Texas Decision Slams Value Added Measurements

And it does so for many of the reasons that I have been advocating. I am going to quote the entirety of Diane Ravitch’s column on this:


Audrey Amrein-Beardsley of Arizona State University is one of the nation’s most prominent scholars of teacher evaluation. She is especially critical of VAM (value-added measurement); she has studied TVAAS, EVAAS, and other similar metrics and found them deeply flawed. She has testified frequently in court cases as an expert witness.

In this post, she analyzes the court decision that blocks the use of VAM to evaluate teachers in Houston. The misuse of VAM was especially egregious in Houston, which terminated 221 teachers in one year, based on their VAM scores.

This is a very important article. Amrein-Beardsley and Jesse Rothstein of the University of California testified on behalf of the teachers; Tom Kane (who led the Gates’ Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Study) and John Friedman (of the notorious Chetty-Friedman-Rockoff study) testified on behalf of the district.

Amrein-Beardsley writes:

Of primary issue will be the following (as taken from Judge Smith’s Summary Judgment released yesterday): “Plaintiffs [will continue to] challenge the use of EVAAS under various aspects of the Fourteenth Amendment, including: (1) procedural due process, due to lack of sufficient information to meaningfully challenge terminations based on low EVAAS scores,” and given “due process is designed to foster government decision-making that is both fair and accurate.”

Related, and of most importance, as also taken directly from Judge Smith’s Summary, he wrote:

HISD’s value-added appraisal system poses a realistic threat to deprive plaintiffs of constitutionally protected property interests in employment.

HISD does not itself calculate the EVAAS score for any of its teachers. Instead, that task is delegated to its third party vendor, SAS. The scores are generated by complex algorithms, employing “sophisticated software and many layers of calculations.” SAS treats these algorithms and software as trade secrets, refusing to divulge them to either HISD or the teachers themselves. HISD has admitted that it does not itself verify or audit the EVAAS scores received from SAS, nor does it engage any contractor to do so. HISD further concedes that any effort by teachers to replicate their own scores, with the limited information available to them, will necessarily fail. This has been confirmed by plaintiffs’ expert, who was unable to replicate the scores despite being given far greater access to the underlying computer codes than is available to an individual teacher [emphasis added, as also related to a prior post about how SAS claimed that plaintiffs violated SAS’s protective order (protecting its trade secrets), that the court overruled, see here].

The EVAAS score might be erroneously calculated for any number of reasons, ranging from data-entry mistakes to glitches in the computer code itself. Algorithms are human creations, and subject to error like any other human endeavor. HISD has acknowledged that mistakes can occur in calculating a teacher’s EVAAS score; moreover, even when a mistake is found in a particular teacher’s score, it will not be promptly corrected. As HISD candidly explained in response to a frequently asked question, “Why can’t my value-added analysis be recalculated?”:

Once completed, any re-analysis can only occur at the system level. What this means is that if we change information for one teacher, we would have to re- run the analysis for the entire district, which has two effects: one, this would be very costly for the district, as the analysis itself would have to be paid for again; and two, this re-analysis has the potential to change all other teachers’ reports.

The remarkable thing about this passage is not simply that cost considerations trump accuracy in teacher evaluations, troubling as that might be. Of greater concern is the house-of-cards fragility of the EVAAS system, where the wrong score of a single teacher could alter the scores of every other teacher in the district. This interconnectivity means that the accuracy of one score hinges upon the accuracy of all. Thus, without access to data supporting all teacher scores, any teacher facing discharge for a low value-added score will necessarily be unable to verify that her own score is error-free.

HISD’s own discovery responses and witnesses concede that an HISD teacher is unable to verify or replicate his EVAAS score based on the limited information provided by HISD.

According to the unrebutted testimony of plaintiffs’ expert, without access to SAS’s proprietary information – the value-added equations, computer source codes, decision rules, and assumptions – EVAAS scores will remain a mysterious “black box,” impervious to challenge.

While conceding that a teacher’s EVAAS score cannot be independently verified, HISD argues that the Constitution does not require the ability to replicate EVAAS scores “down to the last decimal point.” But EVAAS scores are calculated to the second decimal place, so an error as small as one hundredth of a point could spell the difference between a positive or negative EVAAS effectiveness rating, with serious consequences for the affected teacher.

