Part Two: Cheating in DCPS

DC Education Reform Ten Years After, 

Part 2: Test Cheats

Richard P Phelps

Ten years ago, I worked as the Director of Assessments for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). For temporal context, I arrived after the first of the infamous test cheating scandals and left just before the incident that spawned a second. Indeed, I filled a new position created to both manage test security and design an expanded testing program. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray, who opposed an expanded testing program, defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary. My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as Chancellor. 

The recurring test cheating scandals of the Rhee-Henderson years may seem extraordinary but, in fairness, DCPS was more likely than the average US school district to be caught because it received a much higher degree of scrutiny. Given how tests are typically administered in this country, the incidence of cheating is likely far greater than news accounts suggest, for several reasons: 

·      in most cases, those who administer tests—schoolteachers and administrators—have an interest in their results;

·      test security protocols are numerous and complicated yet, nonetheless, the responsibility of non-expert ordinary school personnel, guaranteeing their inconsistent application across schools and over time; 

·      after-the-fact statistical analyses are not legal proof—the odds of a certain amount of wrong-to-right erasures in a single classroom on a paper-and-pencil test being coincidental may be a thousand to one, but one-in-a-thousand is still legally plausible; and

·      after-the-fact investigations based on interviews are time-consuming, scattershot, and uneven. 

Still, there were measures that the Rhee-Henderson administrations could have adopted to substantially reduce the incidence of cheating, but they chose none that might have been effective. Rather, they dug in their heels, insisted that only a few schools had issues, which they thoroughly resolved, and repeatedly denied any systematic problem.  

Cheating scandals

From 2007 to 2009 rumors percolated of an extraordinary level of wrong-to-right erasures on the test answer sheets at many DCPS schools. “Erasure analysis” is one among several “red flag” indicators that testing contractors calculate to monitor cheating. The testing companies take no responsibility for investigating suspected test cheating, however; that is the customer’s, the local or state education agency. 

In her autobiographical account of her time as DCPS Chancellor, Michelle Johnson (nee Rhee), wrote (p. 197)

“For the first time in the history of DCPS, we brought in an outside expert to examine and audit our system. Caveon Test Security – the leading expert in the field at the time – assessed our tests, results, and security measures. Their investigators interviewed teachers, principals, and administrators.

“Caveon found no evidence of systematic cheating. None.”

Caveon, however, had not looked for “systematic” cheating. All they did was interview a few people at several schools where the statistical anomalies were more extraordinary than at others. As none of those individuals would admit to knowingly cheating, Caveon branded all their excuses as “plausible” explanations. That’s it; that is all that Caveon did. But, Caveon’s statement that they found no evidence of “widespread” cheating—despite not having looked for it—would be frequently invoked by DCPS leaders over the next several years.[1]

Incidentally, prior to the revelation of its infamous decades-long, systematic test cheating, the Atlanta Public Schools had similarly retained Caveon Test Security and was, likewise, granted a clean bill of health. Only later did the Georgia state attorney general swoop in and reveal the truth. 

In its defense, Caveon would note that several cheating prevention measures it had recommended to DCPS were never adopted.[2] None of the cheating prevention measures that I recommended were adopted, either.

The single most effective means for reducing in-classroom cheating would have been to rotate teachers on test days so that no teacher administered a test to his or her own students. It would not have been that difficult to randomly assign teachers to different classrooms on test days.

The single most effective means for reducing school administratorcheating would have been to rotate test administrators on test days so that none managed the test materials for their own schools. The visiting test administrators would have been responsible for keeping test materials away from the school until test day, distributing sealed test booklets to the rotated teachers on test day, and for collecting re-sealed test booklets at the end of testing and immediately removing them from the school. 

Instead of implementing these, or a number of other feasible and effective test security measures, DCPS leaders increased the number of test proctors, assigning each of a few dozen or so central office staff a school to monitor. Those proctors could not reasonably manage the volume of oversight required. A single DC test administration could encompass a hundred schools and a thousand classrooms.

Investigations

So, what effort, if any, did DCPS make to counter test cheating? They hired me, but then rejected all my suggestions for increasing security. Also, they established a telephone tip line. Anyone who suspected cheating could report it, even anonymously, and, allegedly, their tip would be investigated. 

Some forms of cheating are best investigated through interviews. Probably the most frequent forms of cheating at DCPS—teachers helping students during test administrations and school administrators looking at test forms prior to administration—leave no statistical residue. Eyewitness testimony is the only type of legal evidence available in such cases, but it is not just inconsistent, it may be socially destructive. 

I remember two investigations best: one occurred in a relatively well-to-do neighborhood with well-educated parents active in school affairs; the other in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Superficially, the cases were similar—an individual teacher was accused of helping his or her own students with answers during test administrations. Making a case against either elementary school teacher required sworn testimony from eyewitnesses, that is, students—eight-to-ten-year olds. 

My investigations, then, consisted of calling children into the principal’s office one-by-one to be questioned about their teacher’s behavior. We couldn’t hide the reason we were asking the questions. And, even though each student agreed not to tell others what had occurred in their visit to the principal’s office, we knew we had only one shot at an uncorrupted jury pool. 

Though the accusations against the two teachers were similar and the cases against them equally strong, the outcomes could not have been more different. In the high-poverty neighborhood, the students seemed suspicious and said little; none would implicate the teacher, whom they all seemed to like. 

In the more prosperous neighborhood, students were more outgoing, freely divulging what they had witnessed. The students had discussed the alleged coaching with their parents who, in turn, urged them to tell investigators what they knew. During his turn in the principal’s office, the accused teacher denied any wrongdoing. I wrote up each interview, then requested that each student read and sign. 

Thankfully, that accused teacher made a deal and left the school system a few weeks later. Had he not, we would have required the presence in court of the eight-to-ten-year olds to testify under oath against their former teacher, who taught multi-grade classes. Had that prosecution not succeeded, the eyewitness students could have been routinely assigned to his classroom the following school year.

My conclusion? Only in certain schools is the successful prosecution of a cheating teacher through eyewitness testimony even possible. But, even where possible, it consumes inordinate amounts of time and, otherwise, comes at a high price, turning young innocents against authority figures they naturally trusted. 

Cheating blueprints

Arguably the most widespread and persistent testing malfeasance in DCPS received little attention from the press. Moreover, it was directly propagated by District leaders, who published test blueprints on the web. Put simply, test “blueprints” are lists of the curricular standards (e.g., “student shall correctly add two-digit numbers”) and the number of test items included in an upcoming test related to each standard. DC had been advance publishing its blueprints for years.

I argued that the way DC did it was unethical. The head of the Division of Data & Accountability, Erin McGoldrick, however, defended the practice, claimed it was common, and cited its existence in the state of California as precedent. The next time she and I met for a conference call with one of DCPS’s test providers, Discover Education, I asked their sales agent how many of their hundreds of other customers advance-published blueprints. His answer: none.

In the state of California, the location of McGoldrick’s only prior professional experience, blueprints were, indeed, published in advance of test administrations. But their tests were longer than DC’s and all standards were tested. Publication of California’s blueprints served more to remind the populace what the standards were in advance of each test administration. Occasionally, a standard considered to be of unusual importance might be assigned a greater number of test items than the average, and the California blueprints signaled that emphasis. 

In Washington, DC, the tests used in judging teacher performance were shorter, covering only some of each year’s standards. So, DC’s blueprints showed everyone well in advance of the test dates exactly which standards would be tested and which would not. For each teacher, this posed an ethical dilemma: should they “narrow the curriculum” by teaching only that content they knew would be tested? Or, should they do the right thing and teach all the standards, as they were legally and ethically bound to, even though it meant spending less time on the to-be-tested content? It’s quite a conundrum when one risks punishment for behaving ethically.

