Arne Duncan is Leaving

I am pleased to report that Arne Duncan is stepping down as the US Secretary of Education. I wish he was being fired and disgraced, because he has done more to destroy and resegregate public education than any other individual. Except Barack Obama, who appointed him.

Good riddance. But his replacement is not likely to be better: John King, who was utterly indifferent to parent complaints about over-testing.

(PS – sorry for the original typos. Trying to write a post via my iPhone is asking for errors galore.)

I’ve just passed 392,390 visits to this blog!

I know it’s not a nice round number, but it is a number, and I’ve never actually added up the total quantity of visits before.

I hope that over the past six or so years of researching and writing this blog, I’ve been helpful to the general argument that the rich and powerful are perverting education as we used to know it. I hope that my research has helped people realize that my former Chancellor, Michelle Rhee, has been nothing but a lying self-promoter and charlatan. Fortunately, there are now more and more other folks making much the same points that I am, and if I don’t have the time to take on issues, there are generally quite a few other writers doing a bang-up job.

Likewise, my wish is for my readers likewise keep up the work in trying to make American public education once again democratic and actually somewhat equal for a change.

As usual, there is an itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny ‘comment’ button hidden way down in the bottom of the fine print at the end of this column.

Published in: on September 28, 2015 at 8:07 pm  Comments (6)  

The Matthew Effect in College Tuition Costs

The Matthew Effect is where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath— Matthew 25:29, King James Version.

An interesting article in the NYT Magazine points out that In the United States, students at the top tier of universities and colleges collectively get enormous subsidies on the cost of their enormous tuition bills — even those who pay the entire bill themselves. From the article:
Published in: on September 28, 2015 at 7:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Corrected List of Closed or Failed DC Charter Schools

A couple of days ago I posted a list, put out by CMD, of over 40 charter schools in Washington, DC that have closed over the past few years. Apparently the list had a few errors; Mary Levy sent me a corrected list, from the DC Public Charter School Board itself, which I attach here. You will have to click on the link to see the whole thing.

Charter school closure table – Last Updated 3 11 2013

Or, if you prefer, here it is in images:

failed and closed charter schools redux

failed and closed 2

failed and closed 3

See Jersey Jazzman use the Gaussian Distribution to Show that Arne Duncan and Mike Petrilli are full of it

Excellent lesson from Jersey Jazzman showing that the old tests produce pretty much the same distribution of scores as the new tests.

old and new tests

He has superimposed the green scores from 2008 on top of the 2014 scores for New York state in 8th grade reading, and basically they have almost the same distribution. Furthermore, a scatter plot shows nearly the same thing, and that there is a nearly perfect correlation between the old scores and the new scores, by school.

old and new tests again

Read his article, which is clear and concise. I don’t have time to go into this in depth.

Failed Charter Schools in DC

I learned from the indefatigable Peter Greene just now that a group called CMD has done some serious data crunching and has come up with a list of about 2500 charter schools across the nation that have failed and closed. Some took millions of federal and state dollars and never served a single student.

Here is a map of just the ones in Washington, DC. Looking at the map, I count about forty failed charter schools in my fair city; however the spreadsheet has 49. If you are a veteran Washingtonian, how many of them can you name just by looking at the map? If you go to the actual web page you can get names and so on. I see that the state of Arizona alone has over 340 such failed ventures into edupreneurship; Florida 305, and Michigan has 120, and Ohio may be the leader with 425 failed and closed charter scams schools.

failed charter schools in dc

(BTW, the teachers in those failed charter schools were generally very hard-working, passionate people who are not trying to make a million bucks. Charter school operators? That’s a different story.)

Here is the DC list:

Name / Year founded / Year failed / Enrollment during last year / Address

failed charter schools dc list

Remember the check a father supposedly wrote out in “Common Core” math symbols?

You may have seen the check to a school supposedly written out in Common Core number boxes.