Hence, “When a public agency adopts a policy of making high stakes employment decisions based on secret algorithms incompatible with minimum due process, the proper remedy is to overturn the policy.”

Comparing Texas Charter and Public Schools

I am copying the entirety of this article. No comments needed from me. How about you? — GFB

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Game, Set, and Match—Texas SBOE Member Looks at the Numbers Comparing Charter and Traditional Schools

State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, has taken a look at the performance data of Texas charter schools and traditional public schools operated by independent school districts, and his findings give cold comfort to charter proponents. Here’s Ratliff’s report on those findings and his conclusions published July 13:

Every year the Texas Education Agency releases the “snapshot” of the prior school year’s academic and financial performance for ISD’s and charter schools. These are the facts from the 2012-13 school year (the most recently released report – released last week). Check them for yourself here: http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/snapshot.

Thomas Ratliff

I offer the following key comparisons between ISDs and charter schools:

Dropout and Graduation Rates:

  • ISDs had a dropout rate of 1.5%, charters had a 5.5% dropout rate
  • ISDs had a 4-year graduation rate of 91%, charters had a 60.6% rate
  • ISDs had a 5-year graduation rate of 92.9%, charters had a 70% rate

Academic Performance:

  • ISDs outperformed charters on 3 out of 5 STAAR tests (Math, Science, Social Studies)
  • ISDs matched charters on the other 2 out of 5 STAAR tests(Reading and Writing)
  • ISDs tested 64.5% for college admissions, charters tested 44.2%
  • ISDs average SAT score was 1422, charters average was 1412
  • ISDs average ACT score was 20.6, charters average was 19.7

Staff expenditures & allocation:

  • ISDs spent 57.4% on instructional expenses, charters spent 50.9%
  • ISDs spent 6% [on] central administrative expenses, charters spent 13%
  • ISDs had 3.8% of employees in central or campus administrative roles
  • Charters had 7.6% of employees in central or campus administrative roles

Teacher salary/experience/turnover and class size

  • ISDs average teacher salary was $49,917, charters average was $43,669
  • ISDs had 15.3 students per teacher, charters had 16.8
  • ISDs had 32.1% of teachers with less than 5 years experience
  • Charters had 75.2% of teachers with less than 5 years experience
  • 24% of ISD teachers had advanced degrees, charters had 17.4%
  • ISDs had a teacher turnover rate of 15.6%, charters had 36.7%

Conclusions

Keep in mind these are statewide numbers and admittedly, there are good and bad ISDs and there are good and bad charter schools. But, at the end of the day, we are talking about the state of Texas as a whole and over 5 million kids and their families.

Here are the conclusions I reach after studying the data and talking to experts, educators and people in my district and across Texas.

1) For at least the second year in a row, ISDs outperformed charter schools on dropout rates, state tests, graduation rates, and college entrance exams. If charters are supposed to be competing with ISDs, they are getting beaten in straight sets (to use a tennis analogy).

2) Charter schools spend more on central administrative expenses and less in the classroom, which leads to larger classes being taught by less experienced teachers.

3) Charter schools pay their teachers $6,248 less per year than ISDs. Many refer to competition from charter schools as a key factor to improving education. I do not see this “competition” helping teachers as some try to claim. The fact is, charters hire teachers with less experience and education to save money. This results in a high turnover rate. Over a third of teachers at charter schools leave when they get more experience or more education. Many times, they go work for a nearby ISD.

In conclusion, when you hear the unending and unsubstantiated rhetoric about “failing public schools” from those that support vouchers or other “competitive” school models, it is important to have the facts. ISDs aren’t perfect, but they graduate more kids, keep more kids from dropping out and get more kids career and college ready than their politically connected competitors. Any claims to the contrary just simply are not supported by the facts and at the end of the day facts matter because these lives matter.

It’s not so much that we have bad teachers (even tho they do exist): It’s an incoherent educational system that is at fault

Very interesting article in Atlantic by E.D. Hirsch on the problems facing American education. Among other things, he finds (as I do) that Value-Added Measurements are utterly unreliable and, indeed, preposterous. But most of all, he finds that the American educational system is extremely poorly run because its principal ideas lack any coherence at all.