Monthly meetings convened to discuss issues with the districtwide testing program, the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS)—administered to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. All public schools, both DCPS and charters, administered those tests. At one of these regular meetings, two representatives from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) announced plans to repair the broken blueprint process.[3]

The State Office employees argued thoughtfully and reasonably that it was professionally unethical to advance publish DC test blueprints. Moreover, they had surveyed other US jurisdictions in an effort to find others that followed DC’s practice and found none. I was the highest-ranking DCPS employee at the meeting and I expressed my support, congratulating them for doing the right thing. I assumed that their decision was final.

I mentioned the decision to McGoldrick, who expressed surprise and speculation that it might have not been made at the highest level in the organizational hierarchy. Wasting no time, she met with other DCPS senior managers and the proposed change was forthwith shelved. In that, and other ways, the DCPS tail wagged the OSSE dog. 

* * *

It may be too easy to finger ethical deficits for the recalcitrant attitude toward test security of the Rhee-Henderson era ed reformers. The columnist Peter Greene insists that knowledge deficits among self-appointed education reformers also matter: 

“… the reformistan bubble … has been built from Day One without any actual educators inside it. Instead, the bubble is populated by rich people, people who want rich people’s money, people who think they have great ideas about education, and even people who sincerely want to make education better. The bubble does not include people who can turn to an Arne Duncan or a Betsy DeVos or a Bill Gates and say, ‘Based on my years of experience in a classroom, I’d have to say that idea is ridiculous bullshit.’”

“There are a tiny handful of people within the bubble who will occasionally act as bullshit detectors, but they are not enough. The ed reform movement has gathered power and money and set up a parallel education system even as it has managed to capture leadership roles within public education, but the ed reform movement still lacks what it has always lacked–actual teachers and experienced educators who know what the hell they’re talking about.”

In my twenties, I worked for several years in the research department of a state education agency. My primary political lesson from that experience, consistently reinforced subsequently, is that most education bureaucrats tell the public that the system they manage works just fine, no matter what the reality. They can get away with this because they control most of the evidence and can suppress it or spin it to their advantage.

In this proclivity, the DCPS central office leaders of the Rhee-Henderson era proved themselves to be no different than the traditional public-school educators they so casually demonized. 

US school systems are structured to be opaque and, it seems, both educators and testing contractors like it that way. For their part, and contrary to their rhetoric, Rhee, Henderson, and McGoldrick passed on many opportunities to make their system more transparent and accountable.

Education policy will not improve until control of the evidence is ceded to genuinely independent third parties, hired neither by the public education establishment nor by the education reform club.

The author gratefully acknowledges the fact-checking assistance of Erich Martel and Mary Levy.

Access this testimonial in .pdf format

Citation:  Phelps, R. P. (2020, September). Looking Back on DC Education Reform 10 Years After, Part 2: Test Cheats. Nonpartisan Education Review / Testimonials. https://nonpartisaneducation.org/Review/Testimonials/v16n3.htm


[1] A perusal of Caveon’s website clarifies that their mission is to help their clients–state and local education departments–not get caught. Sometimes this means not cheating in the first place; other times it might mean something else. One might argue that, ironically, Caveon could be helping its clients to cheat in more sophisticated ways and cover their tracks better.

[2] Among them: test booklets should be sealed until the students open them and resealed by the students immediately after; and students should be assigned seats on test day and a seating chart submitted to test coordinators (necessary for verifying cluster patterns in student responses that would suggest answer copying).

[3] Yes, for those new to the area, the District of Columbia has an Office of the “State” Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Its domain of relationships includes not just the regular public schools (i.e., DCPS), but also other public schools (i.e., charters) and private schools. Practically, it primarily serves as a conduit for funneling money from a menagerie of federal education-related grant and aid programs

Gangsters Like Trump Don’t Like Written Records, but they DO Expect to Get their Cut

The point being, Donald Trump is acting like a gangster. As usual. Pay attention to what this criminal actually says.

From The Bulwark (so I, Guy Brandenburg did NOT write this.)

1. A Piece of the Action
My favorite movie of the 2000s (non-Dark Knight division) is a British gangster film called Layer Cake.

I highly recommend it.

Layer Cake is a lot of things: It’s about class and ambition and history and generational conflict. 

But as much as anything else, it’s about business. I say this with all sincerity: Layer Cake is probably the best business movie ever made.

Please permit a digression from the movie.

Layercake revolves around a drug dealer called Mr. X who is a middle-tier operator. He buys from wholesalers and then sells the product to the regional distributors, who then split the parcels up and get them to local dealers. Who finally punt it to the end users.

At each step along on the chain, one of the middlemen takes a bite.

At the top of the pyramid is semi-respectable mogul named Jimmy Price. And Jimmy is the supplier who puts Mr. X in touch with the wholesalers. For this, Jimmy gets a cut of every transaction.

At the start of the movie, Jimmy puts Mr. X together with a gangster called the Duke, who has one million tabs of ecstasy. When Mr. X discovers that the Duke has stolen those pills from a Serbian gang run by war criminals—who are trying to get them back—he decides that he should walk away from the deal, because it’s going to get him killed.

And at this point, Mr. X tries to tell Jimmy’s right-hand enforcer, Gene, that the deal with the Duke is off. At which point Gene explains to him the facts of life:
 Gene: Between you and the Duke, you promised Jimmy a bumper payday. So you better get busy.Mr. X: I said I’d try and offload—Gene: He put you together. You and Duke. That’s his job. If you two can’t make music? He’s gonna want his whack out, either way. That’s business.
I mention all of this because on Tuesday the president of the United States held forth on the prospective sale of the Chinese spyware engine TikTok to Microsoft. Here is what the president said: We set a date, I set a date, of around September 15th, at which point it’s going to be out of business in the United States. But if somebody, whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else, buys it, that’ll be interesting.I did say that if you buy it, whatever the price is, that goes to whoever owns it, because I guess it’s China, essentially, but more than anything else, I said a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States. Because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen. Right now they don’t have any rights, unless we give it to ’em. So if we’re going to give them the rights, then it has to come into, it has to come into this country.
I mean, this isn’t exactly what Gene tells Mr. X in Layer Cake. But it’s . . . close?

The president of the United States has set a deadline for a sale and told the prospective buyer and seller that he expects to get his whack out. And that he believes he is entitled to do this because neither the buyer nor seller “[have] any rights unless we give it to ’em.”The only thing Trump isn’t doing here is telling Microsoft that they’re going to have to pay whether or not the deal gets done, because he did his job of putting them together.

This is not normal.

This is not how first-world governments work.

It is, however, how gangsters operate.

Do you remember the scene in the Mueller report where Trump flips out at his lawyer, Don McGahn, about his note-taking?
 The President also asked McGahn in the meeting why he had told Special Counsel’s Office investigators that the President had told him to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn responded that he had to and these conversations with the President were not protected by attorney-client privilege. The President then asked, “What about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes.” McGahn responded that he keeps notes because he is a “real lawyer” and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing. (page 117)
Or do you remember when Trump wanted to communicate a message to his attorney general, but instead of calling him, or drafting a memo, or dispatching his chief of staff, he called in a private citizen (Corey Lewandowski), dictated a note to him (insisting that he write it down), then dispatched him to deliver the message to his own AG, and the messenger refused to give the message to the AG over the phone or at DoJ, since either of those methods of communication would leave a trail.

Again: This is not normal.

