What is the Concerned 4 DCPS list-serve about?

One of my posts that I think I wrote on a Nook when I was in hospital about 6 weeks ago suddenly surfaced after I found the device, out of power, in the bottom of one of the bags of stuff (bathrobes, undershirts, moccasins, reading matter, smart phone, toiletries, street clothes) as I shuttled back and forth from home to hospital over the past month and a half. It had run out of juice with an unsent message inside, I suspect.

Here was the question that then inspired me to write:

“I was at the table when Roger started this group and outlines our purpose and started this listserve…

But know it seems that it has disintegrated into an argument between an “a self perceived elite inner circle” that alienates all those not in the “circle”

But I may have it wrong…….so I’ll ask the question……..what is this listserve about and who is this listserve for?”

— On Fri, 3/16/12, Gfb-yahoo <gfbrandenburg@yahoo.com> wrote: some stuff that resurfaced out of the blue from  Date: Friday, March 16, 2012, 11:27 PM

And here’s what I wrote:

I thought the idea was to provide a forum for folks who are concerned about the fate of DC public schools (and the kids and adults who learn and work in them) and who wanted it to not only continue to exist, but to get seriously better. I thought that part of the common commitment on this list was an opposition to vouchers, and definitely NOT an advocacy for turning regular public schools into charter schools. However, I suspect that we all know that DC public tax funds do pay for our charter schools, so the conclusion should be that those charter students and teachers and staff (but not the hedge fund millionaires and their acolytes who seem to sit on many of their boards and try to shape policy) are part of our concern as well. And we’re very concerned that faculty turnover rates at many schools in DC seem to be getting higher and higher. (And truancy and serious misbehavior seems to be willed into non-existence by administrators who want to appear to be in control, so that they can keep their own jobs.)

I happen to be a retired DCPS math teacher, a parent of two kids who did K-12 in DCPS and graduated went to college and are married and busy as all get-out with very productive careers and familes. I’m a former DCPS student myself (also MgyCoPS) but didn’t do HS or u-grad here but I think I’m a 3rd or 4th generation Washingtonian, and am still married to the same wonderful woman who teaches K and pre_K at a DCPS early learning center. Now that I’m retired (thank god, the Left, labor unions, the various civil service and pension acts, and the civil rights and women’s movements for that) , I found a little mathematics / education / activism niche that seemed to need filling, since I couldn’t find many folks around DC that appeared to have the time and whatever to dig into the numbers and show that the current corporate education DEform movement was not doing good things at all for … pretty much anybody except the large test publishing companies and all corporations that want to destroy labor unions — which is pretty much all of them, even using their own benchmarks and yardsticks.

I’ve been trying to show that the corporate educational DEform movement is all a fantasy based on  wishful thinking, not on careful experimentation at some selected locations, then analyzing that, getting feedback from the teachers and parents and students and administrators, tweaking or throwing out certain elements and bringing in another one, until you really find something that works well. Then, and only then, do you scale up more broadly to see if you can replicate the desired effect. (I like what Diane pointed out concerning Texas. I’m inspired to draw some NAEP data out and let folks see for themselves whether there was a Texas Miracle or not.)

One of the troubling aspects of educational research is that “scaling up” of even favorable experiments often fails. Education is really is a lot harder than rocket science, where there are well-known formulas for scaling things up, and you can run the same experiment over and over again with almost unlimited funding. But very little in the corporate educational DEform program was ever tried out anywhere, Diane R points out in her article.

On the third hand, we now have 20 years of experimentation along the lines of mayoral control of schools, NCLB, and RTTT, closing down schools based on test scores, turning public schools over to private companies, merit pay, firing teachers based on test scores, and so on. As a result we can definitely draw some factual conclusions about whether you get any miracles when you try any of those corporate educational DEforms.

And the answer is, NO.

I’ve tried to show by relatively simple line and bar and circle and scatterplots that the corporate educational DEformers have produced no obvious miracle at all. In fact, it looks like most of the time, they make everything worse based even on their own yardsticks, i.e. test scores and graduation rates. It’s been gratifying to find a number of others doing the same thing. Gary Rubenstein has one such blog, and he’s pointed out some excellent data and conclusions to me as well.

I regret that while I was teaching I blew my one opportunity to ask Michelle Rhee about all those lies in her resume. I hadn’t reviewed the documents carefully beforehand, and was not sure that my recall of details would be sufficient or even accurate. So I stuck to the topic that we teachers had agreed on beforehand. {Rhee is a scarily smart person. I never was on a debate team, unlike MR. Plus, did I want to get singled out somehow when I only had a month or two to go before retiring? I do have a family.}

I haven’t written much on my blog for a while because I’ve been really sick with Crohn’s disease, with two more operations. Wish I’d felt good enough to go to that meeting on Thursday. I’m getting better.
Published in: on May 7, 2012 at 12:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

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