Charter Schools in Michigan Harm Students and Help Investors — and DeVos Deserves Much of the Credit

A long article in the NYTimes analyzes how the rise of almost completely unregulated charter schools in that state has not meant any benefits to the poor students attending their privatized schools. In fact, the authorizing agencies for these mostly for-profit charter schools actually seem to be doing it mostly because they get a cut of 3% of the entire budget for the schools that they supposedly supervise!

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In addition, the charter management companies make huge profits by buying under-utilized land and buildings for a school and then selling that property to the school for many times what they themselves pay!

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If that’s confusing, rest assured that that is on purpose.

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Not that this has helped the children of Michigan. By the very yardsticks that corporate edu-“reformers” like to use, since Michigan has undergone this wholesale charterization of its formerly public school system, their test scores have dropped from near the middle of all 50 states to very close to the bottom.

And our current federal education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has been leading the way, advocating more school choice.

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A quote:

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“…banks and hedge funds, Miron told me, profit greatly from the charter sector, thanks to large tax breaks dating back to the Clinton presidency that benefit investors in schools located in struggling “renewal communities.” And with so many eager lenders and bond underwriters lined up, E.M.O.s realized they, in turn, could make money from one of the largest expenses charter schools face. “A bunch of them thought, Wow, I can start a real estate division!” VanderWerp said. “We’ve run into this all over the place”: E.M.O.s buy buildings “for a couple hundred thousand bucks, lease them to the school for a couple of years and then sell them” to the school “for a few million.” In Michigan, 80 percent of charters are currently operated by for-profit E.M.O.s. The state’s largest E.M.O., the Grand Rapids-based National Heritage Academies, operates 84 charters in nine states and has been criticized for charging wildly above-market annual rents to its schools: A Detroit Free Press investigation found that 14 National Heritage schools in Michigan pay the company $1 million or more.”

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Very sad, depressing, wholesale theft. When will we stop it?

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Published in: on September 10, 2017 at 10:24 am  Comments (5)  

John Merrow’s Takedown of the Gates-Jobs Takedown of America’s Public Schools

I don’t know if you watched it (I didn’t), but apparently there was a major TV extravaganza last night about how America’s high schools are obsolete and need to be re-invented. John Merrow did watch it, and was rather disgusted. Here is a bit of his commentary:

Last night’s program was high energy and cute without being daring.  For example, it had a clever ‘red carpet’ segment but with teachers as the stars.  Lots of cheering, but that was it.  That’s sadly timid.  Imagine if Melissa Rivers, the host on the red carpet, had asked teachers the question she always asks the Hollywood stars: “You look marvelous. What are you wearing tonight?’  

And picture a male teacher responding:  “These old things?  I bought these khakis 12 or 13 years ago. I was going to buy a new pair for tonight, but I just spent $380 on basic supplies for my classroom.  Oh, and would it be rude of me to ask how much your outfit cost?”

Imagine a female teacher responding, “What am I wearing?  Actually, I’d rather talk about tomorrow’s field trip….I’m taking my kids to the Getty Museum, where they will….. see provocative art and meet contemporary artists.  And the next day my students will be on Skype, talking with students in a high school in Paris about climate change. We’ve been measuring the air quality here and sharing the data with them for purposes of comparison and analysis.  But I have to charge the kids for the bus to the Museum and I had to ask some wealthy parents to pay for the scientific equipment because the school district has been cutting our instructional budget.”

And another teacher could have said, “To be honest, I’m happy for this attention, but I can’t help but thinking about the fact that you make 17 or 18 times more money per year than I do.”

Assessment of Rhee/Henderson/Mayoral control in DC public schools

Here is a very long article on the legacy of the mayoral takeover of DC public schools back in 2007, which brought in Chancellors Rhee and Henderson, among other things. Having been a teacher, a mentor, and a volunteer in and visiting DC public schools for that period of time, I’m not particularly impressed with the changes I’ve seen. The article, which I still haven’t finished reading, has criticism of what hasn’t worked, by Mary Levy and  John Merrow, and also features a reply by Thomas Toch (who is very much a cheerleader for the “reforms”).

Here’s the link. Please read the article and comment, and take some action as well.

http://washingtonmonthly.com/people/john-merrow-and-mary-levy-with-a-reply-by-tom-toch/

Were George Washington and Robert E Lee Equivalent?

Here is an exchange on something called Quora. The question below was (IMHO) quite stupid, but the answer was excellent. I’m quoting the whole thing becuase I don’t know how to just put in a link.

