A full time worker at the national median would be making about $100,000 per year if…

… income were distributed fairly, according to a recent RAND study. Instead, they make about half that amount. The remainder has been sucked up by the top 1%.

https://www.fastcompany.com/90550015/we-were-shocked-rand-study-uncovers-massive-income-shift-to-the-top-1

Published in: on September 15, 2020 at 11:29 am  Comments (2)  

Who is crazy enough to believe such bullshit?

What this senior Trump hack is alleging is complete, bat-shit crazy nonsense. Apparently a good fraction of the American people believe it, even though Caputo apparently also says that he himself is nuts.

Read for yourself. This is from the NYT.

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

Trump Health Aide Falsely Alleges Conspiracies and Warns of Armed Revolt

Michael R. Caputo told a Facebook audience without evidence that left-wing hit squads were being trained for insurrection and accused C.D.C. scientists of “sedition.”

Michael Caputo, the top communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services, complained that he was under siege by the news media and said his “mental health has definitely failed.”Credit…Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

By Sharon LaFraniere

  • Sept. 14, 2020Updated 6:35 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus made outlandish and false accusations on Sunday that career government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic and that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.

Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of harboring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Trump, even if that opposition bolsters the Covid-19 death toll.

Mr. Caputo, who has faced intense criticism for leading efforts to warp C.D.C. weekly bulletins to fit Mr. Trump’s pandemic narrative, suggested that he personally could be in danger from opponents of the administration. “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get,” he urged his followers.

To a certain extent, Mr. Caputo’s comments in a video he hosted live on his personal Facebook page were simply an amplified version of remarks that the president himself has made. Both men have singled out government scientists and health officials as disloyal, suggested that the election will not be fairly decided, and insinuated that left-wing groups are secretly plotting to incite violence across the United States.

But Mr. Caputo’s attacks were more direct, and they came from the official most responsible for shaping communications around the coronavirus.

C.D.C. scientists “haven’t gotten out of their sweatpants except for meetings at coffee shops” to plot “how they’re going to attack Donald Trump next,” Mr. Caputo said. “There are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president.”

A longtime Trump loyalist with no background in health care, Mr. Caputo, 58, was appointed by the White House to his post in April, at a time when the president’s aides suspected the health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, of protecting his public image instead of Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Caputo coordinates the messaging of an 80,000-employee department that is the center of the federal public health bureaucracy. The Department of Health and Human Services oversees the Food and Drug Administration, the C.D.C. and the National Institutes of Health., three agencies that are all deeply involved in the pandemic response.

“Mr. Caputo is a critical, integral part of the president’s coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

Mr. Caputo’s Facebook comments were another sign of the administration’s deep antipathy and suspicion for its own scientific experts across the bureaucracy and the growing political pressure on those experts to toe a political line favorable to Mr. Trump.

This weekend, first Politico, then The New York Times and other news media organizations published accounts of how Mr. Caputo and a top aide had routinely worked to revise, delay or even scuttle the core health bulletins of the C.D.C. to paint the administration’s pandemic response in a more positive light. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports had previously been so thoroughly shielded from political interference that political appointees only saw them just before they were published.

Mr. Caputo’s 26-minute broadside on Facebook against scientists, the news media and Democrats was also another example of a senior administration official stoking conspiracy theories about the “deep state” — the label Mr. Trump often attaches to the federal Civil Service bureaucracy — and public anxiety over the election.

Mr. Caputo predicted that the president would win re-election in November, but that his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., would refuse to concede, leading to violence. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing.”

There were no obvious signs from administration officials on Monday that Mr. Caputo’s job was in danger. On the contrary, Mr. Trump again added his voice to the administration’s science denialism. As the president visited California to show solidarity with the fire-ravaged West, he challenged the established science of climate change, declaring, “It will start getting cooler.” He added: “Just watch. I don’t think science knows, actually.”

Mr. Caputo’s remarks also dovetailed in part with those of Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime confidant of both Mr. Caputo and Mr. Trump. Mr. Stone, whose 40-month prison sentence for lying to Congress was commuted by the president in July, told the conspiracy website Infowars on Friday that Democrats were striving to rig the November vote, and that Mr. Trump should consider declaring martial law if he lost re-election.

Mr. Caputo noted with pleasure during his Facebook monologue that Grant Smith, a lawyer for Mr. Stone, was among the followers who had joined his talk on Sunday. Mr. Caputo has 5,000 Facebook friends, and his video was viewed more than 850 times and shared by 44 followers. He has now shut down his account.

Over all, his tone was deeply ominous: He warned, again without evidence, that “there are hit squads being trained all over this country” to mount armed opposition to a second term for Mr. Trump. “You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Mr. Caputo added.

He said his physical health was in question, and his “mental health has definitely failed.”

“I don’t like being alone in Washington,” Mr. Caputo said, describing “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.” He also said the mounting number of Covid-19 deaths was taking a toll on him, telling his viewers, “You are not waking up every morning and talking about dead Americans.” The United States has lost more than 194,000 people to the virus. Mr. Caputo urged people to attend Trump rallies, but only with masks.

In a statement on Monday, Mr. Caputo told The Times: “Since joining the administration, my family and I have been continually threatened” and harassed by people who have later been prosecuted. “This weighs heavily on us, and we deeply appreciate the friendship and support of President Trump as we address these matters and keep our children safe.”

He insisted on Facebook that he would weather the controversies, saying, “I’m not going anywhere.” And he boasted of the importance of his role, stating that the president had personally put him in charge of a $250 million public service advertising campaign intended to help the United States return to normal.

The Department of Health and Human Services is trying to use that campaign to attract more minority volunteers for clinical trials of potential Covid-19 vaccines and to ask people who have recovered to donate their blood plasma to help other infected patients. Department officials have complained that Democratic members of Congress are obstructing them.

While Mr. Caputo characterized C.D.C. scientists in withering terms, he said the agency’s director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, was “one of my closest friends in Washington,” adding, “He is such a good man.” Mr. Caputo is partly credited with helping choose Dr. Redfield’s new interim chief of staff.

Critics say Dr. Redfield has left the agency open to so much political interference that career scientists are the verge of resigning. The agency, based in Atlanta, was previously seen as mostly apolitical; its reports were internationally respected for their importance and expertise.

Mr. Caputo charged that scientists “deep in the bowels of the C.D.C. have given up science and become political animals.” He said they “walk around like they are monks” and “holy men” but engaged in “rotten science.”

He fiercely defended his scientific adviser, Dr. Paul Alexander, who was heavily involved in the effort to reshape the C.D.C.’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. Mr. Caputo described Dr. Alexander, an assistant professor at McMaster University in Canada, as “a genius” and said that public criticism had served only to make his position “permanent” as a watchdog over politically motivated scientists.

“To allow people to die so that you can replace the president is a grievous venial sin, venial sin,” Mr. Caputo said. “And these people are all going to hell.”

A public relations specialist, Mr. Caputo has repeatedly claimed that his family and his business suffered hugely because of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Caputo was a minor figure in that inquiry, but he was of interest partly because he had once lived in Russia, had worked for Russian politicians and was contacted in 2016 by a Russian who claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Caputo referred that person to Mr. Stone and was never charged with any wrongdoing. Mr. Caputo later wrote a book and produced a documentary, both entitled “The Ukraine Hoax,” to undermine the case for Mr. Trump’s impeachment.

Mr. Caputo worked on Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign for a time but was passed over for a job early in the administration. He remained friendly with Dan Scavino, the former campaign aide who is now the deputy chief of staff for White House communications and played a role in reconnecting Mr. Trump and Mr. Caputo.

Some of Mr. Caputo’s most disturbing comments were centered on what he described as a left-wing plot to harm the administration’s supporters. He claimed baselessly that the killing of a Trump supporter in Portland, Ore., in August by an avowed supporter of the left-wing collective known as antifa was part of that effort.

“Remember the Trump supporter who was shot and killed?” Mr. Caputo said. “That was a drill.”

The man suspected in the shooting, Michael Forest Reinoehl, was shot dead this month by officers from a federally led fugitive task force in Washington State. He “went down fighting,” Mr. Caputo said. “Why? Because he couldn’t say what he had inside him.”

