Mike Martin on Lead Poisoning and Public Institutions

This is long but well worth reading in light of lead scandals in Flint and other places. I’m reposting from the EDDRA2 list serve.

I’m still here. You asked for my response, so here is my opinion.
There is nothing particularly controversial here. The connection between test scores and lead poisoning was known back in 2001 when I published my summary of the effect of lead poisoning on failing schools (A Strange Ignorance http://zoniedude.com/issues/StrangeIgnorance.pdf ). The research since then has made this even more concrete, for multiple reasons. First, lead interferes with the brain establishing long term memory, so lead poisoned students literally cannot learn (there is actually a quote from a pediatrician in my 2001 report to this point).
Second, and perhaps more importantly, lead poisoning symptoms include irritability, impulsivity, and aggression. This results in behavior similar to ADHD that interferes with learning. But the lead induced impulsive behavior means lead poisoned children cannot sit still in class and “behave.” This is the crucial reason charter schools thrive in lead poisoned areas: they stress “discipline” and expell impulsive kids, thus screening out the lower scoring lead poisoned children.
Third, lead poisoning completely disrupts the learning environment. Lead poisoned children who try to learn, work hard to learn, but their brains cannot learn creates enormous frustration. These frustrated children are also impulsive, aggressive and irritable because those are the common symptoms of lead poisoning. So they tend to disrupt classrooms and interfere with other students learning even if they are not lead poisoned.
As a consequence, schools in areas with high lead poisoning incidence will have both low test scores and disruptive environments purely consistent with the known symptoms of lead poisoning. Just for the record, I have research reports showing the inability of laboratory rats to learn if they are lead poisoned. I have research about the higher levels of aggression in cats that have been lead poisoned. There is research on monkeys and other animals showing that these lead poisoning symptoms occur in other mammals.
When Dubya was elected he received only ten percent of the Black vote. He was elected by a party known to have enormous animosity toward the Black population. That party was known for using “code words” for racism and use other behaviors against the Black popullation. They knew that using test scores to measure school success would label schools in Black neighborhoods as failures.NCLB wasn’t an accident.
I published articles showing that testing experts were almost uniformly against using test scores to label schools. They understood the mathematics of test scoring showed this to be an invalid process. Indeed one national expert said measuing education with test scores was equivalent to measuring temperature with a spoon. I also published a report demonstrating an extremely high correlation between NAEP scores and the percentage of students who were non-poor White ( http://zoniedude.com/issues/naepdemographics.pdf ) which meant that rewarding high test scores primarily benefitted non-poor White schools.
Many of you may remember my essay “Waiting for Superfraud” in which I pointed out that the financial company Merrill Lynch had published a book on how companies could access billions of dollars in education funds by discrediting publich schools. This signaled a corporate effort to divert education funds to private pockets. The charter school effort was just the most obvious of this, but the testing demands were part and parcel. There were highly funded “think tanks” devoted to distorting statistics to show public schools were failing. Which was why my Superfraud essay began with “Public schools have to fail. There is no alternative. So give up trying to argue otherwise with facts and logic.” Facts and logic have nothing to do with failing schools.
When I began to look intently at the process involved in undermining public schools, I discovered that it wasn’t an isolated effort. There exists a major effort funded by billionaires to undermine all public institutions. The process is simple, create distorted circumstances and then spoon feed the media hysteria inducing ‘facts’. Then they call for privatization to divert public money to private pockets. The Veterans Administration is going through this process right now. There exists a political effort to discredit all government activity in order to reduce public protections and safety as well as to raid the public purse.
The BlackCommentator focuses on another of the scams used. Gentrification gets good press because it raises test scores. I previously noted that a Native American charter school in Oakland was nationally recognized for improving test scores, but the only reason the scores increased was because Native American students were displaced by Asian American students. Similarly in San Francisco a failing public school was taken over by a profit making administrator and scores increased, but on analysis they only increased because they quit allowing low-income Black students from attending the school. This latter drill is actually quite common.
High stakes test scores serve no purpose other than to discriminate against students in circumstances where low test scores are designed into the system. In fact, I even demonstrated mathematically that if schools raised the test scores of low-scoring students, then the process they use to standardize tests would lower the test scores of all the students (see: http://zoniedude.com/issues/paradoxb.htm and http://zoniedude.com/issues/paradoxcompare.htm plus http://zoniedude.com/issues/paradoxnaep.htm ).
But the real issue is not about lead poisoning, or test scores. It is about discrediting public institutions. Look at the hearings about Flint: the Congress is entirely attacking the EPA (see: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/03/how-should-we-talk-about-flints-lead-problem ) because the only acceptable conclusion is that the federal government failed.
I know this is long and difficult. That is what I do: analyze difficult issues. In November 2007 I posted an essay on this listserv noting that the country was on the verge of a global depression and that was the overwhelming issue that needed to be focused on. I received some grief on that and today I still read about how nobody could have known in 2008 that the Great Recession was underway. The facts are out there today just as they were in 2007. 
The real process we need to consider about low test scores and lead poisoning is that both serve the purpose of discrediting public institutions. That is the real issue. We are in the midst of powerfull people stealing our democracy.

Mike Martin

Phoenix, Az
On 3/19/2016 6:57 AM, Bob Valiant bob.valiant@gmail.com [EDDRA2] wrote:


Is Mike Martin still a subscriber? If so I would like to hear from him on this topic.
Bob Valiant
On Sat, Mar 19, 2016 at 6:22 AM, ‘Dr. Wesley L. Boykin’ wesboy@att.net [EDDRA2] <EDDRA2-noreply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:



“There are strong relationships between long-term 

lead poisoning (oftentimes unacknowledged and/or 

denied) and standardized testing outcomes in 

poverty-ridden school districts where the majority 

of students are African American and Hispanic or 

members of other racial minority groups.”
Click here for links to all parts of this series
Flint, Michigan’s problem with lead in its water system (promoted directly by Cartel member, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder) far exceeds the level considered acceptable according to the federal government’s national standard (15 parts per billion). The national attention to the dangers of lead poisoned water generated by this crisis has flushed out similar troubles with lead in a number of post-industrial cities: Milwaukee, Newark, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, and others. The cities with the highest concentrations of lead in their water systems are also those with public school districts that have majority-minority student populations (mostly African American and Hispanic).


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Published in: on March 21, 2016 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

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