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Ross Cohen
Ross Cohen, B.A. in History & Political Science

Nazis Kill — Again

And our current Grifter-in-Chief is just fine with that. And the Nazis are fine with his support, as you see here:

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A More Sophisticated Analysis of the Nonsense that is “Value-Added Modeling”

Bruce Baker, aka SchoolFinance101, here takes on many of the problems involved with VAM, which supposedly being measures how well teachers are doing their jobs.

Among other things, he analyzed the scores of New York City public schoolteachers, which were published by the NYTimes and NYPost. He appears to find more year-to-year correlations between the scores of teachers working at the same school and the same grade and subject matter than I did (found it to be close to zero), but he still finds the whole VAM thing absurd.

In addition, he points out that the difference between a "good" teacher and a "bad" teacher on the VAM is for their students to get two more multiple-choice questions right (or wrong).

Published in: on July 22, 2017 at 9:52 am  Leave a Comment  

What is “Personalized Education”, really?

It’s really DEpersonalized education. I’ve even tried helping to write some  about 18 years ago, and it didn’t work then, either. Nor did teaching machines of the 1950s or 1960s. And the latest versions being purchased and mandated by school systems are pretty ineffective — but they do gather lots of data on kids. And they earn their publishers a ton of money.

Steven Singer analyzes it and writes much better than I do. 

Here is his take.

Published in: on July 14, 2017 at 4:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

John Merrow on Rhee’s Lies about cheating, which are being echoed in Washington Monthly 

John Merrow on the massive cheating cover-up by Rhee, Henderson & Co in DCPS regarding test scores. Here is the link.  Please share.And here is the entire article, which I find excellent.