Mr. Caputo continued his social media messaging after the Facebook event, retweeting a conspiratorial post that hinted with no evidence that armed camps were being established in Washington, D.C.: “Occupants don’t look like vagrants. Looks like forward basing for militant street ops,” J. Michael Waller, a conservative provocateur, posted on Twitter.

On Monday, Mr. Caputo blocked access to his personal Twitter account.

Where actual Fake News comes from

DAVID CHAVERNIDEAS09.14.2020 09:00 AM

Section 230 Is a Government License to Build Rage Machines

The law serves as Facebook and Google’s get-out-of-jail-free card for conspiracies and disinformation. It’s time for this to stop.

Propelling misinformation and suppressing competitors shouldn’t be government-protected activities.PHOTOGRAPH: CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

FACEBOOK HAS BEEN called the “ largest piece of the QAnon infrastructure.” The app has not only hosted plenty of the conspiracy group’s dark and dangerous content, it has also promoted and expanded its audience. QAnon is hardly the only beneficiary: Facebook promotes and expands the audience of militia organizers, racists, those who seek to spread disinformation to voters, and a host of other serious troublemakers. The platform’s basic business, after all, is deciding which content keeps people most engaged, even if it undermines civil society. But unlike most other businesses, Facebook’s most profitable operations benefit from a very special get-out-of-jail-free card provided by the US government.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects “interactive computer services” like Facebook and Google from legal liability for the posts of their users. This is often portrayed as an incentive for good moderation. What is underappreciated is that it also provides special protection for actively bad moderation and the unsavory business practices that make the big tech platforms most of their money.

David Chavern is the president and CEO of the News Media Alliance.

Google might be viewed as a search engine, and Facebook as a virtual community, but these services are not where the profits lie. They make money by deciding what content will keep readers’ eyeballs locked near ads. The platforms are paid for their ability to actively select and amplify whatever material keeps you hooked and online. And all of that content is specifically protected by Section 230, even when they are recommending QAnon or Kenosha Guard.

This unusual state of affairs exists because, while Section 230 was intended to limit the platforms’ responsibility for bad content, the courts have also perversely interpreted it as providing protection for commercial decisions to elevate and push stories to users. This allows Google and Facebook to focus on user engagement to the exclusion of everything else, including content quality and user well-being. If I threaten or defame someone in an online post (assuming I’m not acting anonymously), I can be sued. If a platform decides to promote that threatening post to millions of other people to drive user interest and thus increase time on the site, they can do so without any fear of consequences. Section 230 is a government license to build rage machines.

The platforms like to avoid any discussion of their liability-free business model by focusing on the difficulties of blocking bad content. This is evidenced by Mark Zuckerberg’s constant defense of “free speech” and the problems with dealing with information “at scale.” While stopping the public from posting bad content is a truly difficult problem, all decisions about amplifying that content are the platforms’ own. They should be expected to police themselves.

That license to engage in irresponsible behavior is particularly hard on market participants like news publishers (whom I represent) that invest in creating quality content. They are forced to compete in attention markets that don’t value quality and are subject to ever-changing algorithmic decisions about which content favors the platforms’ interests. Under Section 230, news publishers also retain liability for what they produce. We get the responsibility, and Google and Facebook get most of the money.

You might think the platforms would value quality journalism as a partial antidote to the bad information they host, but, as recently indicated by Facebook’s threat to terminate access to news in Australia, they just don’t believe it’s important to their business. Section 230 means they don’t have to care about the quality of the content they deliver.

The internet is no longer in its infancy, as it was when the Communications Decency Act was passed in 1996. We need new rules for the digital market that limit government distortions and promote genuine competition. Roger McNamee, the venture capitalist and early investor in Facebook, has correctly argued that the protections of Section 230 are inconsistent with algorithmic amplification. We could start by limiting Section 230 and making the platforms responsible, like any other publisher, for content they decide to promote and amplify. This wouldn’t stop the spread of all hateful content. But it would, at the very least, require the platforms to carefully track and filter what they promote, and introduce incentives to support known sources of quality information.

Propelling misinformation and suppressing competitors shouldn’t be government-protected activities. While Google and Facebook like to preach libertarian virtues like open competition and free speech, they are really living off a giant government subsidy. And when you wrap massive companies in special protections, markets and society suffer. It’s time for them to take responsibility for their commercial decisions, just like any other business

Published in: on September 14, 2020 at 4:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gary Rubinstein looks at Attrition at Moskowitz’ “Success Academy”…

… and finds that it’s not such a success when 80 to 90% of a cohort doesn’t graduate.

https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2020/09/13/no-way-to-treat-a-scholar/

Published in: on September 13, 2020 at 2:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

The List of Trump’s Accomplishments

Have you seen that long list of DJT’s accomplishments during his first three years in office? I did, and I began fact-checking some of them.

Here is number 3: “Trump signed a law to make cruelty to animals a federal felony so that animal abusers face tougher consequences.” It’s true that he signed this law. It’s also true that you probably never heard of this action, because it was completely bipartisan and uncontroversial: it passed both houses unanimously. (see here, here, and here) So no Presidential jaw-boning or arm-twisting or preaching from the bully pulpit was needed.

Is that something for a list of greatest hits?

Farah Stockman of the NYT did a much more complete job of fact-checking of all of the over 100 supposed Trump administration ‘accomplishments’. Here it is, but I think it understates the maliciousness of this list. So I am adding a few remarks in red. If I can get this online wordpress editor interface to stop fighting me every step of the way.

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

A Fact-Checked List of Trump Accomplishments

It’s been circulating on social media for months. Here’s what I [Farah Stockman – gfb] found when I looked into these claims.

By Farah Stockman

Ms. Stockman is a member of the editorial board of the NYT.

  • Sept. 11, 2020
    • This list of President Trump’s accomplishments has been circulating on social media for months and has most likely been viewed by millions of people. I examined each claim to the best of my ability, reaching out to people and institutions who had special insight to see if they considered the claims accurate.

Some takeaways: Few items are outright false, which is something to celebrate in the age of QAnon conspiracy theories. Some are misleading and some are absolutely true. About a quarter relate to Mr. Trump’s signing of bills that Congress passed, many of which he had little to do with. A large portion of items on the list credit Mr. Trump for a booming economy, which is no longer booming because of the coronavirus pandemic.

You can read my piece about what I learned from the experience of fact-checking this list here. But I decided to post the full list as written, including the original emojis, to give readers a chance to examine it for themselves and see what Mr. Trump’s supporters are touting as his biggest achievements.

1. Trump recently signed 3 bills to benefit Native people. One gives compensation to the Spokane tribe for loss of their lands in the mid-1900s, one funds Native language programs, and the third gives federal recognition to the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Montana.

True, but tribal leaders credit bipartisan efforts in Congress for those bills. In 2019, Mr. Trump signed the Spokane Reservation Equitable Compensation Act for the loss of land that was flooded by the Grand Coulee Dam. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited the reservation and pledged to support the bill. But Carol Evans, chairwoman of the Spokane Tribal Business Council, said most of the credit for the law goes to two members of Congress from Washington, Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican. Mr. Trump also signed the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act, which revises an existing grant program. That bill was introduced by Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico. Lastly, Mr. Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019, which included a provision that gave long-overdue federal recognition to the Little Shell Tribe. Tribal Chairman Gerald Gray credits the bipartisan efforts of Senators Jon Tester, a Democrat, and Steve Daines, a Republican, both of Montana, for tucking the tribal recognition provision into the military spending bill.

See More

2. Trump finalized the creation of Space Force as our 6th Military branch.

True. But senior military leaders publicly opposed its creation, including Mr. Trump’s secretary of defense, James Mattis, because they argued it would create further complicated bureaucracy and counteract the Air Force’s work to defend the country’s space assets.


3. Trump signed a law to make cruelty to animals a federal felony so that animal abusers face tougher consequences.

True. A bipartisan group in Congress also deserves credit for the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act. “Deserves credit?” Heck, it was unanimous in both houses. Why should this be controversial at all and why does DJT deserve any credit?


4.) Violent crime has fallen every year he’s been in office after rising during the 2 years before he was elected.

The violent crime rate has dropped steadily since 1999, from 523 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1999 to 432 in 2009 to 369 in 2018. The rate rose slightly in 2015 and 2016, but the general trend has been a long downward slide that predated his election.