America is being run like a banana republic. A kleptocracy. A criminal enterprise.

And keep in mind this TikTok stuff is a subject where, as I said on Monday, Trump is right on the merits!

But even when he’s right, his corruption is so total that everything he touches is toxified.

How to decide if anybody should listen to your ideas on how and whether to re-open schools, or maybe you should just hush.

Peter Greene has provided a nice flow chart to let you decide whether you should open your mouth with your ideas on how and whether to re-open the public schools, or whether you should just be quiet and listen.

So, should you just hush, or do you have something valuable to contribute to this subject?

My wife and I each taught for 30 years or so, and so we would be in the ‘speak right up’ category, but I don’t really know how the USA can get public education to work next year, especially since the danger is not going away, but apparently once more growing at an exponential clip.

Nobody should be listening to billionaires or their bought-and-paid-for policy wonks who once spent a whole two years in a classroom.

A few quotes from Greene’s column. (He is a much better writer than me, and much more original as well.)

==================================

To everyone who was never a classroom teacher but who has some ideas about how school should be reopened in the fall:

Hush.

Just hush.

There are some special categories of life experiences. Divorce. Parenthood. Deafness. Living as a Black person in the US. Classroom teacher. They are very different experiences, but they all have on thing in common.

You can read about these things. But if you haven’t lived it, you don’t know. You can study up, read up, talk to people. And in some rare cases that brings you close enough to knowing that your insights might actually be useful.

But mostly, you are a Dunning-Krueger case study just waiting to be written up.

The last thirty-seven-ish years of education have been marked by one major feature– a whole lot of people who just don’t know, throwing their weight around and trying to set the conditions under which the people who actually do the work will have to try to actually do the work. Policy wonks, privateers, Teach for America pass-throughs, guys who wanted to run for President, folks walking by on the street who happen to be filthy rich, amateurs who believe their ignorance is a qualification– everyone has stuck their oar in to try to reshape US education. And in ordinary times, as much as I argue against these folks, I would not wave my magic wand to silence them, because 1) educators are just as susceptible as anyone to becoming too insular and entrenched and convinced of their own eternal rightness and 2) it is a teacher’s job to serve all those amateurs, so it behooves the education world to listen, even if what they hear is 98% bosh.

But that’s in ordinary times, and these are not ordinary times.

There’s a whole lot of discussion about the issues involved in starting up school this fall. The discussion is made difficult by the fact that all options stink. It is further complicated by the loud voices of people who literally do not know what they are talking about.

100 Reasons to Conclude DJT is Unfit to be President

This is from something called Bulwark. But they left out a lot! Here is the article:

Part of the mad genius of Donald J. Trump is that he never runs from scandals. He just creates more of them. So many more that anyone attempting to track them all risks becoming numb as a survival mechanism.

A collective amnesia sets in. We ask ourselves, “Do you remember that time when Trump got impeached, said that super-racist thing, cozied up to dictators, threatened our elections, or oh, whatever that was?”

Well, we at The Bulwark do. Yes, it can be hard to keep up. We all need reminders. So, lest anyone forget or require convincing, here’s a non-exhaustive list of 100 reasons Donald Trump is unfit to be president.

1  1985-1994

Reported $1.17 billion in business losses over the decade. Trump “appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer,” according to the New York Times.

2  May 1, 1989

Took out $85,000-worth of full-page ads in New York newspapers calling for the death penalty for the Central Park Five—whose convictions were later vacated after DNA evidence proved their innocence. Trump never apologized.

3  1990s

Contrary to his story of being a self-made billionaire, Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real-estate empire, much of it transferred through suspect tax-dodging schemes.

4  1991-2009

Declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy for his various businesses six times.

5  2005

Bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy” in a conversation with Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush picked up on a hot mic.

6  2011-2016

Promoted birtherism against President Barack Obama—the false claim that Obama was not born in the United States, that his birth certificate was fraudulent, and that therefore he was constitutionally ineligible for the presidency.

7  2015-2016

Attacked in sexist and demeaning ways women who raised critical questions about his character. See: Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Hillary Clinton.

8  2015-present

Denies accusations of sexual misconduct, ranging from unwanted kissing to rape, by calling the women “liars” and not “his type.”

9  June 16, 2015

Announced his presidential campaign by describing America as “a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.” Mexicans coming to America, he said, were “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

10  July 18, 2015

Said Vietnam POW John McCain is “not a war hero” and “I like people who weren’t captured.”

11  November 22, 2015

Claimed that “thousands and thousands” of people in New Jersey’s Arab communities cheered on 9/11.

12  2016 campaign season

Encouraged violence. Said that he’d like to punch a protester “in the face”; that his supporters should “knock the hell” out of protesters—“I promise you, I’ll pay the legal bills”; and that the police should not protect suspects’ heads when loading them into squad cars.

13  May 11, 2016

Refused to release his tax returns for public inspection after having previously promised to do so. On other occasions, he falsely claimed he could not release them because he was under audit. When, in 2019, Congress subpoenaed Trump’s tax returns, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin refused to comply—kicking off cases that went to the Supreme Court.

14  May-June 2016

Said Judge Gonzalo Curiel is unfit to rule on a lawsuit filed by Trump University students because “he’s a Mexican” (in fact, the judge is an American citizen born in Indiana). Trump would later settle the lawsuit for $25 million.

15  July 27, 2016

Called on Russia to hack and release Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails.

16  July 30, 2016

Denigrated the family of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in 2004 while serving in Iraq, after Khan’s father delivered remarks at the Democratic National Convention.

17  July 30, 2016

Broke with U.S. policy of supporting Ukraine over Russia’s invasion of Crimea, saying: “The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.”

18  Fall 2016

Before Election Day, repeatedly hyped unfounded fears of a “rigged” election. Then, after Election Day, he stated, without any evidence, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

January 20, 2017

Trump inaugurated, becomes the 45th president of the United States.

19  January 21, 2017

As one of his first official acts as president, deployed White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to lie about the size of his inauguration crowds.

20  January 21, 2017

Blasted the news media and bragged about the size of his inauguration crowds—as well as his intellect—in front of the CIA’s wall of stars memorializing agents who died in service to the country.

21  January 27, 2017

Enacted the “Muslim ban” that, through executive order, prevented foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days; the order was quickly contested in the courts, and its enforcement was blocked.

22  April 29, 2017

Told Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who had sanctioned the extrajudicial killing of drug suspects, that he was doing an “unbelievable job” of cracking down on his country’s drug problem.

23  May 9, 2017

Fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey later said that Trump had told him during a private January 2017 dinner that “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”

24  May 11, 2017

Created a federal commission to investigate voter fraud that failed to find any examples of voter fraud.

25  May 16, 2017

Remained silent when security forces working for Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, attacked protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C.

26  July 9, 2017

Considered creating a joint cyber security task force with Russia, despite the fact that Russia has been responsible for a host of cyber attacks against the United States. He tweeted, “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.” Putin confirmed in a 2018 event that he had discussed the idea with Trump.

27  August 15, 2017

Said there were “very fine people on both sides” of the alt-right protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

28  August 25, 2017

Pardoned Joe Arapaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, who had been convicted of criminal contempt for disregarding a court order in a racial-profiling case.

29  October 11, 2017

Tweeted a suggestion that “fake news” networks, such as NBC, should have their broadcast licenses “challenge[d].”

30  October 24, 2017

Asked then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo to meet with a conspiracy theorist who believes that Russia didn’t hack emails from the Democratic National Committee computers during the 2016 campaign, but that the DNC itself leaked them.