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In his article, Toch distorts or omits at least eight issues. The distinguished education analyst Mary Levy and I have written a rebuttal, which is scheduled to appear in the next issue of The Washington Monthly. In this blog post, I want to consider in detail just one of Toch’s distortions: widespread cheating by adults: He glibly dismisses DC’s cheating scandals in just two sentences: In March 2011, USA Today ran a front-page story headlined “When Standardized Test Scores Soared in D.C., Were the Gains Real?,” an examination of suspected Rhee-era cheating. The problem turned out to be concentrated in a few schools, and investigations found no evidence of widespread cheating.
There are two factual errors in his second sentence. Cheating–erasing wrong answers and replacing them with correct ones–occurred in more than half of DCPS schools, and every ‘investigation’ was either controlled by Rhee and later Henderson or conducted by inept investigators–and sometimes both. All five investigations were whitewashes, because no one in power wanted to unmask the wrongdoing that had produced the remarkable test score gains.
Four essential background points: The rookie Chancellor met one-on-one with all her principals and, in those meetings, made them guarantee test score increases. We filmed a number of these sessions, and saw firsthand how Rhee relentlessly negotiated the numbers up, while also making it clear that failing to ‘make the numbers’ would have consequences.
Point number two: The test in question, the DC-CAS, had no consequences for students, none whatsoever. Therefore, many kids were inclined to blow it off, which in turn forced teachers and principals to go to weird extremes to try to get students to take the test seriously. One principal told his students that he would get a tattoo of their choice if they did well on the DC-CAS (They could choose the design; he would choose the location!).
Point number three: For reasons of bureaucratic efficiency, the DC-CAS exams were delivered to schools at least a week before the exam date and put in the hands of the principals whose jobs depended on raising scores on a test the kids didn’t care about. This was a temptation that some school leaders and some teachers found irresistible. Test books were opened, sample questions were distributed, and, after the exams, answers were changed. Some schools had ‘erasure parties,’ we were reliably told.
Point number four: Predictably, test scores went up, and the victory parties began.
Contrary to Toch’s assertions, the ‘wrong-to-right’ erasures in half of DCPS schools were never thoroughly investigated beyond the initial analysis done by the agency that corrected the exams in the first place, CTB/McGraw-Hill. Deep erasure analysis would have revealed any patterns of erasures, but it was never ordered by Chancellor Rhee, Deputy Chancellor Henderson, or the Mayor, presuming he was aware of the issue.
When the erasures continued in Ms. Rhee’s second year on the job, she came under pressure to investigate, and so in December 2009 she hired Caveon, a security firm that is based in Utah. Why Caveon? Ms. Henderson explained to a City Council subcommittee, “The reason that we hired Caveon was because we thought that we needed an objective third party to actually do the investigation and to make recommendations to us.”
Caveon was the perfect choice–if one wanted to turn a blind eye to any wrongdoing. Prior to its work for DCPS, Caveon had been hired by the (so-called) “Blue Ribbon Committee” established to look into allegations of cheating in Atlanta. Caveon looked–and reported finding nothing wrong in what turned out to be the epicenter of cheating by adults on standardized tests. Dr. John Fremer, the head of Caveon, told me that while he ‘knew’ there was widespread cheating going on, that was not mentioned in his final report. “We did not try to find out who was cheating,” he said. “Our purpose was to rank order the schools beginning with those with the most obvious problems (of unbelievably dramatic score increases), in order to make the task of investigating more manageable.” In other words, Caveon produced a list!
Dr. Fremer admitted that he knew some Atlanta teachers were lying to him, but he said his hands were tied because he didn’t have subpoena power.
Georgia’s investigators were contemptuous of Caveon’s efforts, labelling it a ‘so-called investigation.’ Richard Hyde, one of the three leaders of the investigation, told me that “either by coincidence or design, it was certain to fail.” Mr. Hyde denied that Caveon needed subpoena power because its investigators were representing a governmental agency, and under Georgia law it is a felony to lie to someone representing the government. What’s more, Mr. Hyde said, Caveon had a fundamental conflict of interest–it was investigating its employer, at least indirectly, because the “Blue Ribbon Commission” (which Mr. Hyde dismisses as “The Whitewash Commission”) included a deputy superintendent of schools.
Robert Wilson, another leader of the Georgia investigation, was even blunter. Of course Caveon didn’t find cheating because “Caveon couldn’t find its own ass with either hand,” he scoffed. Why anyone would hire Caveon was, he said, beyond him–unless they didn’t want to find out anything.
Dr. Fremer seemed hurt and offended by the criticism. “We try to be non-emotional,” he said, acknowledging that “People who listen only to the law enforcement side do not respect us.”
And so DCPS hired Caveon, which found nothing wrong in DC. And, almost predictably, that first Caveon investigation became the linchpin for all that followed, from DC City Council Chairman David Catania’s giving it a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” to Rhee’s and Henderson’s claims that the investigations vindicate them.
But let’s dig deeper into the surreal world that Caveon inhabits. Caveon President Fremer maintains that his firm did not conduct an investigation in the normal sense of the word because his firm does not conduct investigations. “We use the word ‘investigation’ in our materials because everyone else does,” he said, “but we do analysis, with the goal of process improvement and quality assurance.” Then he added, “We were not brought in to help DCPS with an analysis of what had happened.”
The contract was for a two-part project: a security audit and questioning of certain people at just eight DCPS schools (even though many more schools had been implicated). But, he emphasized again in our conversation, it was not an investigation because Caveon was hired to “review and collect information.” He told me, “I give advice as to where to focus attention. I am not trying to position a client to put people in jail. Instead, we give them enough information about problems to allow them to fix them in the future.”