Speaking as a retired math teacher, I agree that the check-writer indeed does not know what he is talking about. I mean, he didn’t even bother to try to make sense of his kid’s math worksheet – it’s really not that hard [i previously wrote”simple” – my bad] ; it’s aimed at something like 1st – 3rd graders (I hope) to help them be able to do math in their heads. The methods are a bit on the heavy – handed side, but they are not inherently evil. Read the article to see some of the errors that the check-writer made.

The correct criticism, in my opinion, is to force kids to write out stuff that they should be doing mentally. IN. THEIR. HEADS. That’s the point, it’s supposed to be done mentally, not written down. Kids should learn a bunch of methods for mental math, but just as you don’t learn basketball or canoeing primarily by writing sentences and reading books, you do it by dribbling or shooting a ball or getting out on the water with a paddle and a canoe. That’s the correct criticism of this stuff, and the idea that kids aren’t given a range of choices of methods to pick from. Many methods work. Why be forced to use just one?

Also as a retired math teacher, let me go further and say that there are aspects of, the Common Core math standards that do have some real merit, especially the parts that ask students to explain why and how what they are doing makes sense. HOWEVER, in most public school systems, the linkage of the CCSS and the ever-increasing testing regime means that all students do is fill out zillions of worksheets. Some of the worksheets are from sources older than me, and some are incoherent pastiches of gobbledy-gook filled with mathematical errors, and some, I assume, may be OK. However, I haven’t seen very many of the last type as I have recently been tutoring students or volunteering or mentoring in DC public schools over the past few years.

And now speaking as a long-term student of history, I would also say that there are some similarities between what we are doing in education today and the extreme nuttiness that occurred under Stalin and Mao. Here is the similarity I see: A lot of the ideas in the ‘process’ section of the math CC are lovely.The idea of “from each according to their ability, and to each according to their needs” is lovely. (By contrast, there is NOTHING in Mein Kampf that is lovely, or not in the first 85 pages that I could stomach. He is all about lies, racism, German nationalism, mass murder.) But when it comes to practice, while Stalin and his closest confidants waxed lyrical about building a classless society of plenty, they were in fact randomly arresting and sending to the Gulag and executing or beating to death or starving to death hundreds or thousands or millions of people, almost randomly chosen, because any logic to those mass murders escaped even the people it happened to or their friends or relatives — i.e., everybody. No, I’m not going to claim that the perversion that is happening with public education today, as a direct result of people like Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, the Walton family, the Broad family, and a bunch of other billionaires and acolytes, is causing mass murder. No. However, the education that is being imposed on our poorest kids, attending some of these “No Excuses” charter schools, is such a violation of kids’ rights that it’s nothing that Nazis, Fascists, or Communists of any stripe would tolerate except in their own concentration camps. Where does any civilization require their youngsters to be utterly and continuously silent, from about 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, even during breakfast and lunch and when moving from one room to the next? Only (a) here in certain types of No Excuses charter schools or (b) in concentration camps – but in (b) there, the overlords don’t care about their charges’ lives. But wait a sec….

So we have those who want to liberate poor and underprivileged kids of color from the tyrranny of their zip code and the evil teachers’ unions – and what do they do? Put those kids under an education that consists of all-force-feed mindrot, all the time, no talking permitted, ever. As one commentator remarked, Stalin would have been appalled.

Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 7:21 pm  Comments (1)  

Merit Pay for Teachers Doesn’t Work (2011 study) … In case you had forgotten

A lot of Rhee-formers have bet that they can improve test scores in school districts by paying good teachers bonuses. 

In DC, Atlanta, and many other cities, we now know from Eraser-gate scandals in the news that paying money for good test scores and firing teachers with low student scores will cause a significant number of teachers to cheat.

But a large, three-year study in Nashville, TN, involving hundreds of teachers, and large bonuses, showed that even if everyone is honest, it doesn’t work either. What’s more, even Roland Fryer found it didn’t work in NYC, and that paying students to be good and do their work wasn’t successful, either (“Capital Gains” experiment). Unfortunately, my own blog is one of the few places you’ll find any mention of that.


Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 3:05 pm  Comments (4)  

Not Having Recess Is Really, Really Bad For Kids’ Health

The folks who have eliminated recess from most schools in the USA, in favor of more silent reading and studying while seated, are apparently going to be responsible for a large increase in serious diseases, according to this study.
“A Canadian study in the journal Experimental Physiology revealed girls who sat for three uninterrupted hours had as much as a 33% decline in arterial dilation, compared with those who broke up their sitting time with riding a stationary bicycle and had no vascular function decline. Researchers used nine girls ages 9 to 12. The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (9/23)”

Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 1:13 pm  Comments (1)  

Dr Carson Disqualifies Himself

Ben Carson sent me a mass email saying he wouldn’t back down from saying that Muslims should not be qualified to run for office unless they explicitly disavowed all the parts of the Koran that he, Ben Carson, disapproved of. Never mind the article of the Constitution (NOT an amendment) that specifically says there shall never be any religious test for any US office whatsoever. (So he (Carson) specifically wants to violate one of the best parts of our constitution.)


But what about Christian and Jewish candidates – the only ones Carson approves of? I’ve seen a bunch of lists of all sorts of offenses for which the penalty is death in the Jewish and Christian Bibles (chapter and verse cited, and many translations). I mean, like wearing wearing cotton/Lycra Spandex blends, getting remarried, eating bacon, and working on whatever day the Sabbath is on. Parts of the book specifically approve of genocide, rape, murder and slavery — just like the Koran.

Christians aren’t off the hook, either, unless they specifically disavow the part where Jesus says that he wasn’t going to change a single letter of the Old Testament. And what kind of evil sinners are most of us guys do a whole lot of lusting and coveting, bearing false witness (ie lying), becoming angry and wroth and generally being wicked. No way that Carson, Cruz, Trump, or any other of the dozens of people running for President don’t commit crimes every day that would justify their murders under some section of the Bible.

Fortunately, though they may not like each other very much, I haven’t heard any of the candidates – and certainly not Dr Carson – casting stones on the folks who work for them on the Sabbath — have you? I conclude, and so must you, that Carson disapproves of many of the nutty parts of the Bible, the ones in favor of slavery and stoning and most murders. But HE WON’T PUT IT IN WRITING! Sure, he may SAY he’s in favor of democracy and against genocide, but his sacred book upholds everything we fought against during our Revolution 240 years ago! So, he can’t be trusted, because his sacred book says most of us should be killed! (And the same for just about all of the other candidates) So he has disqualified himself, if you grant his premise!

My Cousin’s Bar-Mitzvah.

During his Bar-Mitzvah ceremony, one of my young cousins had to recite and discuss a section of Exodus or Leviticus where God ordered the Hebrews not only to murder all the Canaanites, but also to burn down or otherwise destroy all their enemies’ former sacred forests, rock formations and so on, in order to obliterate their entire memory. Truly a genocide in the literal sense of the word. My cousin recited the verses just fine, but in his own analysis, he said that while he considered himself a Jew, he could not agree at all with the wishes expressed in the verses.


Good for him! (Nobody should be advocating genocide!

(Recall, even Thomas Jefferson, the slave owning hypocrite, at least had enough honesty to do just that: cut out all the parts of the Bible he thought were evil or Bunkum, and bind the rest into a book. A very short book, I understand…)

I await a similar list of verses of the Old and New Testaments that Dr Carson specifically disavows. (And from anybody who agrees w Carson) Or else, both Dr Ben and any other Jewish or Christian candidate for office would — by this logic — not be qualified, because they had not specifically disavowed the bad parts of their sacred book, and those parts are really, really evil.


In fact, sounds to me like only Universalist Unitarians and pacifist atheists or secular humanists would likely hold religio-philosophical positions that don’t advocate a lot of murders and oppression… Not even Bernie Sanders would pass muster!


I probably shouldn’t hold my breath waiting for this to happen.


But until then, Ben Carson has just disqualified himself and any other self-professed Christian or Jew (or any other religion I am aware of) because they have not disavowed the horrible parts of the Judeao-Christian bible.

Published in: on September 23, 2015 at 3:55 pm  Comments (4)  

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