky and well-connected… Young people tend to think of themselves as invincible and immortal beings, but one never knows when something catastrophic can happen.

I’m not going to say that the ACA aka Obamacare aka Romneycare is perfect. What I have, through Kaiser Permanente, isn’t perfect either, but it sounds a whole lot more reasonable – for me and my family – than anything I see in ACA. Paul Ryan’s apparent idea that it’s somehow unfair to people who are healthy if their premiums get used to help those who are sick.

Well, DUH, that’s PRECISELY the idea. You spread the risk over the largest and most random group you can find, if you want to keep premiums low. The best way is to do what just about every other advanced nation does: have a national, single-payer government-run health payment plan. Every single person is covered, from birth. Each person would have a contact physician and nursing team, and schools would have optometrists, general practictioners, PAs, RNs, LPNs and DDS and behavioral health personnel, who would do a checkup regtularly of each and every kid, and do dental, optical, hearing and immunizations and everything else, right at the scvhool, so that at most, a kid might have to miss a period or two – unless they have to go to a specialist or be hospitalized for some reason. And you have actual, trained cooks who make good food for the students – good breakfasts, good lunches, and if need be (evening classes etc) suppers and meals during weekends and when school is otherwise closed for inclement weather. Not cheerios, tater tots, and white-bread-and-jam or – bologna sandwiches. Real food.

That’s how you keep people healthy.

Unless the only people and things you want to keep healthy is the very wealthy and the size of the gazillionaires’ bank accounts.



Published in: on March 24, 2017 at 9:04 pm  Comments (2)  

The joys of opting out!!

From Steven Singer at


Testing season is a gray period in my classroom.
But it’s a joy in my house.
As a classroom teacher with a daughter in the public school system, I’m always struck by the difference.

In school I have to proctor the federally mandated standardized tests. But I’ve opted my own daughter out. She doesn’t take them.
So at home, I get to see all the imaginative projects she’s created in her class while the other kids had to trudge away at the exam.

“Daddy, daddy, look!” she squeals.
And I’m bombarded by an entire Picasso blue period.
Or “Daddy, will you staple these?”
And I’m besieged by a series of her creative writing.
My daughter is only in second grade and she loves standardized test time.
It’s when she gets to engage in whatever self-directed study strikes her fancy.

Published in: on March 23, 2017 at 10:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why teachers leave

Excellent writing here:

Published in: on March 20, 2017 at 7:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

‘ Boy from MarALago’

Published in: on March 20, 2017 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  

More guns, kill more kids!

Published in: on March 18, 2017 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Low College Completion Rates even for students graduating from Charter Schools

I’d like to thank Jerry Becker for bringing this to my attention.

Did DCPS Parents ask for More Testing? I doubt it!!

What I hear from parents, students, local school administrators and teachers is that DCPS is way too fixated on standardized tests. The fact that they are now often computerized is NOT seen as a plus.

However, DC’s OSSE says the exact opposite. This is from Valerie Jablow, a local DCPS parent and blogger:


Jablow Testimony 3/15/2017 SBOE, OSSE’s ESSA Draft Proposal

102 5th St. NE, WDC 20002; 202-997-1563



Dear members of DC’s state board of education,


I am Valerie Jablow, a DCPS parent. I am sending you all this via email because it is the only way I can get timely feedback to you on OSSE’s response to your recommendations on ESSA. I urge you to vote NO on OSSE’s ESSA proposal.


Yesterday afternoon, I found out about OSSE’s response to public comment on its ESSA draft proposal.


I didn’t get to read that response until this morning, while eating breakfast and trying to get my kids out the door.


Then I read that OSSE would promulgate a new draft plan by the end of today, which I have not yet seen.


How do you keep up?


Perhaps more importantly, how does any parent, teacher, or administrator keep up?


Back in November, I and other parents of public school students in DC testified before you about the horrible effect of a test-heavy emphasis in accountability on students and schools in DC.