31  November 26, 2017

Stood by Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore amid credible accusations that Moore had committed acts of sexual misconduct.

32  January 2, 2018

Escalated nuclear tensions with North Korea by tweeting, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

33  January 11, 2018

During an Oval Office meeting about immigration, asked lawmakers “Why do we want all these people from shithole countries coming here?”

34  February 5, 2018

Said Democrats who declined to applaud his State of the Union speech were “treasonous,” a charge that he would go on to level at other political opponents as well.

35  February 21, 2018

Required a handwritten reminder to appear empathetic when he met with students and parents affected by school shootings.

36  March 3, 2018

Congratulated Chinese President Xi Jinping on eliminating term limits. “I think it’s great,” Trump said. “Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”

37  April 5, 2018

Denied any knowledge of the $130,000 hush-money payment his lawyer Michael Cohen made to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to keep her silent during the 2016 election. A book by Daniels laying out the details of her alleged 2006 affair with the married Trump was published later in 2018.

38  April 6, 2018

Instituted a “zero tolerance” policy at the border requiring the forced separation of families; it was rescinded weeks later, after more than 2,300 children had been separated from their parents.

39  May 2018

Overruled objections from national security officials to give son-in-law Jared Kushner a security clearance.

40  May 2018

Accepted a memo from President Erdoğan of Turkey that claimed innocence for a Turkish firm under investigation by the Southern District of New York. According to John Bolton’s 2020 memoir of his time as Trump’s national security advisor, Trump “told Erdogan he would take care of things, explaining that the Southern District prosecutors were not his people, but were Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people.” (On June 20, 2020, he did fire the U.S. Attorney for the SDNY, Geoffrey Berman, who not only had indicted the Turkish-owned firm but had reportedly opened an inquiry into Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.)

41  June 2018-present

Makes a habit of questioning the intelligence and mental stability of his black critics—such as Rep. Maxine Waters, CNN host Don Lemon, and NBA star LeBron James.

42  July 12, 2018

Threatened that the United States might “go our own way”—interpreted as a signal that he wanted to pull out of NATO—throwing a summit with world leaders into turmoil. He had repeatedly called NATO “obsolete” during the 2016 campaign, then “not so obsolete” once he was in office.

43  July 13, 2018

Lifted a ban preventing the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE from doing business with U.S. companies. ZTE was widely considered to be a threat to U.S. national security; without Trump’s intervention, it likely would have gone bankrupt.

44  July 16, 2018

Sided with Russian president Vladimir Putin in rejecting the findings of the U.S. intelligence community about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election during a joint news conference with Putin in Helsinki, Finland.

45  July 22, 2018

Used Twitter to issue an all-caps threat to Iran.

46  August 15, 2018

Revoked former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance in retaliation for his criticism of the president.

47  September 13, 2018

Denied that 3,000 Puerto Ricans died in hurricane Maria and Irma and blamed Democrats for manipulating the numbers to make him look bad.

48  September 25, 2018

Claimed at the U.N. General Assembly that his administration had accomplished more in two years than “almost any administration in the history of our country”—a boast that immediately elicited the laughter of world leaders.

49  September 29, 2018

Talked affectionately of his relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un: “We fell in love, okay?”

50  October 29, 2018

Just days after Trump fanatic Cesar Sayoc was arrested for sending pipe bombs to CNN offices and to prominent Trump critics, Trump tweeted, “The Fake News Media the true Enemy of the People.”

51  November 7, 2018

Fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president’s chief grudge against Sessions? The fact that Sessions recused himself from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. (Sessions was legally obligated to do so as a participant of Trump’s campaign.)

52  December 6, 2018

The New York Times reported that the Trump Organization employed undocumented workers at his New Jersey golf course.

53  December 12, 2018

Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen is sentenced to three years in prison.

54  December 19, 2018

Ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, abandoning America’s Kurdish allies, which led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

55  December 22, 2018-January 25, 2019

Caused the longest government shutdown in American history, because he could not persuade Congress to fund the border wall he wanted to build.

56  February 15, 2019

Declared a “national emergency concerning the southern border of the United States”—a move that allowed him to shift funding from the Pentagon budget to help pay for the border wall. (As of 2020, the sections of the wall that have been built have cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $30 million per mile. Mexico has not paid for the wall as Trump promised it would.)

57  February 25, 2019

Falsely credited his daughter Ivanka with creating “millions of jobs.” (In 2016, he had said that his children would have no role in the White House; instead, Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner were given large advisory portfolios.)

58  March 13, 2019

Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison after being convicted of tax fraud, bank fraud, and failure to disclose a foreign bank account.

59  March 24, 2019

Attorney General William Barr released a misleading four-page summary of the long-anticipated Mueller Report. Three days later, Mueller wrote that Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions.”

60  April 24, 2019

Recalled U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch after Trump’s lawyer Rudy Guiliani and his associates led a smear campaign against her. (Seven months later, he would attack her while she testified before Congress.)

61  May 20, 2019

Blocked former White House counsel and Mueller Report key witness Don McGahn from testifying before Congress—one of numerous witnesses the White House refused to let testify.

62  May 24, 2019

Circumvented Congress by declaring an “emergency” over Iran so he could sell arms to Saudia Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.

63  June 19, 2019

Began pushing aides to block military aid to Ukraine, an action that was carried out later and that the Government Accountability Office said broke the law. This same day, he also falsely implied in a TV interview that Ukraine, not Russia, was somehow linked to the hacking of the DNC emails during the 2016 campaign.

64  June 28-29, 2019

Lauded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and declined questions about the brutal killing of Washington Post writer and legal U.S resident Jamal Khashoggi, whom the CIA concluded the prince had ordered dead.

65  June 28-29, 2019

Asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him get re-elected, according to then-National Security Advisor John Bolton’s later account: During the G-20 meeting, Trump “stunningly . . . turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. . . . He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.” Bolton also reports that Trump told Xi he supports his building of concentration camps that hold an estimated one million Uighurs.

66  July 14, 2019

Said of a trio of freshman minority Democratic congresswomen, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

67  July 23, 2019

Attacked Special Counsel Robert Mueller on the eve of his testimony before Congress.

68  July 25, 2019

Asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden—the action that led to President Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives in December 2019 and trial in the Senate in January and February 2020.

69  August 20, 2019

Said that Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats are guilty of “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

70  August-September 2019

Invited the Taliban to Camp David.

71  September 2019

Canceled GOP presidential caucuses and primaries in four states.

72  September 4, 2019

Displayed an official National Weather Service map in the Oval Office that was falsified with a Sharpie to make it seem as if government forecasters had during the previous week projected that Hurricane Dorian might strike Alabama, as he had erroneously claimed.

73  October 1, 2019

Reports surfaced that Trump had suggested soldiers shoot migrants illegally crossing into the United States. He reportedly also inquired about putting a “water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators” at the border, “prompting aides to seek a cost estimate.”

74  October 23, 2019

Described NeverTrump Republicans as “human scum.”

75  October 27, 2019

Claimed that he had predicted Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 attack.

76  November 2019

Intervened in the case of Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, following his trial for war crimes. Upon Trump’s order, Gallagher’s demotion was undone and he was allowed to keep his Navy SEAL Trident insignia, which he was about to be stripped of. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was fired for opposing the president’s intervention.

77  November 7, 2019

Ordered to pay $2 million in damages to settle claims brought by the New York state government that the Trump Foundation had misused funds. (The foundation was already being dissolved because of what New York officials called a “shocking pattern of illegality . . . including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more.” Much of this story was first unearthed by Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold.)

78  November 19, 2019

Smeared Alexander Vindman, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel detailed to the National Security Council, after Vindman testified in the House impeachment investigation.

