Vouchers aren’t so great

Once again, Arizona’s public education advocates find themselves in battle against those in the Legislature seeking to commercialize our district schools. The worst threat this year is a replay of last year’s failed attempt to fully expand Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) to all Arizona students. This, despite the fact that vouchers will cost the state more…at least $1,000 more per student. This, despite the fact that according to the Pro-voucher Friedman Foundation, 58% of AZ ESA recipients have incomes ABOVE $57,000 (39% over $72,000 and 19% between $57,000 and $71,000.) And, only 15% of families that use vouchers have an income lower than $28,000. Not surprising actually, when the average private school in Arizona costs $6,000 at the elementary level and $18,000 at the high school level. A $5,200 to $5,900 voucher just doesn’t go far enough for those without means.
And, as if that isn’t enough, the New York Times (NYT) just reported, “a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them.” An examination of an Indiana voucher program which grew to tens of thousands of students under then Governor Pence, produced significant losses in achievement in mathematics on the part of voucher students who transferred to private schools. There was also no improvement in reading.
Then in Louisiana in early 2016, researchers found “large negative results in both reading and math” for those students on vouchers. The NYT quoted Martin West, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as saying the negative voucher effects in Louisiana were, “as large as any I’ve seen in the literature.” He wasn’t just comparing voucher programs, but rather the Louisianna voucher experience against “the history of American education research.”
Likewise, in June of 2016, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank and school choice proponent, looked at a large voucher program in Ohio. They found that, “Students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools.”
Maybe the schools “were unusually bad and eager for revenue” posits the NYT, but that just shows that “exposing young children to the vagaries of private-sector competition is inherently risky. I love the NYT’s explanation of how ”the free market often does a terrible job of providing basic services to the poor – see, for instance, the lack of grocery stores and banks in many low-income neighborhoods.” Why should we expect it to be different for education? I can see it now. Gourmet grocery stores and boutique bank equivalent private schools in affluent areas and the Circle K and payday loan operation version of underfunded public schools where people have no other real option. I know there are plenty of people who see nothing wrong with this scenario (many of them work at the state Capitol), but it IS wrong and it is not in the best interest of our people, our communities, our state, or our nation.

Published in: on February 24, 2017 at 12:53 pm  Comments (1)  

Comment season almost up in DC on ESSA implementation

New post on educationdc
So, Before YOUR Deadline of March 3, Take A Moment To Weigh In On ESSA