In February, when the superintendent of OSSE and her chief of staff held a public meeting in Ward 6 on ESSA, they touted the feedback they had already received in 50 meetings with 100 different groups. And they repeatedly said that teachers, principals, and parents wanted the heavy-test emphasis of its draft proposal.


Jaws dropped in the room that night. Who were those people who wanted testing to dominate accountability? Certainly not anyone we knew in our schools!


Thus, several weeks ago I made a FOIA request of OSSE, for a list of meetings, participants, and feedback received in all its meetings on ESSA from such groups and individuals from January 1, 2016 through the end of February 2017.


Right now, the best evidence we have for such feedback is OSSE’s response document from yesterday—in which “many” and “some” commenters are said to have said something, all of which is not necessarily reflected in what OSSE is now proposing to do with ESSA!


Thus, I hope that my FOIA request will allow me and others to find out what the Chesapeake Bay Foundation had to say about ESSA in DC public schools—as well as the other organizations whose staff met with OSSE on ESSA implementation for more than a YEAR, while all of us DC citizens (who, unlike the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, actually have children and/or taxes in this game) had only 33 days to comment on the proposal. (Which is three days more than the federal minimum of 30 days for public comment–and a few days more than the DCPS chancellor got.)


Perhaps the most radical thing in OSSE’s draft calls for schools being taken over by other operators when their test scores do not go up after 4 years (p. 59).


As you know, even with the changes it is proposing, OSSE is still placing a heavy emphasis on test scores and attendance. At the same time, there is nothing in OSSE’s accountability framework that penalizes schools whatsoever for high suspension and expulsion rates.


So what is to stop a school from suspending and expelling its way into higher attendance rates or higher test scores?




And where will those students go when they are expelled or encouraged to leave?


To their by right schools!


So what does OSSE’s proposal do to take this differential into account and its effect on the scores of receiving schools?




This is what you are voting for with OSSE’s policy here.


As you know, our city creates new charter schools whenever and wherever, without any regard for the effect on existing schools, neighborhoods, or unfilled seats.


As a result, DCPS is losing about 1% per year of “marketshare,” because growth in DC public school seats does not match growth of overall enrollments or of our student population. Just next week, for instance, the charter board will hear comments on proposals by two charter operators—KIPP DC and DC Prep—to create five new schools and 4000 new seats. The board will vote on those proposals in April. The board has also received applications for eight new charter schools beyond that, which it will vote on in May.


At the same time that the charter board is considering 13 (!) new schools, DC has more than 10,000 unfilled seats at existing public schools. (Data from 21st Century School Fund, using current audited enrollment numbers and MFP.)


So what will happen ten years from now, when these ESSA rules are up for re-assessment?


Absent any change from city leaders in our public school governance, DCPS will certainly be the smallest school system. This means more DCPS closures.


And absent any change in this OSSE policy, it means that some schools in DCPS will just become a place for kids off’ed from other schools, as those other schools chase better attendance and higher test scores—and thus create an even faster metric by which receiving DCPS schools will be taken over or closed altogether, because there is no accounting for this dynamic whatsoever in this policy or any city governance of our public schools.


This is what you are voting for with OSSE’s policy here.


One of the aims of OSSE’s ESSA policy is to provide a way to compare schools fairly and to have a common system of accountability between them. But this betrays a facile notion of how our schools actually work.


As you know, one school system in our city is bound to uphold a RIGHT to education. That is DCPS. The other system, charter schools, is not bound to uphold that RIGHT. That immediately differentiates the two sectors in a way that cannot be compared. It doesn’t mean one is better than the other—it simply means that they are different by design. Why wouldn’t you have a system of accountability that takes that difference into account instead of actively denying it even exists?


Moreover, there is nothing common between those two sectors in expulsion rules; suspension rules; facilities requirements; curricula; teacher training; and teacher retention rates—all of which are important not only to student achievement, but also in accountability to the public. OSSE’s proposal doesn’t acknowledge any of this.


In fact, OSSE has made some rather huge assumptions in its draft proposal, which distort true accountability.