Here are a couple of paragraphs:

The “quality” of a teacher doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Within the average American primary school, it is all but impossible for a superb teacher to be as effective as a merely average teacher is in the content-cumulative Japanese elementary school. For one thing, the American teacher has to deal with big discrepancies in student academic preparation while the Japanese teacher does not. In a system with a specific and coherent curriculum, the work of each teacher builds on the work of teachers who came before. The three Cs—cooperation, coherence, and cumulativeness—yield a bigger boost than the most brilliant efforts of teachers working individually against the odds within a system that lacks those qualities. A more coherent system makes teachers better individually and hugely better collectively.

American teachers (along with their students) are, in short, the tragic victims of inadequate theories. They are being blamed for the intellectual inadequacies behind the system in which they find themselves. The real problem is not teacher quality but idea quality. The difficulty lies not with the inherent abilities of teachers but with the theories that have watered down their training and created an intellectually chaotic school environment. The complaint that teachers do not know their subject matter would change almost overnight with a more specific curriculum with less evasion about what the subject matter of that curriculum ought to be. Then teachers could prepare themselves more effectively, and teacher training could ensure that teacher candidates have mastered the content they will be responsible for teaching.”

 

Low College Completion Rates even for students graduating from Charter Schools

I’d like to thank Jerry Becker for bringing this to my attention.
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How Poorly Distributed Wealth is, is simply Mind-Blowing

I just looked it up: The total amount of wealth (after debts) of all US households, individuals, and non-profits is right now in the neighborhood of $100 TRILLION. (The WSJ said $85 trillion, two years ago). Yes, you read that right, not 100 million, not 100 billion, but a hundred trillion dollars.

Are you impressed? It gets better! — or, at least, it could.

If we could somehow wave a magic wand and divide all that wealth equally among all 125 million US million households (source here for that #) well, after you cross out all those zeroes (or subtract exponents), then each and every single household would NET just about eight hundred thousand dollars.

$800,000 bucks for every single household.

Think about that!

A very large fraction of the population is in fact basically penniless – or they owe way more than they can earn in a year. Or are one or two paychecks away from eviction, foreclosure, bankruptcy, the whole nine yards. And I’m pretty sure this includes the black and brown immigrants who are cleaning and constructing our buildings, fixing our roads, driving our cabs, taking care of gardens and babies, and let’s not forget, picking our vegetables and fruits and slaughtering our meat. Yes, them, too.

I know there are going to be plenty of complaints that the poor and the underserving don’t deserve this, and when you give money to the poor, it’s all spent on booze and drugs. Well, if you let money sit in the hands of the super-rich, they simply cannot spend it all – one of the first things I learned from a very conservative Dartmouth College economics professor nearly 50 years ago. How many houses or yachts or cars can a single hyper-wealthy household actually USE?

Poor folks, on the other hand, spend it all immediately, so it gets transferred to other businesses (car dealers, furniture stores, clothing stores, and grocery stores) almost as soon as it gets into their hands.

Obviously my mental magic trick is never going to happen – but it’s sure fun to think about!

Thoughts on Day 3 of the Reign of the Orange Kleptocrat-in-Chief

Yesterday I took part in the largest protest demonstration I have ever experienced, right here in Washington, DC. Our numbers were so large that it was simply impossible to have us all march together down any one avenue – even that Mall was too small to contain us! Essentially we took over the entire Mall, the entire Federal Triangle, and much of downtown DC, entirely peacefully. We had no official marshals and the police mostly stayed out of our way except to occasionally usher an ambulance or wheelchair through.

We made history.

img_6343

Never in American history has there ever been a demonstration (strike that, HUNDREDS of simultaneous demonstrations, all over the entire NATION) so big against any president, the very day after his election. Actually, including all those others, this was probably the largest demonstration in US history against anything whatsoever.

I felt euphoric! As soon as I got onto the very crowded Metro subway train at the Brookland-CUA station, almost all of whose passengers were also going to the March, I realized that we were indeed doing something historic.

But it’s not enough.