The security audit, he said, consisted of examining DCPS’ policies and procedures around the testing. Caveon did not seek to find out if principals and teachers actually followed the rules, and so Caveon apparently did not inform Chancellor Rhee just how easy it would be to cheat on the DC-CAS before, during and after its administration. Caveon did make some recommendations to improve security–recommendations, he said, that DCPS did not follow.
Part Two of Caveon’s work–the questioning–is even more interesting. Dr. Fremer told me that DCPS gave him a list of the eight schools it was authorized to go into. DCPS also gave Caveon about 50 questions to ask of teachers, proctors, principals and assistant principals. He said DCPS indicated that Caveon was not to stray from the list. Follow-up questions, the essence of a good investigation, were actively discouraged, according to Dr. Fremer.
He told me that DCPS’ list of questions did not include “Did you see anyone erasing answers?” or “Did you participate…” or “Are you aware of organized erasures?” or “Are you aware of cheating?”
Dr. Fremer told me that his employees never use words like ‘cheating’ or ‘illegal behavior’ because they are ‘too emotional.’ Instead, he said, they asked individuals if they could explain huge discrepancies in wrong-to-right erasures between classrooms.
Caveon was contractually obligated to show DCPS drafts of the report before it was made final, which Dr. Fremer said was completely appropriate. “There was no pressure to ‘sweeten the sound’ of our report,” Dr. Fremer said. “We wanted DCPS to check for mistakes and make certain that we did not reveal the identities of individuals.”
Caveon sent DCPS its final report in February 2010, saying that it had not found evidence of cheating–which it had not been looking for, as Dr. Fremer explained.
Caveon I and II were Chancellor Rhee’s first foray into ‘investigation,’ and she and Henderson regularly cite the Caveon reports as evidence that all was well–because Caveon did not find cheating–which it was not looking for.
Next in this row of dominos is DC’s Inspector General Charles Willoughby, who leaned heavily upon Caveon’s report as he exonerated DCPS. If Caveon’s work was superficial, Inspector General Willoughby’s investigation was downright inept. Just how weak was Mr. Willoughby’s effort? As we reported on Frontline, the Inspector General’s investigation is remarkable for what it did not investigate. He chose not to investigate 2008, the year with the most erasures. He chose not to investigate Aiton, a school notable for its high rate of wrong to right erasures. He did not examine the test answer sheets or perform an electronic analysis. And he did not investigate J.O Wilson – a school with excessive WTR erasures in 100 percent of its classrooms – simply because Chancellor Henderson had assured him that it was a good school.
Although more than half of DC’s schools had been implicated, he focused only on Noyes Education Campus, the school that USA Today had made the centerpiece of its investigation. Over the course of 17 months, his team interviewed just 60 administrators, teachers, parents and teachers, all from Noyes Education Campus. By contrast, Atlanta investigators interviewed over 2,000 people and reviewed 800,000 documents. Rather than seek outside experts as Atlanta investigators had, he relied heavily on information from Caveon, which had been, of course, in the employ of DCPS. He did not ask to perform erasure analysis but relied on interviews–sometimes conducted over the phone. And he produced a 17-page report, in sharp contrast to Atlanta’s (post-Caveon) 813-page report.
Without the power to put people under oath, he told City Councilman Kenyan McDuffie in February that he just asked them if they had cheated. If they said they hadn’t, that was the end of it, because, he explained, he “wasn’t conducting a fishing expedition.” Test monitors sent by the central office to patrol Noyes for the 2010 test told Mr. Willoughby that they had been barred from entering classrooms. School officials denied that charge–and Mr. Willoughby believed them, not the monitors.
At a DC City Council subcommittee hearing, Mr. McDuffie asked Mr. Willoughby why he had examined just one school, Noyes, and had not scrutinized other high-erasure schools. “Because we didn’t find evidence of a conspiracy to cheat at Noyes,” he replied, and because that was what was recommended to him. Was it prudent to take the word of firms that were paid by DCPS instead of seeking an outside, independent opinion and to rely on media reports, Mr. McDuffie asked. “Yes,” Mr. Willoughby replied.
Asked if he had tried to find an explanation for the pronounced test score drops when security was tightened, Mr. Willoughby replied, “We were told that it was caused by an influx of new students.” Mr. Willoughby found no evidence of widespread cheating at Noyes but cited some security concerns and noted that one teacher had been dismissed for coaching students on a test. The IG’s essential message: except for that one teacher, all was well.
Finally, there was the U.S. Department of Education’s Inspector General’s investigation, which leaned heavily upon Mr. Willoughby’s work when it reported in January, 2013, that “No information was obtained or developed during the course of the investigation that substantiated the allegation of false claims made to the federal government or confirmed widespread cheating on standardized tests.”
Rhee and Henderson defend their approach. The investigations “found that there was some cheating, but that it was isolated to only a few schools,” Rhee said in February, 2013. Henderson is proud of how she conducted the inquiries. “We have had six investigations that have cleared DCPS of widespread cheating,” she said in April, 2013. “I am frustrated because people are saying I haven’t done enough,” she told ABC News. “I have used every tool in my tool kit to get to the bottom of cheating.”
The exact opposite is true. Rhee’s and Henderson’s insistence on higher test scores created a climate that encouraged people to game the system. The adults who changed answers, coached students during testing, and shared exams before the tests were not thinking about their students, just themselves, their jobs, and the appearance of success. Kids were numbers, nothing more, nothing less. That is what Toch, once an aggressive reporter, should have told his readers, because Rhee and Henderson were stealing children’s opportunities to get a decent education.
The fantasy that top-down, data-driven, test-centric ‘reform’ works is perpetuated by articles like Tom Toch’s. Sadly, his piece has been widely distributed by the editorial pages of the Washington Post, influential blogger and co-founder of Democrats for Education Reform Whitney Tilson, and others.
Please share this, and our Washington Monthly rebuttal when it appears, with everyone you know who believes that public education ought to focus on children and youth, not test scores and adult aggrandizement.
 