[Let’s see this in a single graph going back 60 years. While I am not exactly sure where the cutoff is between the various Republican and Democratic presidential terms over this time, Bush1 was president during the high point. If you see a tremendous decrease in crime during the term of The Great Prevaricator, you are sorely deluded.]

Trump Wrong on Crime Record - FactCheck.org

5. Trump signed a bill making CBD and Hemp legal.

True. Congress also deserves credit for the inclusion of this measure in the 2018 Farm Bill, which Mr. Trump signed.

“McConnell (R-KY), along with Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR), introduced the bill earlier this year. It was wrapped into the broader farm bill, which mostly deals with agriculture subsidies and food assistance programs, and passed with that legislation. Trump signed the bill into law on Thursday, after Congress passed it last week. – gfb. If a President really wanted to do something great, he or she could use the ‘bully pulpit’ to advocate the complete decriminalization of all forms of this plant, to free and/or expunge the record every single person who has ever been harmed by police action for owning, using, selling, or growing it. And give back all fines and seized property WITH INTEREST AND PENALTIES. And to reimburse all those who were imprisoned at some set rate. Also – all subsequent convictions or fines… Not gonna happen, is it, Donnie?}


6. Trump’s EPA gave $100 million to fix the water infrastructure problem in Flint, Michigan.

Both President Barack Obama and Mr. Trump deserve credit for this allocation, which was set in motion before Mr. Obama left office.

7. Under Trump’s leadership, in 2018 the U.S. surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of crude oil.

True. Domestic oil production has been expanding since 2010, predating the Trump administration.


8. Trump signed a law ending the gag orders on Pharmacists that prevented them from sharing money-saving information.

True. Mr. Trump tweeted in support of this law and deserves credit for using the bully pulpit of the presidency to demand transparency in drug prices. But Congress deserves most of the credit for the unanimous 2018 passage of this transparency law, which prohibits gag orders that prevent pharmacists from sharing prescription drug prices with customers.


9. Trump signed the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” (FOSTA), which includes the “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” (SESTA) which both give law enforcement and victims new tools to fight sex trafficking.

True. The bill was crafted and pushed through Congress by Representative Ann Wagner, a conservative Republican from Missouri, who thanked Ivanka Trump for advocating its passage.


10. Trump signed a bill to require airports to provide spaces for breastfeeding Moms.

True. Congress also deserves credit for the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act of 2017, which was championed by Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, and former Representative Stephen Knight, Republican of California.

[Actually, Stockman’s fact-checking is a little sloppy here; she got the year wrong. In that Congress (#115) of 2017, when the Republicans controlled both houses, the bill actually died, which means that some powerful Republican(s) decided to shelve it and to refuse to take action, for reasons I can’t really understand. I mean, breast feeding is by far the cheapest, most sanitary, and most nutritious way to feed an infant, and measures like these sound like an absolute no-brainer. Now, the version of the bill that passed, was re-introduced in the new 116th Congress (you have to start from “Go” all over again, at least in theory) that we are still in. Note that it was voted unanimously by the now-Democratic House, and confirmed unanimously by the Senate. How exactly does Trump take credit for this? Sheesh.]


11. The 25% lowest-paid Americans enjoyed a 4.5% income boost in November 2019, which outpaces a 2.9% gain in earnings for the country’s highest-paid workers.

Probably true. Before the pandemic struck, low-wage workers saw wage increases.


12. Low-wage workers are benefiting from higher minimum wages and from corporations that are increasing entry-level pay.

It is grossly misleading to claim this as a Trump accomplishment. Higher state and local minimum wages are results of state and local laws increasing the minimum wage, not federal law. Mr. Trump has flip-flopped on raising the federal minimum wage.


13. Trump signed the biggest wilderness protection & conservation bill in a decade and designated 375,000 acres as protected land.

This is misleading. While Mr. Trump did sign the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act of 2019, he has stripped protections from far more land than he has preserved. Most notably, he removed some two million acres in Utah that had been part of the Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah. According to a study published in May 2019 in Science, Mr. Trump is responsible for the largest reduction in the boundaries of protected land in U.S. history.

14. Trump signed the Save our Seas Act which funds $10 million per year to clean tons of plastic & garbage from the ocean. 👀👀

True. The credit for the passage of this legislation goes to a bipartisan group in Congress, namely Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, and Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey.


15. He signed a bill this year allowing some drug imports from Canada so that prescription prices would go down.

President Trump has signed a series of executive orders aimed at making it easier for states to import cheaper drugs from Canada. But it is far from clear whether these executive orders will succeed in that aim. This proposal bears no resemblance to Mr. Trump’s 2016 promise to use the buying power of the federal government to negotiate lower prices for drugs for Medicare patients, which would save hundreds of billions of dollars over a decade. Mr. Trump has not kept that promise. If he were serious about doing so, he would push Republicans in the Senate to pass the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which Democrats passed last year. There’s no evidence that he has done so.


16. Trump signed an executive order this year that forces all health care providers to disclose the cost of their services so that Americans can comparison shop and know how much fewer providers charge insurance companies.

True. Hospitals are now required to publicize their prices, which was also required by a little-known provision of the Affordable Care Act, signed by Mr. Obama. But enforcement has been spotty, and there has been little effort to hold hospitals to uniform standards, so it is still difficult if not impossible for consumers to compare costs, according to the journalism project Clear Health Costs.


17. When signing that bill he said no American should be blindsided by bills for medical services they never agreed to in advance.

Mr. Trump did say this. Unfortunately, people are still getting blindsided by medical bills.


18. Hospitals will now be required to post their standard charges for services, which include the discounted price a hospital is willing to accept.

See No. 16.


19. In the eight years prior to President Trump’s inauguration, prescription drug prices increased by an average of 3.6% per year. Under Trump, drug prices have seen year-over-year declines in nine of the last ten months, with a 1.1% drop as of the most recent month.

The data is mixed on whether drug prices are going up or down.


20. He created a White House VA Hotline to help veterans and principally staffed it with veterans and direct family members of veterans. 👀👀

True. Mr. Trump fulfilled this campaign promise by creating a West Virginia-based call center. It has limited powers to solve the problems of the veterans who call in from around the country.

21. VA employees are being held accountable for poor performance, with more than 4,000 VA employees removed, demoted, and suspended so far.

Many Department of Veterans Affairs employees have been demoted, removed or suspended during the Trump era, although there have been allegations that some of them were being punished for their political affiliations, not poor performance.


22. Issued an executive order requiring the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs to submit a joint plan to provide veterans access to access to mental health treatment as they transition to civilian life.

True.


23. Because of a bill signed and championed by Trump, In 2020, most federal employees will see their pay increase by an average of 3.1% — the largest raise in more than 10 years.

This is grossly misleading, at best. Far from being a champion of pay raises for federal workers, Mr. Trump proposed pay freezes for federal employees three years in a row; he was overridden by Congress. For 2020, Mr. Trump initially proposed a pay freeze, but then changed his proposal to a 2.6 percent increase. Congress raised that further, to 3.1 percent. Mr. Trump signed that pay raise into law when he put his signature on an omnibus budget bill, according to Jacqueline Simon, policy director of the American Federation of Government Employees.


24. Trump signed into law up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for millions of federal workers.

True. Tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act was a provision that gave all federal workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave for the first time in history.


25. Trump administration will provide H.I.V. prevention drugs for free to 200,000 uninsured patients per year for 11 years.

True. The drugs are being donated by Gilead, a drug-development company. But the cost of patient visits and testing are not covered, and the Trump administration opposes expanding Medicare in the Southern states where H.I.V. infection rates are rising.


26. All-time record sales during the 2019 holidays.

Unclear what data this item is referring to.


27. Trump signed an order allowing small businesses to group together when buying insurance to get a better price

True, but a federal judge struck down the plan.

28. President Trump signed the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act that provides funding for states to develop maternal mortality reviews to better understand maternal complications and identify solutions & largely focuses on reducing the higher mortality rates for Black Americans.

True. Congress passed this act with broad bipartisan support, including 190 co-sponsors in the House.


29. In 2018, President Trump signed the groundbreaking First Step Act, a criminal justice bill that enacted reforms that make our justice system fairer and help former inmates successfully return to society.

True. The Trump administration championed these reforms. Credit also goes to criminal justice reform advocates from across the political spectrum who pushed these changes for years.


30. The First Step Act’s reforms addressed inequities in sentencing laws that disproportionately harmed Black Americans and reformed mandatory minimums that created unfair outcomes. 👀👀

True.