 

Not nearly enough. It’s got to be just the beginning! What we need to do is first of all, make it impossible for Trump to confirm his remaining Cabinet appointees. Let me explain why:

Many Trump voters chose him because he pretended he would do something about the fact that so many American factories went out of business, which meant that across the nation, untold thousands of workers (and their families) lost their jobs AND their pensions AND what used to be a decent health-care plan, all won by the strength of organized labor. They also lost their homes, having been suckered into taking on way more debt than they could possibly handle. Many of the machines were shipped overseas. Local, state and federal regulations or laws were maneuvered around by high-priced lawyers so that the financiers who took over the corporations were able to get out of paying for any of these losses. Quoting Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post:

Wilbur Ross, the pick for commerce secretary, started out trading distressed debt at a Wall Street investment bank before setting out on his own as a vulture investor, buying up dying steel mills, coal mines and textile factories for pennies on the dollar of outstanding debt. As a turnaround specialist, Ross became a grand master at using the bankruptcy process to break leases and union contracts and renege on pension obligations in order to get the companies back on their feet before selling them at a handsome profit. His net worth is estimated at close to $3 billion.

So, if you would like to pick any single person responsible for the distress of many Trump voters, it would be the man that Donald Trump has picked to be US Secretary of Commerce. As Pearlstein notes, there are are NO actual businessmen on Trump’s list. Instead, you have con-women (Betsy DeVos) and mortgage vultures like Steven Mnuchin; and you have several Goldman Sachs financial wizards. But that wizardry is just being good at moving money around in very complicated ways to make it end up in their own pockets — it doesn’t actually build or make anything to benefit anybody else.

And coordinating all economic policy will be Gary Cohn, the new director of the National Economic Council, who like Icahn started out trading options and over a 25-year career rose to become No. 2 at Goldman Sachs. According to Bloomberg, he’ll walk away from Goldman with $266 million of stock and an exit package valued at $59 million.

When will Trump voters finally wake up and realize they have just been conned? The very vultures who made your lives miserable — using complicated financial transactions nobody can understand, and whose actions dRumpf has been railing against during his entire campaign — are the very same people whom Orangehead has nominated to be in charge of Federal policy for the next four years!

We need to make it impossible for these frauds to be confirmed!

Phone calls to your senators and congressmen are good, if you have them. Here is a link to a schedule of hearings and a list of appointees. (I don’t have any congressional representation, since I live here in Washington DC. Our token DC representative, E.H. Norton, has no vote.)

But actual bodies, with signs and chants and possibly mass civil disobedience at the Capitol or wherever the hearings are being held, are even better. We need to make them back down or else to have the whole world see what criminal frauds they really are.

After that, we need to organize to do a HUGE number of things, to prevent the Plutocratic Party agenda from being rolled into place, to impede their plans, to remove these truly crooked politicians from office, and install politicians who really DO represent the people. Instead of the plutocrats and kleptocrats that many American voters were fooled into voting for.

Again – that has got to be merely the very first step. We must resist, we must be smart, and we must be organized for real social justice and against legal thievery by the billionaires.

 

 

Compare ‘Education Reform’ to Ineffective but Profitable Quick-Weight-Loss Schemes

John Viall compares the past 15 years of education ‘reform’ to the past 30 or 40 years of completely counterproductive weight-loss schemes — in both cases, the results are exactly contrary to what they were promised to be. In one case, we can see that America’s obesity rates are some of the worst in the world. In the other, we have certainly not ‘raced to the top’ on TIMMS, PISA, or any other international test, despite all of promises by both the Bush and Obama administrations.

He concludes (I added some color):

“For a sixth time the PISA test was administered in 2015.

Now, 15-year-olds from seventy countries and educational systems took the test. How did U. S. students fare?
The envelope please.
In reading U. S. students scored 497. In other words, after fifteen years of school reform and tens of billions wasted, reading scores were still down seven points.
Fifteen years of listening to blowhard politicians—and U. S. students averaged 470 in math, a depressing 23-point skid.
Surely, all that meddling must have done some good? No. Science scores averaged 496, still down three points.
Fifteen years of diet plans that couldn’t possibly fail and, metaphorically, we were all just a little more fat.
PISA scores had been the foundation on which all school reform was built; and after all these years, America’s 15-year-olds were scoring 33 points worse.

L.A.Times Reporter Might Have Messed up the Math — Will the Ancient Astronomers Come to the Rescue?

WOW!