by Valerie Jablow

Yes, fellow DC citizens, we have a deadline: March 3.
That is when OSSE, our office of the state superintendent of education, plans to suspend public comment on a finalized version of DC’s implementation of the new federal accountability law for public schools, ESSA, which replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
OSSE will send that finalized version to the state board of education, for their vote of approval, before an April deadline—even though OSSE really can wait until September, which would garner more public commentary and more chance for the new DCPS chancellor to weigh in (you know, that whole democracy bit about the public sector that educates half of the kids in DC having some say in its accountability measures?).
So where do we stand in all of this?
Public testimony in November before the state board of education showed overwhelming support for reducing the weight proposed by OSSE–80%–for test scores in determining a school’s virtues (or lack thereof) and using other measures, including climate surveys, to better describe how a school is doing.
OSSE has since held public meetings, and the council held a hearing on OSSE’s performance. At both, the public showed overwhelming support for reducing the 80% weight proposed by OSSE and using climate surveys (scroll down at that link for recent testimony). Some parents have even assembled talking points that include calling for schools to serve as pilots for a climate assessment survey.
(Those OSSE public meetings on ESSA continue, BTW–here is a schedule.)
But no matter: OSSE has persisted otherwise.
That is:
OSSE’s January 30 draft for ESSA in DC has no growth measures for high schools; no tracking of student cohorts, so one year’s 5th grade is compared to another’s, obscuring any growth (or lack) thereof; and no deep measures for growth or evaluation outside an 80% weight for PARCC scores for reading and math (which OSSE contends also measure other aspects of core learning, including social studies, since all is based on Common Core standards).
In other words, we in DC appear on the verge of No Child Left Behind 2.0.
Sadly, the OSSE draft (see here for a shorthand version) appears to ignore the reason ESSA was created, which was to acknowledge the failures of NCLB in ensuring schools have the tools they need to help the most disadvantaged students. Indeed, the achievement gap has only grown since NCLB, both nationally as well as locally, as well as created perverse incentives to teach to the test and have a test-based school culture.
Moreover, OSSE’s draft ignores Department of Education regulations for ESSA itself, showing that the weight of PARCC could be as low as 50% and that states have considerable flexibility in determining how they rate their schools.
In a city that has wildly embraced school choice like DC, why NOT implement climate surveys that would allow parents to better judge how our schools actually work for their students and staff outside of test scores?
It’s not like any of this is out of our control: the deputy mayor for education oversees both OSSE and the lottery, which features prominently placed test scores.
And in probably the only time in our entire lives as DC citizens, the federal government WANTS us to have more control over our DC affairs!
So, why NOT look at staff turnover; truancy; discipline issues as well as re-enrollment and attendance? Right now, re-enrollment and attendance get only a minimal amount of attention in OSSE’s draft. But with DC charter schools having high and disproportionate discipline rates, and DCPS taking in a greater share of highly mobile students (which has an effect on test scores), having more and deeper information on re-enrollment and attendance would put test scores into a much richer (and more realistic) context.
And why NOT have a weighting system such that schools with high growth but not high proficiency rates get benefits–instead of the punishment that would be inevitable in the current draft? Like NCLB, this draft version emphasizes penalties for anything other than proficiency, and we know from NCLB that this practice results in nothing good.
And why NOT reward schools for serving English language learners and special education students?
And gosh, we are a city that prides itself on wonkiness–so why NOT consider other tools besides PARCC for standardized testing? Other states have turned back from PARCC. We can too!
And let’s extend that wonkiness to the very feedback that OSSE is garnering from its public meetings:
What are people saying? And who is saying it? And why?
So many public meetings, so many questions!
But of course no one wants parents to be uninformed about their DC public schools. Right?
Valerie Jablow | February 21, 2017 at 5:04 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/p6Dj0P-2px

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So, Before YOUR Deadline of March 3, Take A Moment To Weigh In On ESSA

Published in: on February 21, 2017 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Want to have letters or other messages hand-delivered to the US Congress or Senate?

Delivering letters to your US Congress and Senate members! I live in DC and therefore have no real representation. If you live elsewhere and want to make an impact, you may have tried to email or call your Rep or Senator. If so, you’ve probably had a hard time getting through. 
If you would like to write letters or post cards to show your displeasure at the actions of #45 and the Repugnican party, you could organize some people to write some notes, send them to me, and I and at least one local family member can deliver them in person. I understand that on a scale of ‘doing nothing’ = 0 and ‘being impeached, publicly shamed, losing all your money and votes and going to jail’ = 100, then a personal delivery of some written messages to a congressional office is definitely > 0 and also higher than leaving a voice mail message. 
You can PM me for my mailing address and any other details.
PS thanks to my daughter (a California resident and activist) Alexandra Brandenburg for sharing this 


Published in: on February 21, 2017 at 4:14 pm  Comments (1)  

What have those godless anti-American libtards done for me anyway?

(Copied from elsewhere; author unknown but reprinted with thanks to whoever it was. Also thanks to my friend Kathryn Wadsworth who put this out on FB!)


Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance – now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joes employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It’s noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn’t mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day.

Joe agrees: “We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I’m a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have.”

One state or two in Israel / Palestine?

No nation or people that makes its living by oppressing another group and depriving it of the full civil rights of first – class citizenship deserves sympathy and support from the world community in its efforts to suppress 

There have been, and still are,  many nations that do that. The USA, for one, systematically stole its territory from the Indians, and stole the labor of Africans brought htovthat country in slave ships. Only when it ended slavery and (mostly) granted citizenship rights to Native Americans could we honestly say that the US was truly civilized.

Israel is a weird case. It won its territory in an unusual combination of both legal purchase and expropriation in wartime. Many of israel’s founders were definitely on the left hand of the political spectrum and their families were victims of one of the most egregious genocides ever.  However, during the 1948 war of independence after Partition (or Nakba (“disaster”)) there is no question that the Israeli side Engaged in what we now call ethnic cleansing. While they did allow the Arabs and Druze who remained inside Israel to vote and such, they gave many more financial and other privileges to their Jewish citizens. 