79  February 7, 2020

Fired impeachment witnesses Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. (Also fired Alex Vindman’s brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, also a National Security Council staffer.)

80 February 20, 2020

Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone was sentenced to more than three years in prison after his conviction on seven felony charges, including lying under oath to Congress and obstructing the investigation into the 2016 election.

81  February 26, 2020

Said that “within a couple days” the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States—there were then 15 confirmed cases—was “going to be down to close to zero.” (See also the Bulwark timeline “The Ten Weeks That Lost the War.”)

82  February 28, 2020

Said that Democrats “are politicizing the coronavirus” and that “this is their new hoax.”

83  March-May 2020

Repeatedly touted the antimalarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as treatments for COVID-19, despite the lack of high-quality evidence regarding either their effectiveness or their potential harmful side effects. On April 20, the administration demoted a top government virologist who questioned the scientific merits of these drugs for treating COVID-19. On May 18, Trump claimed that he had been taking hydroxychloroquine pills himself, although a note released that evening by the White House physician did not confirm the claim. By June, with the president’s attention elsewhere, both the NIH and the FDA cautioned against the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for treating COVID-19.

84  March 11, 2020

Botched European travel ban forced thousands of Americans to scramble to get home, taking unnecessary coronavirus flight risks along the way.

85  April 3, 2020

Fired the intelligence community inspector general in retaliation for delivering the whistleblower complaint that triggered impeachment.

86  April 4, 2020

Blasted Navy Capt. Brett Crozier for writing a letter informing Navy leaders about the outbreak of coronavirus among sailors aboard the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

87  April 7, 2020

Said that “mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they’re cheaters.” But President Trump had himself voted absentee by mail the previous month, and the vice president, the attorney general, several cabinet members, and numerous White House staffers had voted by mail as well.

88  April 23, 2020

Suggested that light or disinfectants could be applied to the human body to treat coronavirus: “Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous—whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light. . . . supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too. It sounds interesting. . . . And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs.”

89  May 12, 2020

Promoted a conspiracy theory accusing MSNBC Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough of murder.

90  May 2020

Pushed a new conspiracy theory, “OBAMAGATE,” that alleges that his predecessor used the final days of his presidency to lead a coup against the incoming Trump presidency—a scandal that would, in Trump’s words, be “the biggest political crime in American history, by far!” Trump later said, without evidence, that Obama had committed “treason.”

91  May 15, 2020

Fired the inspector general of the Department of State at the request of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whom the IG was investigating.

92  May 20, 2020

Threatened to withhold federal funding from Michigan and Nevada if officials go forward with plans to mail absentee ballots or applications to voters.

93  May 26, 2020

Tweeted misinformation about mail-in ballots, forcing Twitter to label Trump’s tweet with a fact-check.

94  May 29, 2020

As of this date, according to a database compiled by the Washington Post, President Trump had told over 19,000 lies since he assumed office.

95  May 29, 2020

Called Minneapolis protesters “THUGS” and said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter flagged the tweet as violating the platform’s rules against glorifying violence.

96  June 1, 2020

Ordered the dispersal of peaceful protesters—by law-enforcement officers who attacked them with flash grenades, smoke grenades, rubber-ball grenades, pepper spray (a kind of tear gas), and pepper balls—so that he could walk from the White House across Lafayette Square for a photo op in front of St. John’s Church. In the days that followed, representatives from the White House, the Trump campaign, and various law-enforcement agencies denied that tear gas was used during the incident, although they later walked back their denials. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff later apologized for his presence at the scene. The incident also led former secretary of defense James Mattis to condemn the president: “We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square.”

97  June 9, 2020

Speculated that a 75-year-old Black Lives Matter protester who was hospitalized after being shoved on June 4 by Buffalo police is an “ANTIFA provocateur.”

98  June 20, 2020

Held an indoor campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma—without requiring the masks and social distancing recommended by government health authorities. Told the crowd that he believed too many cases of coronavirus were being logged and that he had instructed “my people” to “slow the testing down.” (After initial speculation that this was a joke, he later said that it was not, and that he really had ordered a slowdown in testing.) Two Secret Service agents present at the Tulsa rally later tested positive for COVID-19, a fact that then resulted in dozens of Secret Service personnel having to quarantine themselves. Eight staffers from Trump’s campaign staff also tested positive, so all campaign staffers who attended the rally reportedly had to quarantine themselves.

99  June 21, 2020

Said that he delayed sanctions against Chinese officials involved in running concentration camps because he thought it would hurt his trade deal with the country.

100  June 26, 2020

As of this date:

The national debt stands at more than $26 trillion, having increased by at least $5.2 trillion since President Trump assumed office.

The most recent estimate for the monthly unemployment rate was 13.3 percent.

More than 124,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.

Is it venal treason for Trump’s personal profit? Or sheer stupidity? You decide

Short version of the story:

Putin goon squad promises and delivers bonus payments to Afghan Taliban to kill American, Allied, and government soldiers, according to American intelligence. The latter informs the US National Security Council, which includes, by law, Cheeto45, VP Pence, heads of Cabinet, some important Congressmen and Senators, big brass from the Pentagon, and others. They know about all this. They are on record as discussing this. Trump decides to not only do nothing, but to continue to encourage Putin.

Some of the frustrated members of the NSC leak the information, finally, to WaPo and NYT. We know that Trump has personal financial interests with Russian oligarchs and mobsters.

This example of either complete cluelessness and idiocy by #45, or else out-and-out treason for his own personal benefit, comes on top of all the hundreds of misdeeds committed by those tiny, fat hands and the thousands of lies that have spewed out of his fat, heavily made-up mouth. And on his deadly mishandling of coronavirus, police brutality, racism, and health care.

This maneuver was obviously clever on Putin’s part. However: for Trump and his gang to have full knowledge of this apparently successful scheme to promote the death of American service members and their allies, and then to decide not only to do nothing about it but to then improve ties with Putin, either sounds like treason for the personal profit of Cheeto45, or else they are ALL completely stupid at realpolitik. Not sure which. But to his now-shrinking base, MangoMussolini and his entire corrupt coven of billionaire swamp spawn can do no wrong.

=======================================================

June 26, 2020 (Friday)Today the United States registered 44,702 new coronavirus cases, a single-day record. Six states– Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho, and Utah– also set new single-day highs. In an attempt to stop the spread of the virus, officials in Florida and Texas, where governors have been aggressive about reopening, have both reversed course, announcing that bars must close immediately.Incredibly, that’s not the day’s biggest story. This evening, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both broke extraordinary news. Months ago, American intelligence officials concluded that during peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan, a Russian military intelligence group offered to Taliban-linked fighters bounties for killing American troops. They paid up, too, although it is unclear which of the twenty U.S. deaths happened under the deal. The military intelligence unit officials judge to be behind this program, the G.R.U., is the same one that is engaged in a so-called “hybrid war” against America and other western countries, destabilizing them through disinformation, cyberattacks, and covert military operations and assassinations. Urging deadly attacks on American and other NATO troops is a significant escalation of that hostility. New York Times reporter Michael Schwirtz tweeted “it’s hard to overstate what a major escalation this is from Russia. Election meddling and the occasional poisoning are one thing. Paying the Taliban to kill American troops, that’s something entirely new.”

According to the New York Times, the National Security Council discussed the intelligence finding in late March and came up with a range of responses, none of which has been deployed. The NSC can include a number of different officials, but by law it includes the president, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. It usually also includes Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, and Director of National Intelligence, who in March was acting DNI Richard Grenell (it is now John Ratcliffe).