31. The First Step Act expanded judicial discretion in the sentencing of nonviolent crimes.

True.


32. Over 90% of those benefiting from the retroactive sentencing reductions in the First Step Act are Black Americans.

True.


33. The First Step Act provides rehabilitative programs to inmates, helping them successfully rejoin society and not return to crime.

It is true that the First Step Act calls for the Bureau of Prisons to significantly expand these opportunities, but because of a lack of funding, around 25 percent of people who spend more than a year in federal prison have not completed any program, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which backed the bill.


34. Trump increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by more than 14%.

Krystal L. Williams, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama College of Education who has studied federal funding of H.B.C.U.s, points to publicly available data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System on this matter. The data suggest an increase of about 6 percent in federal appropriations, grants and contracts from the 2016-2017 academic year to 2017-2018, the most recent year for which such data is available.

35. Trump signed legislation forgiving Hurricane Katrina debt that threatened HBCUs.

True.


36. New single-family home sales are up 31.6% in October 2019 compared to just one year ago.

This appears to have been true at the time.


37. Made HBCUs a priority by creating the position of executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs.

True. This previously existing position was moved from the Department of Education to the White House. Experts disagree about its impact.


38. Trump received the Bipartisan Justice Award at a historically black college for his criminal justice reform accomplishments.

True. Students protested.


39. The poverty rate fell to a 17-year low of 11.8% under the Trump administration as a result of a jobs-rich environment. 👀👀

This appears to have been true, according to census data, although economists disagree on the reason for the drop.


40. Poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans have reached their lowest levels since the U.S. began collecting such data.

This was true before the coronavirus pandemic struck.


41. President Trump signed a bill that creates five national monuments, expands several national parks, adds 1.3 million acres of wilderness, and permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water, Conservation Fund.

See No. 13.

42. Trump’s U.S.D.A. committed $124 Million to rebuild rural water infrastructure.

This is true, though in 2016 Mr. Trump pledged to spend more than $800 billion on infrastructure.


43. Consumer confidence & small business confidence is at an all-time high.

False. The all-time high for the Consumer Confidence Index is 144.7, which was reached in January and May of 2000, according to Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators and surveys at the Conference Board, which puts out the index.


44. More than 7 million jobs created since the election.

In January of 2020, there were about 152 million nonfarm jobs in the country — about seven million more than existed in January of 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the number of jobs has been growing since 2010. In fact, the country gained more jobs — about eight million — between 2014 and 2017, the last years of the Obama administration. And since the pandemic began, between 10 million and 20 million jobs have been lost.


45. More Americans are now employed than ever recorded before in our history.

Given that there are more Americans alive now than ever in history, this would not be surprising. Regardless, it’s no longer true, because of the pandemic.


46. More than 400,000 manufacturing jobs created since his election.

It was true, but since the pandemic, the Trump administration has seen a net loss of about 200,000 manufacturing jobs, wiping out the past six years of growth, according to the Alliance for American Manufacturing. More than 900,000 manufacturing jobs were added between 2010 and 2016 during the Obama administration.


47. Trump appointed 5 openly gay ambassadors.

True.


48. Trump ordered Ric Grenell, his openly gay ambassador to Germany, to lead a global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality across the globe.

Richard Grenell is leading an effort to decriminalize homosexuality around the globe. Mr. Grenell has said that Mr. Trump supports this effort, though its existence appeared to take Mr. Trump by surprise.

49. Through Trump’s Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam) initiative, Federal law enforcement more than doubled convictions of human traffickers and increased the number of defendants charged by 75% in ACTeam districts.

Convictions of human traffickers have not doubled. The number of convictions rose from 439 during Mr. Obama’s last year in office to 499 during Mr. Trump’s first year. In 2018, they rose again to 526 but then dropped back down again, to 475 in 2019.


50. In 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) dismantled an organization that was the internet’s leading source of prostitution-related advertisements resulting in sex trafficking.

True. But the sting against Backpage was years in the making. Authorities have had the website in their cross hairs since at least 2016.


51. Trump’s OMB published new anti-trafficking guidance for government procurement officials to more effectively combat human trafficking.

This is true. But the anti-trafficking community gives the Trump administration low marks because the administration’s harsh treatment of undocumented immigrants has caused victims of human trafficking to fear turning to authorities for help. The administration has made it harder for victims to obtain the special T visas they used to get when they turned to authorities for help and provided information about their abusers.


52. Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations arrested 1,588 criminals associated with Human Trafficking.

See No. 51.


53. Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services provided funding to support the National Human Trafficking Hotline to identify perpetrators and give victims the help they need.

True. The hotline, which was founded in 2002, was also supported by the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.


54. The hotline identified 16,862 potential human trafficking cases.

See No. 51.


55. Trump’s DOJ provided grants to organizations that support human trafficking victims — serving nearly 9,000 cases from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018.

See No. 51.


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56. The Department of Homeland Security has hired more victim assistance specialists, helping victims get resources and support.

See No. 51.


57. President Trump has called on Congress to pass school choice legislation so that no child is trapped in a failing school because of his or her ZIP code.

Calling on Congress to do something is not really an accomplishment.


58. The President signed funding legislation in September 2018 that increased funding for school choice by $42 million.

Mr. Trump, who campaigned in 2016 on eliminating or drastically reducing the size of the Department of Education, tried to slash federal funding for public schools and dramatically increase funding for school choice and voucher programs. Congress overrode him. The $42 million is a small amount compared to the $400 million his administration initially proposed to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools.


59. The tax cuts signed into law by President Trump promote school choice by allowing families to use 529 college savings plans for elementary and secondary education.

True. This is a tax break for those who send their children to private schools. Only a fraction of American families have these savings plans.


60. Under his leadership, ISIS has lost most of its territory and been largely dismantled.

American-led strikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq began in 2014, predating the Trump administration. In 2018, Mr. Trump claimed in a tweet that ISIS had been defeated and ordered a withdrawal of U.S. troops within 30 days. He eventually gave military leaders more time after their objections. By 2019, the Islamic State had lost nearly all of its territory, but the group remains a threat.


61. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is said to have detonated a suicide vest during a 2019 raid by United States Special Operations forces.


62. Signed the first Perkins C.T.E. reauthorization since 2006, authorizing more than $1 billion for states each year to fund vocational and career education programs.

True.

63. Executive order expanding apprenticeship opportunities for students and workers.

True. Attempts to expand and modernize apprenticeships, a goal shared by Democrats, are widely seen as a bipartisan bright spot in the Trump administration.


64. Trump issued an Executive Order prohibiting the U.S. government from discriminating against Christians or punishing expressions of faith.

Mr. Trump signed an executive order that called for the vigorous enforcement of federal laws protecting religious freedom. Christians were not singled out.


65. Signed an executive order that allows the government to withhold money from college campuses deemed to be anti-Semitic and who fail to combat anti-Semitism.

True, though the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern that the order could be used to punish constitutionally protected criticism of Israel or the Israeli government. [Let me add that almost any criticism of the policies of the Israeli state seems to be called ‘anti-semitic’. Gfb]


66. President Trump ordered a halt to U.S. tax money going to international organizations that fund or perform abortions.

True. Every Republican president has adopted a version of this policy since Ronald Reagan.


67. Trump imposed sanctions on the socialists in Venezuela who have killed their citizens.

True. The U.S. government has imposed sanctions on Venezuela for more than a decade. Additional sanctions imposed by the Trump administration have increased economic pressure on the government of Nicolás Maduro, who remains in power.


68. Finalized new trade agreement with South Korea.

Mr. Trump signed a revised version of the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which had been in place since 2012. In 2017, Mr. Trump threatened to terminate the deal, which he said “should’ve never been made.” But the new version is considered similar to the old version, with a few tweaks.


69. Made a deal with the European Union to increase U.S. energy exports to Europe.

True.


70. Withdrew the U.S. from the job-killing TPP deal.

Mr. Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major change in U.S. trade policy. Experts disagree about the impact of the withdrawal on Americans jobs.


71. Secured $250 billion in new trade and investment deals in China and $12 billion in Vietnam.

This is true. China agreed to increase agricultural purchases by $12.5 billion in 2020 and $19.5 billion in 2021, compared with 2017 levels, but China is under no obligation beyond 2021.