Nowadays there is absolutely no hope of a viable Palestinian state because if it existed, it would look worse on a map than anything Eldridge Gerry ever wrote on that Massachusetts map way back when…

And unless the Israeli government wants to be a formally apartheid-style government where, in the spirit of Sparta, one part of the society wants to formally and ritually declare war on the other part as the Lacedaemobians did against the Helots, or to resemble the South African racists who carved up a small fraction of the land (the worst part, naturally) into Bantustans but without any jobs so that all the inhabitants of said Bantustans had to immigrate (legally or not) into the whites-only areas and suffer all kinds of harassment, discrimination, low pay, and horrible working and social conditions… or want to imitate the “wealthy” Gulf states where most of the people (and almost all those who actually work with their hands) have no citizenship rights or right to bargain collectively to individually for the redress of grievances, and can be deported or jailed and all possessions confiscated at any time, for almost any reason….

Unless they want to Formally bestow that untermensch status on the Palestinian people and violate all the traditionally Jewish tenets of Tzedekah (Righteousness) or of being Ner laGoyim (Light unto the Nations [ie leading by example]) then they will have to make Israel – Palestine a state that is officially at least binational and where

    Jews (of whatever type [remember that non-Orthodox Jews have less rights there than the Orthodox variety, because the Orthos were able to wangle that status thru the peculiarities of the Israeli parliamentary-coalition electoral system way back in the 1940s and 1950s and never lost them…


      Arabs (again, of whatever variety) and

        any other group have civil and legal and practical equal rights, despite the fact that it looks like right now, the Arab and Jewish populations of Palestine are roughly equal, but Arabs are reproducing more quickly and hence will. ery soon be a majority.

        note what i wrote about the UAE and other Gulf states. As in many parts of the world, a very large fraction of the folks who actually do the low-paid, difficult, and low-esteem jobs in the USA and the Arabian Gulf come from elsewhere (Central & South America for the US; Africa and south Asia for the Emirates) and generally have no rights. The same happens in Europe and the UK but the “illegal immigrants” have origins elsewhere.

        I hope my readers remember hearing of the times when anti-immigrant nativist and racist anger here in the US was directed against the Irish, Itslians, Jews, Germans, Russians, and Poles — around the time my Dad was born (1920). That sort of divisiveness, pitting poor woeking people against each other, has of course enabled the very wealthy industrialists and financiers to earn enirmous fortunes merely for having sone ideas — but others put them into practice and shared very little in the gains, because they had no bargaining power to push for safer or better working cobditions, nor for better short-term or long-term compensation or pensions or health care.

        obviously if on one side you have a small class of multi-millionaires or billionaires with the very best lawyer money can buy, as well as all of the politicians that have sold themselves to their bidding (think of the way that the Koch brothers, as detailed in Dark Money, have managed to get their ability to purchase politicians legalized via Citizens United) — how on earth can a single worker or citizen suffering from low pay and no benefits , such as a Walmart ir McDonalds workee, get any traction? how can they possibly negotiate a better deal on their own? how can an individual un-unionized teacher or airline worker or day-care aide possibly earn a living wage without the voice of a union that has a professional staff of, among ither things, professional lawyers and negotiatirs and researchers on their side? not to mention aides and lobbyists that strictly deal with politicians, health-care plans, and pension funds? I mean, the bosses have all that, and they have the funds to hire the very ablest (and amoral) graduates in every one of the fields i just mentioned, and more! (Tax lovbyists, PR specialists, etc…)

        why is it considered “Christian” to root for the oligarchy and against the poor and the oppressed? where does Jesus adminish us to cast out the rightless and unprivileged wanderer? if you are poor or middle class and dont think the current class structure is unfair to all except the millionaires and billionaires, then you should want to UNITE with other working or middle-class or totally impoverished people TOGETHER. Not under the mysogynistic and anti-immigrant and anti-Union banners of a billionaire who has a proven record of discrimination against Blacks and Latinos; cheating his contractors and employees; and of lying almost as often as he compketes a paragraph?