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) took to Twitter to note that Congress had not been informed of the information. “Congress should have been told,” he said. “And not just leadership or the Intel Committee.”

Instead of addressing this extraordinary intelligence, Trump strengthened U.S. ties to Russia, which have been rocky since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. In response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on the country. After Russia attacked the 2016 U.S. election, the U.S. government expanded those sanctions. The eagerness of Russian leaders, especially President Vladimir Putin, to have the sanctions lifted was key to Russian support for Trump in the 2016 election.Just after the NSC discussed the intelligence findings, on April 1, a Russian plane brought ventilators and other medical supplies to the United States. The shipment was such a propaganda coup for Russia that the state television channel RT carried the plane’s arrival in New York live. Not only was it a show of strength for Russia to provide aid to the U.S., but also the equipment Russia sent was produced by a state-run company that is under U.S. sanctions. This was evidently intended to be a demonstration that sanctions did not mix well with a global pandemic. Just days before, Putin had publicly called for ending sanctions to enable the world to combat the coronavirus more effectively. On April 25, 2020, Trump raised eyebrows by issuing a joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin commemorating the 75th anniversary of the historic meeting between American and Soviet troops on the bridge of the Elbe River in Germany that signaled the final defeat of the Nazis. Their statement said “The “Spirit of the Elbe” is an example of how our countries can put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause.” On May 3, Trump called Putin and talked for an hour and a half, a discussion Trump called “very positive.” He tweeted: “Had a long and very good conversation with President Putin of Russia. As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone else is a good thing, not a bad thing.”On May 21, the U.S. sent a humanitarian aid package worth $5.6 million to Moscow to help fight coronavirus there. The shipment included 50 ventilators, with another 150 promised for the next week. On June 1, Trump called Putin and talked about including Russia in the G7, the international organization of seven major countries with the largest advanced economies in the world. Russia had become part of the organization in 1998 despite its smaller economy– making the group the G8– but was expelled in 2014 after it invaded Ukraine. Trump told reporters Russia should be in the group “because a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia,” and the old organization was “outdated” and doesn’t represent “what’s going on in the world.” On June 15, news broke that Trump has ordered the removal of 9,500 troops from Germany, where they support NATO against Russian aggression. The removal leaves 25,000 troops there. All of these friendly overtures to Russia were alarming enough when all we knew was that Russia attacked the 2016 U.S. election and is doing so again in 2020. But it is far worse that those overtures took place when the administration knew that Russia had actively targeted American soldiers. This news is bad, bad enough that it apparently prompted worried intelligence officials to give up their hope that the administration would respond to the crisis, and instead to leak the story to two major newspapers.

I got tested!

I finally got COVID- tested today. It took quite a lot of phone calls, and leads from a bunch of people, and searches through clinics until I hit pay dirt. Mine was through Kaiser Permanente, our medical plan. I probably could have done it through the DC government as well, again for free.
A few days ago I got a form reply to a request I had made to my KP GP for a test; the reply said that I didn’t fit the profile of someone who needed one. I found a number of places where I could spend $150 to $2200 for one out of pocket.
Today I talked to my doctor, and I checked off enough boxes in the questionnaire he gave me to qualify: 70 yo, Crohn’s disease, immunosupressant (infliximab./Remicade) and plus I had sniffles and a stomach ache…
My reason for testing is to go help with grand-toddlers in NC while my son and DIL are trying to keep their business afloat remotely and – hopefully – reopen in a week or two if all goes well.
I don’t remember whether I got the antigen test or the antibody test, but I guess I’ll find that out tomorrow. on Monday the 18th. EDIT: It was the antigen test.
The testing procedure itself was very efficient: I had a 12:30 appointment. There were several parking spaces set aside with cones, in front of a huge medical van, on 2nd St NE in DC, on the street opposite Kaiser’s Capitol Hill center. I drove in, showed my ID at a distance to somebody in a mask on my right, on the sidewalk; he went back to the van, and less than a minute later a nurse (I guess) in full PPE came out, took a closer look at my face and my ID, checked that against the printout she had; then she stuck a long Q-tip into each nostril, and then she told me I was all done.
That sort of efficient testing is what Trump and Brix promised would happen ‘next week’ when he declared on March 13 a national emergency, for anyone. It’s still only for some people, TWO MONTHS LATER.
Such a fine job. Not.
=========================================================================
EDIT:
I just got the results this morning (5/18/2020) for the antigen test, and it was negative. As I strongly suspected.

The Pandemic Is Far From Over

While the rate of increase per day in the number of deaths is generally down, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. In general, more people are still dying each day in the US from this disease than the day before, as you can see from this data, which is taken from the CDC. The very tall bar on day 27 is when New York City finally added thousands of poor souls who had in fact died from this virus. (Day 27 means April 9, and Day 41 means April 30, which is today.)

Opening up the economy and encouraging everybody to go back to work, play, and school will mean a rebirth of exponential growth in deaths and in diagnosed cases after about 2 weeks, since this disease takes about that long to be noticed in those who have been exposed. And once everybody is back on the streets and in the stores and schools, the disease WILL spread exponentially. Opening wide right now, when we still can’t test or follow those who may be infected, would be a huge mistake.

us covid deaths per day

Only somebody as clueless as our current Grifter-In-Chief and his brainless acolytes could be recommending something so irresponsible, against the advice of every medical expert. Maybe they think that only the poor, the black, and the brown will get this disease. Wrong.

A geometry lesson inspired by a silvering company – and a rant about computerized learning programs

Here is some information that teachers at quite a few different levels could use* for a really interesting geometry lesson involving reflections involving two or more mirrors, placed at various angles!

Certain specific angles have very special effects, including 90, 72, 60, 45 degrees … But WHY?

This could be done with actual mirrors and a protractor, or with geometry software like Geometer’s Sketchpad or Desmos. Students could also end up making their own kaleidoscopes – either with little bits of colored plastic at the end or else with some sort of a wide-angle lens. (You can find many easy directions online for doing just that; some kits are a lot more optically perfect than others, but I don’t think I’ve even seen a kaleidoscope that had its mirrors set at any angle other than 60 degrees!)

I am reproducing a couple of the images and text that Angel Gilding provides on their website (which they set up to sell silvering kits (about which I’ve posted before, and which I am going to attempt using pretty soon, on a large astronomical mirror I’ve been polishing for quite some time)).

At 72º you see 4 complete reflections.

When two mirrors are parallel to each other, the number of reflections is infinite. Placing one mirror at a slight angle causes the reflections to curve.

 

https://angelgilding.com/multiple-reflections/

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Rant, in the form of a long footnote:

* assuming that the teacher are still allowed to initiate and carry out interesting projects for their students to use, and aren’t forced to follow a scripted curriculum. It would be a lot better use of computers than forcing kids to painfully walk through (and cheat, and goof off a lot) when an entire class is forced to use one of those very expensive but basically worthless highly-centralized, district-purchased computer-managed-instruction apps. God, what a waste of time – from personal experience attempting to be a volunteer community math tutor at such a school, and also from my experience as a paid or volunteer tutor in helping many many students who have had to use such programs as homework. Also when I was required to use them in my own classes, over a decade ago, I and most of my colleagues found them a waste of time. (Not all – I got officially reprimanded for telling my department chair that ‘Renaissance Math’ was either a ‘pile of crap’ or a ‘pile of shit’ to my then-department head, in the hearing of one of the APs, on a teacher-only day.