72. O.K.’d up to $12 billion in aid for farmers affected by unfair trade retaliation.

The Trump administration announced a total of $28 billion in aid for farmers in 2018 and 2019, and another $23.5 billion through the coronavirus stimulus package passed in March.


73. Has had over a dozen U.S. hostages freed, including those Obama could not get freed.

This is true. Mr. Obama amended a longstanding U.S. policy not to negotiate with hostage-takers, making it more flexible. Mr. Trump continued to push the envelope on what could be done to release hostages, earning praise from those who view his efforts as a major foreign policy success and criticism from others who accuse Mr. Trump of authorizing the payment of de facto ransoms, incentivizing terrorists to take more American hostages.


74. Trump signed the Music Modernization Act, the biggest change to copyright law in decades.

True.


75. Trump secured Billions that will fund the building of a wall at our southern border.

Mr. Trump promised in 2016 that Mexico would pay for the wall. What happened?


76. The Trump Administration is promoting second-chance hiring to give former inmates the opportunity to live crime-free lives and find meaningful employment.

See No. 77.


77. Trump’s DOJ and the Board Of Prisons launched a new “Ready to Work Initiative” to help connect employers directly with former prisoners.

This is true, though it is unclear how many people have been able to participate in it.


78. President Trump’s historic tax cut legislation included new Opportunity Zone Incentives to promote investment in low-income communities across the country.

True. Experts disagree about whether these zones will benefit low-income communities, or just wealthy developers.


79. 8,764 communities across the country have been designated as Opportunity Zones.

True. See No. 78.


80. Opportunity Zones are expected to spur $100 billion in long-term private capital investment in economically distressed communities across the country.

See No. 78.


81. Trump directed the Education Secretary to end Common Core.

Mr. Trump promised in 2016 to end Common Core, but according to PolitiFact, 37 states still use some version of it.


82. Trump signed the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund into law.

True. Members of both political parties in Congress deserve much of the credit.


83. Trump signed measure funding prevention programs for Veteran suicide.

True. And congressional supporters of these programs say the White House has been supportive.


84. Companies have brought back over a TRILLION dollars from overseas because of the TCJA bill that Trump signed.

True. TCJA refers to the president’s 2017 overhaul of federal tax law.


85. Manufacturing jobs are growing at the fastest rate in more than 30 years.

According to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, the rate of growth of manufacturing jobs in 2018 was impressive, but similar rates were achieved in 1994, 1997, 2011 and 2014.


86. Stock Market has reached record highs.

The highest closing record of the Dow Jones industrial average, the index of 30 top U.S. companies, was reached in February, after investors appeared to be encouraged that the trade wars initiated by Mr. Trump were being resolved. Recent interest-rate cuts in 2019 also contributed. This March, the Dow fell a record 2,013.76 points to 23,851.02, after it became clear that the U.S. economy would lock down because of the pandemic. That drop was followed by two more record-setting point drops.


87. Median household income has hit the highest level ever recorded.

This is true.


88. African-American unemployment is at an all-time low.

See No. 40.


89. Hispanic-American unemployment is at an all-time low.

See No. 40.


90. Asian-American unemployment is at an all-time low.

This was true before the coronavirus struck.

91. Women’s unemployment rate is at a 65-year low.

This was true before the coronavirus struck.


92. Youth unemployment is at a 50-year low.

This appears to have been true, before the coronavirus struck. But the labor force participation rate for young Americans is not as high as it was in 1989.


93. We have the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded.

This is false. Unemployment rates were lower in the 1950s, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


94. The Pledge to America’s Workers has resulted in employers committing to train more than 4 million Americans.

In 2018, President Trump launched the Pledge to America’s Workers, aimed at boosting the private sector’s role in training American workers. Companies signed on, to much fanfare. But there is evidence that resources for training are actually going down.


95. 95 percent of U.S. manufacturers are optimistic about the future — the highest ever.

This was true in 2018, but since the pandemic that number has dropped to 34 percent.


96. As a result of the Republican tax bill, small businesses will have the lowest top marginal tax rate in more than 80 years.

Not really. According to the Tax Foundation, the lowest top marginal rate in the past 80 years was 28 percent in the 1980s, although a “claw back” provision in the 1980s increased the top marginal rate to 33 percent for taxpayers with incomes over certain thresholds. Under current law, the top marginal rate is 37 percent, but pass-through businesses can receive additional tax breaks to lower their top marginal rate to 29.6 percent.


97. Record number of regulations eliminated that hurt small businesses.

This appears to be true. Mr. Trump has made reducing regulations a signature part of his legacy. He signed an executive order directing all agencies to repeal at least two existing regulations for each new regulation issued in the 2017 fiscal year and thereafter. A list of regulations that have been removed is being compiled by the Brookings Deregulation Tracker.


98. Signed welfare reform requiring able-bodied adults who don’t have children to work or look for work if they’re on welfare. 🙌🙌

The Trump administration released guidance in January 2018 that lets states take away Medicaid coverage from people who aren’t working or engaged in work-related activities. Tens of thousands of people have been affected. For instance, in Arkansas over 18,000 Medicaid beneficiaries lost coverage in 2018, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


99. Under Trump, the FDA approved more affordable generic drugs than ever before in history.

True. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, was praised for his efforts to streamline the process of drug approval before he left the administration.


100. Reformed Medicare program to stop hospitals from overcharging low-income seniors on their drugs — saving seniors 100’s of millions of $$$ this year alone. 👀👀

It’s true that the Trump administration changed the rules for how Medicare pays for prescription drugs through the 340B program, lowering the rate that hospitals are reimbursed for drugs, which in some cases lowers co-payments for seniors, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. It is not clear how much seniors have saved through this change.


101. Signed Right-To-Try legislation allowing terminally ill patients to try an experimental treatment that wasn’t allowed before.

TrueSome argue that a similar program that existed previously under the Food and Drug Administration was less risky.


102. Secured $6 billion in new funding to fight the opioid epidemic.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, $9 billion in new grant funding was awarded to states and local communities to help increase access to treatment and prevention services during the first three years of the Trump administration.


103. Signed VA Choice Act and VA Accountability Act, expanded V.A. telehealth services, walk-in-clinics, and same-day urgent primary and mental health care.

Mr. Trump has signed a number of bipartisan bills that call for improvements to medical care for veterans, including more access to walk-in clinics.


104. U.S. oil production recently reached an all-time high so we are less dependent on oil from the Middle East.

True. (Duplicate of No. 7.)


105. The U.S. is a net natural gas exporter for the first time since 1957.

True. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States began ramping up its exports of liquefied natural gas in 2016, and became a net exporter of natural gas during the Trump administration.


106. NATO allies increased their defense spending because of his pressure campaign.

True. Although NATO countries were already modestly increasing their military spending before Mr. Trump took office, there is evidence that his public complaints led to a deal that allowed the United States to decrease its own spending, while some other countries increased their share each year that he has been in office.


107. Withdrew the United States from the job-killing Paris Climate Accord in 2017 and that same year the U.S. still led the world by having the largest reduction in carbon emissions.

It is true that Mr. Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Experts disagree on whether the accord would have created American jobs or destroyed them.


108. Has his circuit court judge nominees being confirmed faster than any other new administration.

It is not clear how to measure this across every U.S. administration, but it is an ironic thing to highlight, given that Republicans systematically blocked Mr. Obama’s judicial nominees.


109. Had his Supreme Court Justice’s Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh confirmed.

True.


110. Moved U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

True.


111. Agreed to a new trade deal with Mexico & Canada that will increase jobs here and $$$ coming in.

The Trump administration updated the North American Free Trade Agreement, fulfilling a campaign promise.


112. Reached a breakthrough agreement with the E.U. to increase U.S. exports.

True. The agreement aims to resolve a longstanding dispute about a European Union ban on hormone-fed U.S. beef. But tensions over Mr. Trump’s 25 percent tariffs on some European goods remain.


113. Imposed tariffs on China in response to China’s forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, and their chronically abusive trade practices, has agreed to a Part One trade deal with China.

True, though China has reportedly pulled back from its commitments in that deal amid the pandemic.


114. Signed legislation to improve the National Suicide Hotline.

See No. 83.


115. Signed the most comprehensive childhood cancer legislation ever into law, which will advance childhood cancer research and improve treatments.

The Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access and Research Act has been called the most comprehensive childhood cancer bill taken up by Congress. It was championed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and passed unanimously in 2018.


116. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by Trump doubled the maximum amount of the child tax credit available to parents and lifted the income limits so more people could claim it.

True. According to the Tax Foundation, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act doubled the maximum child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000, while the phaseout threshold was increased from $75,000 to $200,000 for single filers and $110,000 to $400,000 for married couples filing jointly.


117. It also created a new tax credit for other dependents.

True. There is now a nonrefundable $500 credit for certain dependents who do not meet the child tax credit eligibility guidelines.


118. In 2018, President Trump signed into law a $2.4 billion funding increase for the Child Care and Development Fund, providing a total of $8.1 billion to states to fund child care for low-income families.

It is true that Mr. Trump signed this bill. Congress should also get the credit for passing it.

119. The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) signed into law by Trump provides a tax credit equal to 20-35% of child care expenses, $3,000 per child & $6,000 per family + Flexible Spending Accounts (F.S.A.s) allow you to set aside up to $5,000 in pre-tax $ to use for child care.

According to the Tax Foundation, this is an accurate description of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, but it’s important to note that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did not directly change the rules for the credit. Those rules existed before the Trump administration. So did the $5,000 dependent care Flexible Spending Accounts.



120. In 2019 President Donald Trump signed the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act (CARES) into law, which allocates $1.8 billion in funding over the next five years to help people with autism spectrum disorder and to help their families.
👀👀

It is true that Mr. Trump signed this bill into law. Congress deserves the credit for passing this legislation, which received such broad support that 173 House members and 41 senators were co-sponsors.



121. In 2019 President Trump signed into law two funding packages providing nearly $19 million in new funding for Lupus specific research and education programs, as well an additional $41.7 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the most Lupus funding EVER.

True. The measure was championed by the bipartisan Congressional Lupus Caucus.



122. Another upcoming accomplishment to add: In the next week or two Trump will be signing the first major anti-robocall law in decades called the TRACED Act (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence.) Once it’s the law, the TRACED Act will extend the period of time the FCC has to catch & punish those who intentionally break telemarketing restrictions. The bill also requires voice service providers to develop a framework to verify calls are legitimate before they reach your phone.

True. Congress gets credit for passing this law with bipartisan support. Even under the TRACED Act, the power of the F.C.C. to punish robocallers is limited.


See No. 86.

123. US stock market continually hits all-time record highs.

Part Two: Cheating in DCPS

DC Education Reform Ten Years After, 

Part 2: Test Cheats

Richard P Phelps

Ten years ago, I worked as the Director of Assessments for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). For temporal context, I arrived after the first of the infamous test cheating scandals and left just before the incident that spawned a second. Indeed, I filled a new position created to both manage test security and design an expanded testing program. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray, who opposed an expanded testing program, defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary. My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as Chancellor. 

The recurring test cheating scandals of the Rhee-Henderson years may seem extraordinary but, in fairness, DCPS was more likely than the average US school district to be caught because it received a much higher degree of scrutiny. Given how tests are typically administered in this country, the incidence of cheating is likely far greater than news accounts suggest, for several reasons: 

·      in most cases, those who administer tests—schoolteachers and administrators—have an interest in their results;

·      test security protocols are numerous and complicated yet, nonetheless, the responsibility of non-expert ordinary school personnel, guaranteeing their inconsistent application across schools and over time; 

·      after-the-fact statistical analyses are not legal proof—the odds of a certain amount of wrong-to-right erasures in a single classroom on a paper-and-pencil test being coincidental may be a thousand to one, but one-in-a-thousand is still legally plausible; and

·      after-the-fact investigations based on interviews are time-consuming, scattershot, and uneven. 

Still, there were measures that the Rhee-Henderson administrations could have adopted to substantially reduce the incidence of cheating, but they chose none that might have been effective. Rather, they dug in their heels, insisted that only a few schools had issues, which they thoroughly resolved, and repeatedly denied any systematic problem.  

Cheating scandals

From 2007 to 2009 rumors percolated of an extraordinary level of wrong-to-right erasures on the test answer sheets at many DCPS schools. “Erasure analysis” is one among several “red flag” indicators that testing contractors calculate to monitor cheating. The testing companies take no responsibility for investigating suspected test cheating, however; that is the customer’s, the local or state education agency. 

In her autobiographical account of her time as DCPS Chancellor, Michelle Johnson (nee Rhee), wrote (p. 197)

“For the first time in the history of DCPS, we brought in an outside expert to examine and audit our system. Caveon Test Security – the leading expert in the field at the time – assessed our tests, results, and security measures. Their investigators interviewed teachers, principals, and administrators.

“Caveon found no evidence of systematic cheating. None.”

Caveon, however, had not looked for “systematic” cheating. All they did was interview a few people at several schools where the statistical anomalies were more extraordinary than at others. As none of those individuals would admit to knowingly cheating, Caveon branded all their excuses as “plausible” explanations. That’s it; that is all that Caveon did. But, Caveon’s statement that they found no evidence of “widespread” cheating—despite not having looked for it—would be frequently invoked by DCPS leaders over the next several years.[1]

Incidentally, prior to the revelation of its infamous decades-long, systematic test cheating, the Atlanta Public Schools had similarly retained Caveon Test Security and was, likewise, granted a clean bill of health. Only later did the Georgia state attorney general swoop in and reveal the truth. 

In its defense, Caveon would note that several cheating prevention measures it had recommended to DCPS were never adopted.[2] None of the cheating prevention measures that I recommended were adopted, either.

The single most effective means for reducing in-classroom cheating would have been to rotate teachers on test days so that no teacher administered a test to his or her own students. It would not have been that difficult to randomly assign teachers to different classrooms on test days.

The single most effective means for reducing school administratorcheating would have been to rotate test administrators on test days so that none managed the test materials for their own schools. The visiting test administrators would have been responsible for keeping test materials away from the school until test day, distributing sealed test booklets to the rotated teachers on test day, and for collecting re-sealed test booklets at the end of testing and immediately removing them from the school. 

Instead of implementing these, or a number of other feasible and effective test security measures, DCPS leaders increased the number of test proctors, assigning each of a few dozen or so central office staff a school to monitor. Those proctors could not reasonably manage the volume of oversight required. A single DC test administration could encompass a hundred schools and a thousand classrooms.

Investigations

So, what effort, if any, did DCPS make to counter test cheating? They hired me, but then rejected all my suggestions for increasing security. Also, they established a telephone tip line. Anyone who suspected cheating could report it, even anonymously, and, allegedly, their tip would be investigated. 

Some forms of cheating are best investigated through interviews. Probably the most frequent forms of cheating at DCPS—teachers helping students during test administrations and school administrators looking at test forms prior to administration—leave no statistical residue. Eyewitness testimony is the only type of legal evidence available in such cases, but it is not just inconsistent, it may be socially destructive. 

I remember two investigations best: one occurred in a relatively well-to-do neighborhood with well-educated parents active in school affairs; the other in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Superficially, the cases were similar—an individual teacher was accused of helping his or her own students with answers during test administrations. Making a case against either elementary school teacher required sworn testimony from eyewitnesses, that is, students—eight-to-ten-year olds. 

My investigations, then, consisted of calling children into the principal’s office one-by-one to be questioned about their teacher’s behavior. We couldn’t hide the reason we were asking the questions. And, even though each student agreed not to tell others what had occurred in their visit to the principal’s office, we knew we had only one shot at an uncorrupted jury pool. 

Though the accusations against the two teachers were similar and the cases against them equally strong, the outcomes could not have been more different. In the high-poverty neighborhood, the students seemed suspicious and said little; none would implicate the teacher, whom they all seemed to like. 

In the more prosperous neighborhood, students were more outgoing, freely divulging what they had witnessed. The students had discussed the alleged coaching with their parents who, in turn, urged them to tell investigators what they knew. During his turn in the principal’s office, the accused teacher denied any wrongdoing. I wrote up each interview, then requested that each student read and sign. 

Thankfully, that accused teacher made a deal and left the school system a few weeks later. Had he not, we would have required the presence in court of the eight-to-ten-year olds to testify under oath against their former teacher, who taught multi-grade classes. Had that prosecution not succeeded, the eyewitness students could have been routinely assigned to his classroom the following school year.