You won’t believe the revolutionary discoveries that modern astronomers have found, by carefully decoding old astronomical tablets written on tablets, in cuneiform, as long ago as 700 BC in modern-day Iraq!

You might not be surprised that a science reporter and various commentators reporting on the story – including myself – may have got the math wrong.

This is not just clickbait – the historical research was very dedicated and quite clever, and it shows that all the  years I’ve tried to to study and learn Arabic, astronomy, Babylonian, calculus, Chinese, French, geometry, Hebrew, Latin, mathematics, Russian, Spanish and Turkish might actually pay off one day, when I grow up! (*)

What’s the scoop?

In a nutshell: Researchers read and translated a bunch of ancient and more recent records of eclipses of the Sun and Moon, from cultures all over the world, over a period of 27 centuries. They compared those results  with what modern software and computers calculate they should be if you simply went backwards in time at a rate of precisely 24 hours per day. That meant studying lots of obscure records written in Chinese, Babylonian, Arabic, and Latin, as well as in modern languages.

The researchers were quite impressed at how accurate the Arab and Chinese records were, even though their instruments were much cruder than what we have today. (Obviously, no telescopes, no electric clocks, etc, etc…) The records from the Roman empire and early Mediaeval Europe, however, are apparently not nearly as good (200 BC – 600 AD) as the Chinese and Arab ones were.

cuneiform-astronomy

After the invention of the telescope a bit over 400 years ago, records became much richer. For example, observers could record the time, to the second (or even better), when a star would get blocked out by the Moon and then eventually re-appear on the other side.

(David Dunham , though retired, is an expert on this.)

Bottom line, according to the newspaper reporter: If it’s noon right now, and you could somehow go back in time precisely twenty-five centuries ago to exactly where you are standing or sitting, then everybody else back then (about 500 BC) would see the time as the equivalent of 7 PM, because the earth is turning on its axis ever so slightly slower today.

Revolutionary, I told you! Not joking, not exaggerating either!

But wait a second – how much would that be slowing down per year? The article doesn’t spell it out, but 7 hours is 420 minutes, or 60*420 = 25200 seconds,. If we divide that by about 2500 years, you get 10 seconds per year!

Wait a second, that doesn’t sound right at all! These days, if the earth really got slower at a uniform rate of 10 seconds per year, many of our cheap quartz watches and clocks are so accurate that we would actually notice the difference!

Let’s go back. The LATimes reporter, Deborah Netburn, wrote:  “the amount of time it takes for Earth to complete a single rotation on its axis has slowed by 1.8 milliseconds per day over the course of a century” – which is not very clear.

A commenter on LATimes website, named “It is me Here” wrote:

The time discrepancy described as “It may not sound significant, but over the course of 2½ millenniums, that time discrepancy adds up to about 7 hours” is not 7 hours. Over 2500 years it amounts to: 1.8 (milliseconds) x 365 (days per year) x 2,500 (years) = 1,642,500 milliseconds, that equals 1,642 seconds that equals 27.38 minutes, not 7 hours.

 

Did you get that, and do you agree? If not, let’s go back a little further, to the  abstract of the original study report which says:

New compilations of records of ancient and medieval eclipses in the period 720 BC to AD 1600, and of lunar occultations of stars in AD 1600–2015, are analysed to investigate variations in the Earth’s rate of rotation. It is found that the rate of rotation departs from uniformity, such that the change in the length of the mean solar day (lod) increases at an average rate of +1.8 ms per century. This is significantly less than the rate predicted on the basis of tidal friction, which is +2.3 ms per century.

(my emphasis – gfb)

 

So, would we really be 7 hours slow if we went back?

Maybe, maybe not.

Let’s think about it differently:

Since 500 BC, it has been about 25 centuries. According to the study, every century the earth slows down by about 1.8 milliseconds, which isn’t very much. 25 * 18 milliseconds is 450 milliseconds, which is a bit less than half a second. So does that mean we have to add up all of those 1.8 milliseconds by 365 days

That’s not much at all.

(BTW, why does the earth get slower? One source of the slowing down is simply the friction of the ocean tides. If you’ve ever been to the ocean and paid attention, you know that the gravitational pull among the Sun, Earth and Moon raise and lower a WHOLE lot of water all over the world, twice a day. That takes a HUGE amount of energy and a lot of it is dissipated in friction, which slows things down. But there are others.)