Keep in mind: I’m no Luddite! I realized early on that in math, science, and art, computers would be very, very useful. I learned how to write programs in BASIC on one of the very first time-share networks, 45 years ago. For the first ten years that my school system there was almost no decent useful software for math teachers to use with their classes unless you had AppleII computers. We had Commodore-64’s which were totally incompatible and there were very few companies (Sunburst was one) putting out any decent software for the latter. So when I saw some great ideas that would be ideal for kids to use on computers to make thinking about numbers, graphs, and equations actually fun and mentally engaging, often I would have to write them my self during whatever free time I could catch, at nights and weekends. Of course, doing this while being a daddy to 2 kids, and still trying to teach JHS math to a full load of students (100 to 150 different kids a day at Francis Junior High School) and running a school math club and later coaching soccer. (I won’t say I was a perfect person or a perfect teacher. I believe I learned to give better math explanations than most, didn’t believe that you either have a ‘m,ath gene’ or you don’t, at times had some interesting projects, and at times was very patient and clear, but had a terrible temper and often not good at defusing things. Ask my kids or my former students!) Later on, I collaborated with some French math teachers and a computer programmer to try to make an app/program called Geometrix for American geometry classes that was supposed to help kids figure out how to make all sorts of geometric constructions and then develop a proof of some property of that situation. It was a failure. I was the one writing the American version, including constructions and tasks from the text I was currently using. There was no way I could anticipate what sorts of obstacles students would find when using this program, until I had actual guinea pig students to use them with. Turns out the final crunch of writing however many hundreds of exercises took place over the summer, and no students to try them on. Figuring out hints and clues would require watching a whole bunch of kids and seeing what they were getting right or wrong. In other words, a lot of people’s full time job for a long time, maybe paying the kids as well to try it out so as to get good feedback, and so on. Maybe it could work, but it would require a lot more investment of resources that the tiny French and American companies involved could afford. We would have really needed a team of people, not just me and a single checker.

I find that none of these computer-dominated online learning programs (much less the one I worked on) can take the place of a good teacher. Being in class, listening to and communicating logically or emotionally with a number of other students and a knowledgeable adult or two, is in itself an extremely important skill  to learn. It’s also the best way to absorb new material in a way that will make sense and be added to one’s store of knowledge. That sort of group interaction is simply IMPOSSIBLE in a class where everybody is completely atomized and is on their own electronic device, engaged or not.

Without a human being trying to make sense out of the material, what I found quite consistently, in all the computerized settings, that most students absorbed nothing at all or else the wrong lessons altogether (such as, ‘if you randomly try all the multiple choice answers, you’ll eventually pick the right one and you can move on to some other stupid screen’; it doesn’t matter that all your prior choices were wrong; sometimes you get lucky and pick the right one first or second! Whee! It’s like a slot machine at a casino!).

By contrast, I found that with programs/apps/languages like Logo, Darts, Green Globs, or Geometer’s Sketchpad, with teacher guidance, students actually got engaged in the process, had fun, and learned something.

I find the canned computer “explanations” are almost always ignored by the students, and are sometimes flat-out wrong. Other times, although they may be mathematically correct, they assume either way too much or way too little, or else are just plain confusing. I have yet to detect much of any learning going on because of those programs.

 

“Slaying Goliath” by Diane Ravitch

I wish I could write half as well as, or as much as, Diane Ravitch manages to do, every single day. I also admire her dedication to fighting the billionaires who have been dictating education policy in the USA for quite some time.

If you are reading this post, you are no doubt aware that only ten years ago, Ravitch did a 180-degree turn on major education issues, admitted she had been wrong on a number of points, and became one of the major forces fighting against the disruptive education-privatization agenda of the billionaires.

Since that time, she has been documenting on her blog, several times a day, nearly every day, the utter failures of the extremely wealthy amateurs who have been claiming to ‘reform’ education, but who have instead merely been disrupting it and failing to achieve any of the goals that they confidently predicted would be won, even using their own yard-sticks.

IMG_6217

I found DR’s most recent book (pictured above) to be an excellent history of the past 37 years wherein certain billionaires, and their well-paid acolytes, have claimed that the American public school system is a total failure and needed to be torn down and rebuilt through these steps:

  1. Pretending that American students were at one point the highest-scoring ones on the planet (which has NEVER been true) and that the fact that they currently score at middling levels on international tests like PISA is a cause for national alarm;
  2. Claiming that student family poverty does not cause lower student achievement (however measured), but the reverse: that the schools that have students from poor and non-white populations are the CAUSE of that poverty and low achievement;
  3. Fraudulently assuming that huge fractions of teachers are not only incompetent but actively oppress their students (particularly the poor, the brown, and the black) and need to be fired en masse (as they were in New Orleans, Rhode Island, and Washington, DC);
  4. Micromanaging teachers in various ways, including by forcing all states to adopt a never-tested and largely incomprehensible ‘Common Core’ curriculum and demanding that all teachers follow scripted lessons in lockstep;
  5. ‘Measuring’ the productivity of teachers through arcane and impenetrable ‘Value-Added’ schemes that were devised for dairy cows;
  6. Mass firings of certified teachers, particularly African-American ones (see #2) and replacing them either with untrained, mostly-white newbies from Teach for America or with computers;
  7. Requiring public and charter schools (but not vouchers) to spend ever-larger fractions of their classroom time on test prep instead of real learning;
  8. Turning billions of public funds over to wealthy amateurs (and con artists) with no educational experience to set up charter schools and voucher schools with no real accountability — the very worst ones being the online charter schools.

One great aspect of this book is that Ravitch points out how

  1. All of those claims and ‘solutions’ have failed (for example, a study in Texas showed charter schools had no impact on test scores and a negative impact on earnings (p. 82);
  2. Teachers, parents, students, and ordinary community members have had a good deal of success in fighting back.

I will conclude with a number of quotes from the book in random colors.

“How many more billions will be required to lift charter school enrollment to 10 percent? [It’s now about 5 percent] And why is it worth the investment, given that charter schools, unless they cherry-pick their students, are no more successful than public schools are and often far worse? Why should the federal government spend nearly half a billion dollars on charter schools that may never open when there are so many desperately underfunded public schools?” (p. 276-277)

“Any movement controlled by billionaires is guaranteed […] to preserve the status quo while offering nothing more than the illusion of change.” (p. 281)

“There is no “Reform movement.” The Disrupters never tried to reform public schools. They wanted to disrupt and privatize the public schools that Americans have relied on for generations. They wanted to put public school funding in private hands. They wanted to short-circuit democracy. They wanted to cripple, not improve, the public schools. They wanted to replace a public service with a free market.” (p. 277)

“Our current education policy is madness. It is madness to destroy public education in pursuit of zany libertarian goals. It is madness to use public funds to put young children into religious schools where they will learn religious doctrine instead of science. It is madness to hand public money over to unaccountable entrepreneurs who want to open a school but refuse to be held to high ethical standards or to be held accountable for its finances and its performance. It is madness to ignore nepotism, self-dealing, and conflicts of interest. We sacrifice our future as a nation if we continue on this path of de-professionalizing our schools and turning them over to businessmen, corporate chains, grifters, and well-meaning amateurs. We sacrifice our children and our grandchildren if we continue to allow them to be guinea pigs in experiments whose negative results are clear.” (p. 281)

Ravitch proposes a number of things that billionaires could do that would be more helpful than what they are currently doing. She suggests [I’m quoting but shortening her list, found on page 280] that the billionaires could …

  • pay their share of taxes to support well-resourced public schools.
  • open health clinics to serve needy communities and make sure that all families and children have regular medical checkups.
  • underwrite programs to ensure that all pregnant women have medical care and that all children have nutritious meals each day.
  • subsidize after-school programs where children get exercise, play, dramatics, and tutoring.
  • rebuild the dramatics programs and performance spaces in every school.
  • lobby their state legislatures to fund schools fairly, to reduce class sizes, and to enable every school to have the teachers, teaching assistants, social services, librarians, nurses, counselors, books, and supplies it needs.
  • create mental health clinics and treatment centers for those addicted to drugs.
  • underwrite programs based on “the Kalamazoo Promise.”
  • They could emulate the innovative public school that basketball star leBron James subsidized in Akron, Ohio.