My conclusion? Only in certain schools is the successful prosecution of a cheating teacher through eyewitness testimony even possible. But, even where possible, it consumes inordinate amounts of time and, otherwise, comes at a high price, turning young innocents against authority figures they naturally trusted. 

Cheating blueprints

Arguably the most widespread and persistent testing malfeasance in DCPS received little attention from the press. Moreover, it was directly propagated by District leaders, who published test blueprints on the web. Put simply, test “blueprints” are lists of the curricular standards (e.g., “student shall correctly add two-digit numbers”) and the number of test items included in an upcoming test related to each standard. DC had been advance publishing its blueprints for years.

I argued that the way DC did it was unethical. The head of the Division of Data & Accountability, Erin McGoldrick, however, defended the practice, claimed it was common, and cited its existence in the state of California as precedent. The next time she and I met for a conference call with one of DCPS’s test providers, Discover Education, I asked their sales agent how many of their hundreds of other customers advance-published blueprints. His answer: none.

In the state of California, the location of McGoldrick’s only prior professional experience, blueprints were, indeed, published in advance of test administrations. But their tests were longer than DC’s and all standards were tested. Publication of California’s blueprints served more to remind the populace what the standards were in advance of each test administration. Occasionally, a standard considered to be of unusual importance might be assigned a greater number of test items than the average, and the California blueprints signaled that emphasis. 

In Washington, DC, the tests used in judging teacher performance were shorter, covering only some of each year’s standards. So, DC’s blueprints showed everyone well in advance of the test dates exactly which standards would be tested and which would not. For each teacher, this posed an ethical dilemma: should they “narrow the curriculum” by teaching only that content they knew would be tested? Or, should they do the right thing and teach all the standards, as they were legally and ethically bound to, even though it meant spending less time on the to-be-tested content? It’s quite a conundrum when one risks punishment for behaving ethically.

Monthly meetings convened to discuss issues with the districtwide testing program, the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS)—administered to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. All public schools, both DCPS and charters, administered those tests. At one of these regular meetings, two representatives from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) announced plans to repair the broken blueprint process.[3]

The State Office employees argued thoughtfully and reasonably that it was professionally unethical to advance publish DC test blueprints. Moreover, they had surveyed other US jurisdictions in an effort to find others that followed DC’s practice and found none. I was the highest-ranking DCPS employee at the meeting and I expressed my support, congratulating them for doing the right thing. I assumed that their decision was final.

I mentioned the decision to McGoldrick, who expressed surprise and speculation that it might have not been made at the highest level in the organizational hierarchy. Wasting no time, she met with other DCPS senior managers and the proposed change was forthwith shelved. In that, and other ways, the DCPS tail wagged the OSSE dog. 

* * *

It may be too easy to finger ethical deficits for the recalcitrant attitude toward test security of the Rhee-Henderson era ed reformers. The columnist Peter Greene insists that knowledge deficits among self-appointed education reformers also matter: 

“… the reformistan bubble … has been built from Day One without any actual educators inside it. Instead, the bubble is populated by rich people, people who want rich people’s money, people who think they have great ideas about education, and even people who sincerely want to make education better. The bubble does not include people who can turn to an Arne Duncan or a Betsy DeVos or a Bill Gates and say, ‘Based on my years of experience in a classroom, I’d have to say that idea is ridiculous bullshit.’”

“There are a tiny handful of people within the bubble who will occasionally act as bullshit detectors, but they are not enough. The ed reform movement has gathered power and money and set up a parallel education system even as it has managed to capture leadership roles within public education, but the ed reform movement still lacks what it has always lacked–actual teachers and experienced educators who know what the hell they’re talking about.”

In my twenties, I worked for several years in the research department of a state education agency. My primary political lesson from that experience, consistently reinforced subsequently, is that most education bureaucrats tell the public that the system they manage works just fine, no matter what the reality. They can get away with this because they control most of the evidence and can suppress it or spin it to their advantage.

In this proclivity, the DCPS central office leaders of the Rhee-Henderson era proved themselves to be no different than the traditional public-school educators they so casually demonized. 

US school systems are structured to be opaque and, it seems, both educators and testing contractors like it that way. For their part, and contrary to their rhetoric, Rhee, Henderson, and McGoldrick passed on many opportunities to make their system more transparent and accountable.

Education policy will not improve until control of the evidence is ceded to genuinely independent third parties, hired neither by the public education establishment nor by the education reform club.

The author gratefully acknowledges the fact-checking assistance of Erich Martel and Mary Levy.

Access this testimonial in .pdf format

Citation:  Phelps, R. P. (2020, September). Looking Back on DC Education Reform 10 Years After, Part 2: Test Cheats. Nonpartisan Education Review / Testimonials. https://nonpartisaneducation.org/Review/Testimonials/v16n3.htm


[1] A perusal of Caveon’s website clarifies that their mission is to help their clients–state and local education departments–not get caught. Sometimes this means not cheating in the first place; other times it might mean something else. One might argue that, ironically, Caveon could be helping its clients to cheat in more sophisticated ways and cover their tracks better.

[2] Among them: test booklets should be sealed until the students open them and resealed by the students immediately after; and students should be assigned seats on test day and a seating chart submitted to test coordinators (necessary for verifying cluster patterns in student responses that would suggest answer copying).

[3] Yes, for those new to the area, the District of Columbia has an Office of the “State” Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Its domain of relationships includes not just the regular public schools (i.e., DCPS), but also other public schools (i.e., charters) and private schools. Practically, it primarily serves as a conduit for funneling money from a menagerie of federal education-related grant and aid programs

What did Education Reform in DC Actually Mean?

Short answer: nothing that would actually help students or teachers. But it’s made for well-padded resumes for a handful of insiders.

This is an important review, by the then-director of assessment. His criticisms echo the points that I have been making along with Mary Levy, Erich Martel, Adell Cothorne, and many others.

Nonpartisan Education Review / Testimonials

Access this testimonial in .pdf format

Looking Back on DC Education Reform 10 Years After, 

Part 1: The Grand Tour

Richard P Phelps

Ten years ago, I worked as the Director of Assessments for the District of Columbia Public Schools (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,[1] 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.

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.[2]

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.

1. 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.[3] The tail wagged the dog.

2. 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. 

3. 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.

4. 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.)

5. 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.

6. 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’ 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, US education reform is an elite, private club—a small group of tightly-connected politicos and academicsa 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 $64.5M 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 metfoundation support continued nonetheless.

Michelle Johnson (nee Rhee) now chairs 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 scandalsafter 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 that strategically partners with major players in US 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 US 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’ student records’ manipulation and phony graduation rates years before the Washington Post’s celebrated 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.

The author appreciates the helpful comments of Mary Levy and Erich Martel in researching this article. 

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White Working Class: who are your best allies?

(Hint: it’s not billionaires. None of them.)

Jessie Memer (see below) is right on the money. Let me emphasize: white working class folks need to wake up and realize who are their best allies in the struggle for a decent life, where the super rich can’t rip us all off a million ways to Sunday.

(For example, we are all robbed by un-noticed fine print in contracts that make us pay through the nose for nothing; many go bankrupt because of serious illness because of extortionate health care costs that are paid by patients NOWHERE ELSE in the developed world; people get evicted from our homes and apartments after they’ve jacked up our rents or turned our mortgages into nightmares, and we’ve lost our jobs… And there is no job security at all! While a handful of billionaires and bankers, here and around the world, hoover up trillions in wealth. So many folks are forced to flee their homelands for safety, and then are condemned as criminals in the countries where they flee to.)

The best allies, I say, of the white working class are NOT the fuckhead Nazi wannabees telling lies about superior races. No, their allies should precisely be the black folks and the immigrants who have been getting screwed worst of all and do the very hardest, dirtiest, and lowest-paid work. Which it shouldn’t be: those are HARD jobs picking fruit, building houses, and cleaning apartments! That should be paid well, and the workers should have decent health care, unemploym,ent insurance, SS, and so on. Instead, they often have their pay stolen – and who knows where their paycheck deductions go?

Immigrants who lack the absolutely unattainable proper papers of course have no hardly any rights and can be ‘legally’ kidnapped and deported at almost any moment. So it’s extremely difficult for them to join the struggle. We need to be fighting for amnesty for all immigrants lacking papers who have been working here for X amount of time without causing problems.