Published in: on July 14, 2017 at 1:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Upcoming Important Meetings on DC Public and Charter Schools for July 2017

Valerie Jablow’s list of upcoming meetings will be just about your only chance to have any public input on a wide range of topics regarding publicly-funded schools in Washington, DC.

So pay attention, boys and girls and moms and pops! Here is the link:

The Rush Of July: Education Events Galore

Published in: on July 12, 2017 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Real Secret Behind the UFO* at Roswell in 1947

In my considered opinion, there is absolutely no credible evidence that the Earth has ever been visited by any members of any intelligent alien (ie exoplanetary) civilization, EVER. Which is probably a good thing, because if you look at our own human history, whenever a civilization wielding superior and lethal technology comes in contact with a different culture not so equipped, the latter end up in very very bad straits.

I think I disagree with Steven Ruis on this, though I often find myself in agreement with his posts.

That being said: That period of time, 1947, was just when the Cold War between the USA and the USSR was getting very, very hot. The US military was definitely trying out something-or-other, and they most DEFINITELY did not want the Soviets (or their allies) to learn anything about it at all. Kinda like nuclear weapons. Don’t forget the Rosenberg case! So, yeah, sure, the US military was going to cover stuff up, the best they could. During WW2, which had only been over for about 2 years, if the military told bald-faced lies to the people, most of them would just accept it, and those who didn’t, mostly kept their suspicions to themselves, unless they were in fact spies — and there certainly were some, we now know!

(Apparently the Soviets were much more successful at finding out about British and American atomic and other secrets than the Nazis were. After all, the Soviets were, in fact, our allies from Dec 1941 through August 1945. Also, lots of people in the US and around the world considered the USSR to be the true defenders of the working class and so on, so they would do almost anything for it, including passing on information on secret weapons. I am sure that some of the pro-Soviet spies figured that since the US and the USSR were allies,  any technology one had, should be given to the other, to make the common struggle against Fascism stronger, even if it was against official US or UK policy. After VE and VJ days, they probably figured that if only the US had nuclear weapons, then it could blackmail the Socialist Motherland and compel it to give way, or wipe it out altogether, and impose a new form of Fascism with stars and stripes instead of a swastika. (And, in fact, if you think back to 1947, the way the US treated its black citizens and the citizens of its overseas colonies like the Philippines, was really, really racist and fascistic…. And even the US military was rigidly segregated!)

Also recall that in 1947, when the Roswell event occurred, Americans were no longer bound by wartime censorship rules. So when the first ridiculously phony USAAF lies came out about whatever it was that happened at Roswell, some of the folks who noticed that the explanation was clearly bogus began asking more questions (and getting either the exact same recited BS or perhaps some new BS story) — and they began sharing their suspicions, without fear of reprisal.

Some of those alternative explanations, however, remain as completely full of manure as the original Army explanation. Yes, it was a UFO – but if you realize what the acronym means, it just says ‘ there is something flying in the air and we don’t know what it is’. That’s precisely and exactly correct.

I don’t know for a fact what the real story was, but I recall reading some plausible explanations by Philip Klass and others about some elaborate airborne antenna intended to spy on Russia that crashed and burned and made the military quite nervous because locals got to looking at the wreckage. Sounds plausible, and definitely not something the USAAF would want anybody to learn about other than the team who put it up in the first place, for absolutely logical reasons. So when they discovered that a lot of people HAD seen it, they didn’t have access to that little flashlight device from Men In Black. So, they made up a bogus cover story. Maybe they even thought it was OK if people thought it WAS aliens, because then the secret-device-for-spying-on-the-Russians (who we were still kinda allied with, technically) would not come to light.

One thing I am absolutely positive of, is that it was NOT aliens belonging to some civilization outside our solar system. They wouldn’t have been so crude, for one thing. And if our guys had killed the aliens, you don’t think they would come back for revenge?

In fact, I will bet my entire life savings that nobody can show any conclusive evidence of contact between humans on our planet and members of any alien civilization not from Earth.

Here are my terms: if you take me up on that bet, and they lose (i.e. I can show within a reasonable amount of time that your evidence for alien contact is BS) then you have to give ME the same amount as I have in all my retirement accounts, plus my share of the value of the house and yard I own with my wife. I look forward to doubling, quadrupling, octupling my retirement savings! If I get 10 takers in a row, then I will multiply my savings by a factor of 1,000! Wow! I would become a multi-multi-millionaire! Oh yeah, you also have to pay the investigatory fees, up front. If I lose, you get it all back, plus my entire life savings.

So what’s more logical: that the US military would lie to the public to keep some secret, or that we have been contacted by members of an alien civilization?

no aliens at roswell

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*UFO is an acronym for unidentified flying object. OK, that insect that just flew into my leg is a UFO because I don’t know if it was a moth, a fly, a mosquito, or what. An airplane that I cannot identify is by definition a UFO. Just because something is a UFO doesn’t necessarily mean it comes from some extraplanetary civilization!

Note: my explanation is not original, but I don’t recall who I should give credit to and I’m too lazy to look it up.

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Never mind: I just looked it up. Yes, secret balloons to spy on the Russians – Project Mogul.

 

Published in: on July 12, 2017 at 11:30 am  Comments (3)  
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