She also quotes Paymon Rouhanifard, who was a “prominent member of the Disruption establishment [who] denounced standardized testing when he stepped down as superintendent of the Camden, New Jersey, public schools […]. He had served as a high-level official on Joel Klein’s team in New York City […] Upon his arrival of the impoverished Camden district [….] he developed school report cards to rank every school mainly by test scores. But before he left, he abolished the school report cards.” She quotes him directly: “[…] most everybody in this room wouldn’t tolerate what I described for their own children’s school. Mostly affluent, mostly white schools shy away from heavy testing, and as a result, they are literally receiving an extra month of instruction […] The basic rule, what we would want for our own children, should apply to all kids.” (p.271)

“Disrupters have used standardized testing to identify and take over or close schools with low scores, but they disregard standardized testing when it reveals the failure of charters and vouchers. Disrupters no longer claim that charter schools and inexperienced recruits from Teach for America will miraculously raise test scores. After three decades of trying, they have not been successful.

“Nothing that the Disrupters have championed has succeeded unless one counts as ‘success’ closing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of community public schools in low-income neighborhoods. Ths Disrupters have succeeded in demoralizing teachers and reducing the number of people entering the teaching profession. They have enriched entrepreneurs who have opened charter schools or developed shoddy new products and services to sell to schools. They have enhanced the bottom line of large testing corporations. Their fling with the Common Core cost states billions of dollars to implement but had no effect on national or international test scores and outraged many parents, child advocates, lovers of literature, and teachers. “

Fortunately, the resistance to this has been having a fair amount of success, including the massive teacher strikes in state after state. As Ravitch writes (p. 266):

“The teachers taught the nation a lesson.

“But more than that, they taught themselves a lesson. They united, they demanded to be heard, and they got respect. That was something that the Disrupters had denied them for almost twenty years. Teachers learned that in unity there is strength.”

 

 

DC Women’s March – 2020 (Today!)

I am glad that my wife and I took part in today’s march. It was inspiring to us to talk with so many fine young folks (some men, too) along the march route; some of them told us that we veteran activists from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s inspired them, which was nice to hear. It was fun swapped some ideas and stories with new folks and veterans of, say, marches and demonstrations in Los Angeles and the Bay Area of California…

Some of the signs were brilliant!

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It was quite cold, and sometimes sleeting and raining; my wife and I both found our cell phone batteries dying because of the low temperatures, so I don’t have nearly as many photos as I would have liked. Fortunately w both had dressed properly – long acrylic thermal underwear, woolen sweater and socks, monk’s hood, parka hood, and umbrella for me; my wife looked a bit like an Inuit.

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A couple of comments:

  • It didn’t look like organizers had really agreed on a common platform for chants, songs, or whatever. I persuaded someone with a bullhorn to lead a chant concerning immigration (see my last post).
  • We probably represented hundreds, if not thousands, of different organizations, but most of us only had the most tenuous links to said organizations — we had signed something online somewhere, or donated something, or maybe been to a meeting or two.
  • Definitely mostly white and middle-class, though latinxes, african-americans, and asians were definitely represented.
  • It was great that mostly young women had organized this, and I was just along an ally.
  • I didn’t hear people talking about the impeachment process, probably because we all know that there is between zip and nada percent chance that the Senate will actually convict and remove lying sack of shit #45 from office.
  • We need to acknowledge that the attacks by Arne Duncan and the Obama Administration on teachers during the 8 years they were in office — despite all their flowery, progressive rhetoric — were worse even than what Trump and Betsy Devos have been capable of doing, and were also worse than what we suffered under GWBush 2. That’s saying a lot. I think the demoralization of teachers definitely led to the election of Mango Mussolini, because so many Democratic party activists all across the country were teachers. In fact, during those 8 years, the local precinct, county, and state Democratic organizations were shredded to pieces or collapsed. The Tea Party and future Trumpsters were extremely energized and got their people out to vote at every election, and caused thousands of seats to turn Fascist Red.
  • We need to be much, much better organized. The Nazi Party in Germany before 1932 (Ie before Hitler was appointed Chancellor)had uniformed, armed, militias (Brownshirts and Blackshirts) that were equipped, trained, and funded by the German (especially Prussian) military General Staff. We don’t have that here, yet, in the USA, but we do know that neo-Nazis, Kluxers, and the like do send their young aficionados to enlist in the military, to get weapons training, and to try to incite and recruit other violent racists. Knowing that the racists are in fact emboldened, and have been in fact arming themselves and organizing, we need to be better organized and to take them seriously. When Trump and his acolytes are [I hope] thrown out in a landslide on November 3, the neo-Nazis he has emboldened may cause serious trouble. We can’t predict the future.
  • All the people I talked to agreed with me that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the smartest politicians we had ever seen, and the most inspiring and honest. We were uniformly in awe of her ability to run a House hearing and to skewer the bad guys with their own words and with facts. I hope nothing bad happens to her and that she can run for higher office and help organize a good, progressive movement.
  • I have no faith in any organization that I am aware of. I furthermore am going to state that what the Soviet Union did to its own citizens under Stalin’s watch (in particular) was absolutely inexcusable, betraying just about every single humanitarian principle that socialists, progressives, anarchists, or communists of any stripe have fought for — except for the principle of killing (mostly) imagined enemies of the people, working class, or proletariat. Think about it: though we will never know the final toll, I estimate that on the average several hundreds of people were executed or died of mistreatment or starvation every single day in the USSR during the roughly 30-year period 1923-1953. Long story.
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    My estimate of the crowd at this march is probably pretty low, since I could never see the entire march at once and don’t own a helicopter. Neither am I privy to overhead photos of the event. However, when I was at the south end of the Ellipse, I stood up on a park bench and could see a lot of it; perhaps the panorama picture I took, above, will make some sense. (As I said, my phone did NOT like the cold; in the future I’m going to need to take chemical hand-warmers to put around it)

  • That location was a fine one for giving Mr Maralago a single=fingered salute. A number of people joined me.
  • It seemed to me that in every seven-foot (or 2-meter) longitudinal section of the march, there were somewhere between 20 and 60 people (so 3 to 9 people per longitudinal foot) – we filled the streets including the sidewalks as well. (My wife and I bailed out at the intersection of 16th and H, at the north side of Lafayette Park and went to warm up with a delicious late brunch at Fiola da Mare, which was quite a nice little luxury we’d never experienced.)
  • At one point, I could see people still marching on Constitution Avenue all the way to the corner of 15th and Constitution, on the latter heading west, and then all the way up 17th street up to Lafayette Square. How many marchers there were further towards either the head or tail of the march, I could not see. It was definitely smaller than a couple of the other women’s marches I attended, if I remember correctly.
  • Using the scale on the map I’m showing you below,  I think that I myself could see about 4,000 feet worth of people marching, which would mean somewhere between 11,000 to 35,000 people. There were clearly many more, but how many, I have no idea. (I’m making this estimate because Park Service no longer provides estimates.)

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Anybody have a better estimate? As I said, I’m sure mine is low. The comment button below is really hard to find.

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