But here is a different way of looking at it still, as a trapezoid: the left-hand parallel side is about one-half second shorter than 24 hours – the length of a day in during ancient Babylonian days. The right hand parallel side is exactly 24 hours long. In between, there are 2,500 elapsed years.

Let’s pretend that each of those years contains 365 days (let’s agree to ignore the effect of leap years for right now). If the shape were a rectangle, then that would mean that the earth had not slowed down at all, and if you went backwards in time from now by 2500 years it would be exactly the same date, same time.

slowing-of-length-of-day

Apparently, it’s not. The lost or extra time is the part I show in this next diagram:

slowing-of-length-of-day-2

 

That little pink section is a a long skinny triangle with its right hand end 1/2 second per day long, and the base is 2500 years long, or 912,500 days. The area of a triangle is 1/2 * base * height, and so we use 1/2 * 1/2 * 912,500 and get 228,125 seconds lost (the ‘days’ units cancel out), or about 3802 minutes, or 63 hours, 22 minutes, which is 2 days, 15 hours, and 22 minutes off.

Not sure if I’m right or not, but would appreciate comments.

Here is one of the figures from the paper:

intercalation-revolution-of-earth

(*) Note that I don’t claim to be fluent in all of them. Far from it! Guess in which of the languages ones I can reed perdy guud and which ones I can at least stumble a conversation in?

 

Published in: on December 8, 2016 at 4:39 pm  Comments (4)  

If US Students Are Doing Worse After 15 Years of Test & Punish (NCLB, RTTT, ESSA, etc), Then By All Means Do It Harder and More Vigorously!

You probably saw the results that American students actually did a little worse than in previous years on the international math/reading/science test known as PISA, and are falling behind their international peers. If you didn’t, here are a few links: here, here, and here.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed that since 2001, the American public education system has been laboring under various ridiculous laws like ‘No Child Left Behind’ which mandated that by 2014, every single student in every single subgroup in every single school would magically become ‘proficient’ on American tests that are similar to PISA, or else their teachers and administrators would be fired, the schools would be shut down, and their education would be turned over to private charter operators.

Of course, not all American students became magically proficient – that was not possible, just like not everybody can run a 5 or 6 minute mile, no matter how many coaches you fire. However, many, many schools were shut down, many teachers and principals were fired, and private charter operators have taken over the profits from educating more and more students.

Two states stand out from the rest: Michigan and Massachusetts.

Michigan, the home of incoming EdSec Betsy Devos, has turned over the education of its poorest students to lots of charter and voucher schools — and if you look at the results, they are terrible. Detroit appears to be the worst of all cities tested, in fact. (See graph below) Therefore, she (and many other ‘reformers’) want to extend those efforts to all 50 states.

Massachusetts, however, has a serious cap on the number of charter schools. Its citizents recently voted down a proposal funded by people like DeVos to remove that limit and open up dozens of additional charter schools. May I add that Massachusetts has the highest NAEP scores in the nation? * And teachers who are generally union members? Quoting from one of the Post articles, our current secretary of education, who thinks that the solution to everything educational is more charters, more testing, more standards, and more vouchers:

“King pointed to Massachusetts, where students excelled on the PISA test, as an example of how states can get education right.”

In other words, if you do everything that King and Devos recommend, then you might guess that your test scores will go DOWN. If you do the opposite of what they recommend, then it looks like scores go UP.

math_tuda_barchart1-2015

  • Although Boston is not #1 in scores of all large separately-tested cities, Massachusetts as a whole is in fact #1 on the latest NAEP. Don’t believe me? Look it up here.

 

 

An Immodest Proposal

If you look at the lingo used to justify all the horrendous crap being imposed by “Ed reform”, you’ll see that it’s all couched in lefty-liberal civil rights language. But its results are anything but. Very strange.

Q: Can you cite some examples?

GFB: Yes. From the TFA website:

“Everyone has a right to learn. But in our country today, the education you receive depends on where you live, what your parents earn, and the color of your skin.

“That’s a serious injustice. And in the national movement to right  our contribution is the leadership of remarkable people.

