EduDEformistas are all about data — how to “massage” it until it looks good to their wealthy backers

Educational Deformers like Tony Bennett, Michelle Rhee, and others proclaim that they are “data-driven“.

They don’t tell you the rest of that slogan, however. It goes like this:

“…unless the data contradict what we keep claiming; in that case, then we  fake or alter the data!

In a secondary-school science project where a student fakes their measurements to get the “right” answer in  their expeiment, it’s not so serious, though it’s not good there, either, because some of those dishonest students end up being dishonest researchers or scientists claiming breakthroughs that don’t exist. Many studies have shown that high-achieving college students admit quite readily to all sorts of cheating while they were students at the university.  We see quite clearly many of them are making a mint continuing to do so as traders or bankers on Wall Street, as businessmen, as politicians, as bankers, and now as educational deformers.

This is a just as serious as a medical researcher lying and physically harming patients they’ve never met. These DEformistas are in fact playing with people’s lives and are in my view using their power to  create an increasingly segregated, unjust, and unequal national, state, and local school system here in America – and justifying it with utterly bogus data. Or data that they just make up because they don’t know how to do it properly.*

Here is one example: in Washington, DC, we have had data chiefs like Erin McGoldrick who apparently knew very little math and even less statistics. Remember: over a two-year period, while her boss (Rhee) was pressing principals to come up with fraudulent test scores, McGoldrick had to pay someone else over $218 THOUSAND to do all the statistics and data for her, because she didn’t know how?

But she was Michelle Rhee’s “data chief”.

McGoldrick’s successor, according to my sources, appears to be even more clueless about basic math or stats than EMcG.

Nothing Michelle Rhee ever said  convinced me that she knew any statistics, either. However, she has a singular ability to find some unconnected facts, distort them, and come out with a plausible-sounding story without a whiff of truth behind it.

(You remember the often-repeated story that she had taken a class with over 90% of its kids being below the thirteenth percentile to having over 90% of them being ABOVE the 90th percentile? Finally she admitted to me when I grilled her on this on the Kojo Nnamdi show, that none of that happened; she giggled at me to show what an idiot *I* was for insisting on actual data — which I actually found when somebody told me where they were! But Rhee insisted that her kids did make some sort of progress  {which she can’t quantify, because she and her principal claimed they kept no records.} )

The latest example of this kind of fraud – because that’s what it is – comes from Indiana

There, Tony Bennett and his underlings worked very hard to manipulate their state’s entire school-grading methodology so that a single charter school would get a grade of “A”, instead of a “C”.

I’m not making this up.

An Associated Press reporter got hold of the emails and other documents related to this, and gives you quotes showing that this deception was quite deliberate, and was primarily aimed at making this one charter school look good.

Why did they work so hard to save the reputation of this particular charter school?

Because that particular charter school was owned by a time-share profiteer who liked giving money to foundations and causes run by people like Rhee, Bennett, and so on.

Don’t believe me? Read on.

Tom LoBianco | Associated Press

Tony Bennett

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold “failing” schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett’s education team frantically overhauled his signature “A-F” school grading system to improve the school’s marks.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan’s school received an “A,” despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a “C.”

“They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work,” Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence’s chief lobbyist.

The emails, which also show Bennett discussed with staff the legality of changing just DeHaan’s grade, raise unsettling questions about the validity of a grading system that has broad implications. Indiana uses the A-F grades to determine which schools get taken over by the state and whether students seeking state-funded vouchers to attend private school need to first spend a year in public school. They also help determine how much state funding schools receive.

A low grade also can detract from a neighborhood and drive homebuyers elsewhere.

Bennett, who now is reworking Florida’s grading system as that state’s education commissioner, reviewed the emails Monday morning and denied that DeHaan’s school received special treatment. He said discovering that the charter would receive a low grade raised broader concerns with grades for other “combined” schools — those that included multiple grade levels — across the state.

“There was not a secret about this,” he said. “This wasn’t just to give Christel House an A. It was to make sure the system was right to make sure the system was face valid.”

However, the emails clearly show Bennett’s staff was intensely focused on Christel House, whose founder has given more than $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett and thousands more to state legislative leaders.

Other schools saw their grades change, but the emails show DeHaan’s charter was the catalyst for any changes.

Bennett rocketed to prominence with the help of former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and a national network of Republican leaders and donors, such as DeHaan. Bennett is a co-founder of Bush’s Chiefs for Change, a group consisting mostly of Republican state school superintendents pushing school vouchers, teacher merit pay and many other policies enacted by Bennett in Indiana.

Though Indiana had had a school ranking system since 1999, Bennett switched to the A-F system and made it a signature item of his education agenda, raising the stakes for schools statewide.

Bennett consistently cited Christel House as a top-performing school as he secured support for the measure from business groups and lawmakers, including House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long.

But trouble loomed when Indiana’s then-grading director, Jon Gubera, first alerted Bennett on Sept. 12 that the Christel House Academy had scored less than an A.

“This will be a HUGE problem for us,” Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12, 2012, email to Neal.

Neal fired back a few minutes later, “Oh, crap. We cannot release until this is resolved.”

By Sept. 13, Gubera unveiled it was a 2.9, or a “C.”

A weeklong behind-the-scenes scramble ensued among Bennett, assistant superintendent Dale Chu, Gubera, Neal and other top staff at the Indiana Department of Education. They examined ways to lift Christel House from a “C” to an “A,” including adjusting the presentation of color charts to make a high “B” look like an “A” and changing the grade just for Christel House.

It’s not clear from the emails exactly how Gubera changed the grading formula, but they do show DeHaan’s grade jumping twice.

“That’s like parting the Red Sea to get numbers to move that significantly,” Jeff Butts, superintendent of Wayne Township schools in Indianapolis, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

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  1. Reblogged this on Crazy Crawfish's Blog and commented:
    We have our own share of EduDeformistas in Louisiana. Perhaps you heard of the Seabaugh Solution? Well, that’s not the only one, merely one of the most documented one (with the help of a taped phone conversation between Superintendent John White and Representative Seabaugh, where White famously proclaimed where data was driven solutions were good, “but sometimes it was not a smart idea to use the data.” (Such as when the data doesn’t say what you want it too.) This has happened in St Helena too, where the Recovery School District filed a brief with the Federal Court in regards to their 50 year old desegregation suit stating allowing St Helena to add grades to their schools that were taken over by RSD would lead to resegregation (actually the RSD caused a dramatic decrease in white enrollment, not the other way around) and they also provided statistics backing up their “Reform” from an entirely different school district, not the middle school in St Helena RSD took over which is almost certainly the worst performing school in the state.
    Thanks for this summary of two recent data scandals about Tony Bennett and Michelle Rhee.

    Like


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