To wit:


–That student satisfaction = school success = higher attendance rates. (See p. 5 of the response document.) What evidence is given to show attendance is 100% (or some other percentage) in the control of each school? What evidence is given to show that student satisfaction means the school is “successful” and that students will attend at higher rates? Indeed, what is “success” in this scheme if not mainly high test scores?


–That one of the purposes of the new rating system is to facilitate school choice by parents. This is perhaps the most grotesque distortion of ESSA possible. The point of school accountability is not to facilitate school choice, but to help students and to help schools help them. What assurance is here that parents and teachers will be able to use these test results and other criteria measured to help students learn better, except only in a punitive way, to avoid censure or takeover? Facilitating school choice should be the LAST thing that anyone is concerned about when it comes to helping our kids learn!


These assumptions and distortions are what you are voting for with OSSE’s policy here.


Finally, a note about compromise:


OSSE characterized its response yesterday to you and the public as a compromise.


But you, collectively, put together ten recommendations on OSSE’s draft proposal as a compromise before that—most of which have not even made it into OSSE’s response document.


So how much of a compromise was OSSE’s response yesterday—and for whom is it a compromise?


Here is a more concrete example:


OSSE’s rationale for not measuring high school growth is that different groups of high school students take different PARCC math tests and that it distorts scoring when those scores are combined.


OK. But right now, OSSE groups together middle school accelerated math test scores with regular math test scores and blithely spits out a number for both achievement and growth. That practice does indeed distort test scores—but OSSE has determined that’s OK with middle schools.


What sort of compromise is this?


I can attest that OSSE’s practice with those middle school scores has actively hurt my DCPS middle school, because a relatively large portion of its student body takes those accelerated math tests—whereas most other middle schools avoid those tests or have only a small fraction of their students take them.


So, instead of giving up on measuring high school growth or accurate middle school reporting, how about reporting data more responsibly (i.e., separate out results for accelerated tests)–or just using a different measure of math achievement than PARCC?


For all these reasons, I ask you to please not accept what OSSE is offering now. It is only a compromise of our ability to have rich, nuanced, and accurate assessments, which we desperately need and are not getting.


Your voting NO to OSSE’s proposal will give all of us time to make a policy of accountability that will reflect well on each school and every child. Thank you.

Published in: on March 16, 2017 at 1:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

And not just MesoAmerica!

This is important stuff! The roots of democracy run deep, and wide — ancient history was not all ruled by pharoahs, emperors, and gilded billionaires.

An article describes research I never heard of that shows that there was in fact quite a continuum from pure democracy to pure autarchy in past history — and if we look carefully at clues left behind in the archaelogical record, we can get an idea of how democratic (0r not) various ancient societies actually were.

I quote:

They come up with a scale of popular participation in government that runs from autocratic regimes to more collective or democratic regimes. In their causal model the internal or external origin of state revenues causes or determines the scores on the governance scale (see the diagram). In short, reliance on internal revenue sources leads to greater bureaucratization, greater popular control over rulers, and more provisioning of public goods. Rulers rely on their subjects for taxation, so they must treat them better. External revenue leads to the opposite pattern. Rulers get their revenue from elsewhere, so they have no incentive to treat their subjects well by providing public goods or giving them any say in governance.

Blanton & Fargher 2008: 254

Blanton and Fargher’s scale of rulership, which runs from autocratic to democratic or collective, is a major advance in understanding ancient states. Not all states were the same. Some rulers were despotic and seriously exploited their subjects, but other states had more collective forms of rule, which means that commoner subjects had some say in governance. They analyze the thirty polities in their sample on a host of variables, which are scored in various ways to produce three numerical scales: public goods provision; bureaucratization; and control of the ruler. The scores for these scales are summed to produce their governance scale, which runs from a low of 23.5 (Bakitara; Aceh, Nupe, and 12th century England are near the bottom) to a high of 52 (Classical Athens; also near the top: Republican Rome, Ming China and Lozi in Africa).

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