        (Did know Presiden Obama earned his title of Deporter-in-Chief honestly and fairly, since he deported more people during his term than ANY. OTHER. PRESIDENT.?)

        Now the Republican party (with help of Corporate Democrats) have made the very idea of a union a four-letter word. White workers in the South famouly have long been convinced that they should never unite in a common cause of any sort with Black workers, and the Klan and pilice have been there to shoot or club any workers who got such communistic ideas….
        About 43 years ago I took part in demonstrations alonside my fellow Kibbutzniks against illegal Jewish settlements on occupied territory. obviously, we lost. i suspect that many anti-racist Israelis either left the country or changed their philosophy.

        It is quite sad that states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa, where a middle-class existence for millions vecame possible thanks to concerted, forceful actions by workers of the United Auto Workers Union and many others, have had their kegislatures go so far to the right that virtually all public-employee unions have been decertified. Also, thanks to the actions of money-changers and financial “experts” like the ones in Trump’s and Obama’s cabinets, all of those big industries have either been exported or the jobs therein automated away…

        Do those Republican voters really think its in their best interests to to unite with billionaires and to demonize and uproot millions of poor souls who couldnt possibly pay the bribes needed (or to hire the expensive lawyers) for proper immigration papers — trying to escape some of the most violent and dangerous places on earth?

        I mean, have you ever tried conversing with an immigrant, partly in English and partly in their language, and asked them about their life and ahared something about yours?

        Published in: on February 19, 2017 at 7:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

        Foreign Applications for US Engineering Schools Way Down

        From SCIENCE:


        Amid the uncertainty over U.S. immigration policy, one fact is sending a chill through U.S. higher education: Some U.S. graduate programs in engineering, Science has learned, are seeing a sharp drop this year in the number of applications from international students. University administrators worry that the declines, as much as 30% from 2016 levels in some programs, reflect heightened fears among foreign-born students that the United States is tightening its borders. Given the timing, the officials suspect the cause is President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric during the campaign and his election, rather than the White House’s 27 January travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries, which is now in legal limbo. A continued downturn, officials say, could threaten U.S. global leadership in science and engineering by shrinking the pool of talent available to carry out academic research. It could also hinder innovation in industry, given that most foreign-born engineering students take jobs with U.S. companies after graduation.”

        Published in: on February 17, 2017 at 8:44 am  Leave a Comment  

        Some Leftists are Going to Syria to Fight With Kurdish Leftists Against ISIS

        I had no idea. Sounds a little like what happened with the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War.

         The article is here.

        Published in: on February 15, 2017 at 11:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

        Puzder Withdraws!

        Even this is almost  is a joke in Yiddish, it’s true. About 40 hours after the deranged and fact-adverse National Security chief had to quit, now #45’s nominee for Labor Secretary also withdrew.

        Celebrate! It looks like Marmalade Mussolini is getting good at losing. 

        Even a few Repugnican senators apparently couldn’t stomach the idea of voting for a labor secretary who had made his wealth on screwing over workers in such an obvious and egregious fashion.

        See http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/15/trumps-labor-secretary-pick-andy-puzder-is-expected-to-withdraw-official-tells-nbc-news.html

        Published in: on February 15, 2017 at 5:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

        “Brave New World” or “1984”?

        I just looked it up: the dystopian novel  “1984” by George Orwell is right now the #1 best seller in political fiction on Amazon. 

        But I personally think the current US political situation might be closer to the dystopia described by Aldous Huxley: “Brave New World.” 

        I read them both, many years ago. I love reading, but They were so depressing that I had a really hard time finishing them. 

        Whether you’ve read them or not, here is a pretty neat cartoon comparison of the two novels. Which one do you think is closer to modeling our current abysmal political situation?


        Published in: on February 13, 2017 at 12:48 pm  Comments (2)  

        Join the March for Science

        The real world and the people in it do not benefit from lies, propaganda, and “alternative facts.” A march in favor of the objective study of reality (i.e. science) is being organized for April 22. Find the details here:


        Published in: on February 12, 2017 at 7:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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