The mass incarcerations, deportations, and brutality exhibited by police and the state against Black folks and immigrants should be fought by the entire working class. White folks need to listen to Black folks and immigrants more, and not fall for the lies spewed by Faux News and racist right-wing vigilantes.

We should have deported the billionaire immigrant Rupert Murdoch long ago.

And we all need to be fighting racism. Black and Brown Lives Matter!

Published in: on September 4, 2020 at 3:10 pm  Comments (1)  

Computers still cannot grade essays.

They often can’t even recognize spoken “yes” or “no”, so how does anybody think they can grade essays?

This is from Peter Greene, aka ‘Curmudgucation’.


How Bad Is This Gates-Funded Essay Cyber-Scorer? This Bad.

Posted: 24 Aug 2020 02:36 PM PDTSoftware that can grade an essay is the great white whale of automating education. If software could actually score an essay effectively, data-mining personalized [sic] algorithm-delivered edu-product could work with more than just multiple choice and true or false questions. I’ve written a plenty about why this great white whale is not going to be landed any time soon. But let me give you a specific example of how bad one product really is, even though it’s getting funding from the Gates Foundation.

(BTW: this is an image of a ‘magic 8-ball’ from the 1950’s or so… – gfb)

Ecree was founded in 2014 and promises to use “artificial intelligence to replicate teacher-quality feedback on written assignments.” It was founded by Jamey Holt and Robin Donaldson. Holt used to do a little college teaching, then became COO of Phronesis Health, Inc, a healthcare data mulching outfit. Donaldson is the computer guy.

The Gates Foundation is a big fan of this kind of software-driven edu-product, and have given  something like $3 million to companies working on the problem, including ETS, Vantage Learning, Measurement Incorporated, and the University of Michigan. Plus our new friends at Ecree. All five grants are “to validate the efficacy of Automated Essay Scoring software in improving the student outcomes in argumentative writing for students who are Black, Latino, and/or experiencing poverty.” 

First, I’m looking askance at the word “validate,” which is a lot like “prove that this works” when it should be “see if this works or not” (spoiler alert– not).

Second, it’s silly to talk about validating the efficacy of these products for Black, Latino or poor students, because these products have no efficacy for any students at all (which is why I’m going to skip over the ethical and educational issues of having someone/something sit beside you and help you write a paper).

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s see just how well Ecree works.

Ecree offers a free trial, which I used, with help from BABEL, the nonsense essay generator created by the long-time scourge of automated essay scoring baloney, Les Perelman. Ecree asks you what your prompt was and then lets you either write the essay on their site, or simply upload it.

My prompt was “What was the role of isolationism in World War I?” BABEL builds an essay out of three words– I gave it “isolationism,” “Europe” and “war,” and this is the essay it kicked out.

Warfare has not, and no doubt never will be expedited. Human society will always oust isolationism; some of appetites and others for an exposition. a lack of war lies in the field of literature but also the field of philosophy. War is the most inappropriately eventual trope of mankind.Gluttony, especially for howl, authorizes an advancement on positively but magnificently blustering speculations by Europe. If allocations inquire or intensify admiration, consistency that is mournfully contemporary but is puissant, gregarious, and manifest with warfare can be more naturally reprimanded. Additionally, europe, often at an adjuration, can be the scrutinization. In my experience, all of the ligations to our personal precinct of the arrangement we attenuate concede the inquisitions in question. Even so, armed with the knowledge that the contrived anesthetic expedites pulchritude, most of the comments for my utterance relent. Our personal convulsion to the proclamation we lament sermonizes. Europe which precludes all of the performances might dubiously be an allegation on our personal authorization with the thermostat we assimilate as well. The assembly of celebrations may be decency but is incensed yet somehow inappropriate, not paganism that undertakes admixture and circumscribes concurrences. In my theory of knowledge class, none of the axioms at our personal sanction by the apprentice we inspect advocate and allocate amplifications which compensate the altruist. The more a probe that collapses should be disruption, the less contretemps can gratuitously be a Gaussian multitude.As I have learned in my semiotics class, isolationism is the most fundamental casuistry of humankind. Though interference for obloquy inverts, information processes brains. The same pendulum may process two different orbitals to process an orbital. The plasma is not the only thing the brain reacts; it also receives neutrinoes for irascibility with war. Due to interceding, petulantly but extraneously petulant expositions protrude also on Europe. a contemptuous isolationism changes the injunction at warfare.The organism, frequently to a respondent, diagnoses war. The sooner the people involved yield, the sooner admiration dislocates drones. Furthermore, as I have learned in my literature class, society will always belie isolationism. Our personal intercession of the assumption we accede will be appreciation with circumspections and may diligently be rectitude. The amanuensis might, still yet, be coruscating in the way we incline or belittle the indispensably and posthumously philanthropic recount but preach appetites. In my semantics class, almost all of the affronts at my agreement bluster or inaugurate the exposure. a quantity of isolationism is consummate for our personal orator on the response we propagate as well. The inspection delineates excess, not a scrutinization. In my experience, many of the interlopers by our personal civilization at the prison we feign complete agriculturalists. The less profession that whines is prelapsarian in the extent to which we excommunicate most of the ateliers for the realm of reality and confide or should completely be a conveyance, the more ligations authorize the conveyance of augmentation.Warfare with concessions will always be an experience of human society. In any case, armed with the knowledge that presumption may confrontationally be whiner, most of the accumulations at my proclamation scrutinize tropes but commence and allure assassinations which provision an assembly. If joyous reprobates speculate and assassinate demarcations to the aborigine, war which corroborates authorizations can be more squalidly unsubstantiated. War has not, and undoubtedly never will be countercultural but not vied. Europe is countlessly but precariously contentious as a result of its those in question.
You’ll notice that, in addition to being gibberish, the BABEL essay never actually mentions World War I at all. 

On upload, the program, for no apparent reason, plugged my paragraphs into the every other graph spot. You’ll notice that it has decided on its own where the topic sentences are in these topic-free paragraphs. Each of the little comments on the right margin offers more detail when you hover. In Body Paragraph 2, Ecree says that the “topic sentence for this paragraph clearly connects to your thesis.” Also, “you do a good job of explaining how the information in your paragraph supports your point.” 
In Paragraph 4, where Ecree says that the analysis is weak, the explanation is that the analysis gets off to a good start, but I don’t spend enough time explaining why the information helps make my point. 
Throughout the text, Ecree also offers style guidance, like to emphasize ideas, use clear nouns rather than verbs. Also, “describing actions takes focus away from a sentence’s key ideas.” Both of those turned up a lot. It also checked some spelling and punctuation. I moved some paragraphs around to get rid of the “blank” paragraphs; it did not notice when I had the same paragraph in the essay twice.
Ecree also grades the final product. My BABEL essay received a B, 83%. It does, in smaller print note “The grade given by your teacher may be different than the grade provided by Ecree.” 
The great and terrible weakness of automated essay grading is that software always measures superficials. Big words? Sentence structure? Length of sentences and paragraphs? Scan for a couple of key words? That’s it. There is about as much artificial intelligence involved as there is in my wireless mouse.
The complaint when a software is BABEL-tested is that the BABEL essay is not a good faith attempt to complete the assignment, that it’s just trying to bullshit the scoring software. But if you think students writing essays never try to bullshit the teacher, I have a bridge over a swamp to sell you. More importantly, handing the essay over to software is not a good faith attempt to assess the writing, so what do you expect?
The feedback is instantaneous, much like the instantaneous feedback from a magic eight ball. And the pricing is modest– $5.00 a paper, or a yearlong subscription for $200–okay, not really that modest for something that doesn’t actually work. But this is the kind of thing Gates is spending money on. What a waste. 

Published in: on August 25, 2020 at 5:37 pm  Comments (2)  

A conservative asks, “What’s worth conserving?”

The article seems to be written in view of the likely thumping that the republicans will get in November. The author is not at all a fan of the racist, wacko,-far-right faction that has captured the GOP, and is proposing some things that actual conservatives should be able to unite on with today’s civil rights movement (but not with our crazies).

I actually agree with a good number of his points, but not all.

One point he makes is that supporting the Confederacy or Naziism should be absolutely off limits. Doing so completely discredits you.

(As should supporting Communist regimes.)

Here’s the link.

I’m pretty sure this is not behind a paywall.

Published in: on August 7, 2020 at 7:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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