“Our people—diverse and passionate—start in low-income classrooms, where the stakes are highest. We help them become teachers who can dramatically expand students’ opportunities. But our teachers don’t just teach their students, they learn from them.

“They gain a better understanding of the problems and the opportunities in our education system and use those lessons to define their path forward. Many stay in the classroom. Others leave. Both paths matter because to set things right, we need leaders in all areas of education and social justice united in a vision that one day, all kids will have access to an excellent education.”

GFB: However, the way TFA works in practice is that the kids who need the most experienced, skillful teachers, instead get total newbies straight out of college with no teaching experience, no mentoring, and courses on how to teach whatever subject they are they are assigned to. Their five weeks of summer training are mostly rah-rah cheerleading and browbeating. Their only classroom experiences during that summer are a dozen or so hours teaching a handful of kids, **in a subject or grade level totally different from whatever they will be randomly assigned to**.

What underprivileged students do NOT need is an untrained newbie who won’t stick with them. If anything, this policy INCREASES the ‘achievement gap’.

Q: I’m sorry Guy, but none of this poses a solution. Paying the teachers more is not the answer. I know this because I would quit my engineering job in a heartbeat to teach. I honestly would. And I would do it for 1/4 the pay. But not under these  conditions. Not with “father education” telling me how to use fancy calculators to educate kids. Not when you take what I love about math and turn it into garbage. The paradigm sucks, independent of the lousy pay.

GFB: That’s yet another reason to oppose Michelle Rhee. She and her allies have figured out how to micromanage teaching down to the minute and to the very sentences teachers are required to read — from a script. Yes, she and Jason Kamras and Raj Chetty and the other billionaires friends have made it that teachers have no say whatsoever on content or methodology.

If they are not on the same page exactly, down to the minute, they can get marked down, harassed, suspended and fired.

Want to teach under those conditions for twice the pay? Me neither.

It’s not “Teach Like A Champion” as Doug Lemov puts it: it’s teach like a robot.

Q: Plus, their answer to teaching is to integrate technology. They think that if they use technology, everybody will be prepared for the “real world”. Unfortunately, the technology they use isn’t utilized in the real world. So…useless. Somebody needs to tell them this!

GFB:  That’s often true. However I think the teacher should be the one to judge how much technology to use and when. Occasionally we should show them really OLD technology like carving quill pens from turkey feathers, or making their own batteries from copper pennies and galvanized iron…

But you can’t do that with Value Added Measurements and rubrics testing whether you are on the Commin Core Crapiculum to the minute.

I wasn’t really giving THE or even A solution. I was objecting to the solution we are having imposed on us right now. If you want proposed solutions, here goes:

  1. Get people who don’t have actual, extensive teaching or research experience out of the command and control centers of education except as advisors.so, no Michelle Rhee, Andre Agassi, Arne Duncan, Billionaire Broad at the helm.
  2. For our poorer kids, make sure they have free, high quality wraparound services of every kind from the moment their mother notices she’s pregnant.
  3. So for example good well-qualified dentists, ophthalmologists, psychologists, general practitioners, and other doctors should come to each school and check eyes ears nose throat etc and give immunizations to every kid, no more than a single hour of class needs to be missed. If they get hurt on the playground or suddenly vomit in class, it’s really taken care of, right away.
  4. There should be all sorts of remedial help available for kids AS SOON AS help appears to be needed: eyesight, hearing, balance, coordination, mental math, memory improvement, spelling, reading, writing, walking, emotional difficulties, etc. (Right now, the provisions of ADA and IDEA are not funded, so school districts have an incentive to NOT diagnose those with deficiences or learning disabilities, because then they would have to take care of them. Charter schools for the most part just pretend that there are no IEPs.)
  5. Every kid gets a lot of ‘gross motor’ outdoor activities – not just team sports but also things like wilderness hikes, camping, horse care and riding, farming, boating. And music and drama and arts of all sorts – not just for the talented few, but everybody. Lots of after-school activities of these sorts.
  6. Teachers (and parents) should select their principals from among the ranks of the teachers. The principal should also teach, part-time.
  7. Teachers should have at least two years of education theory (and human psychology) and a full year and a half of student teaching, and at least a college major in their area, under experienced mentors. Teachers should be given help o0n how to defuse tense situations and child psychology, and should be chosen from the ranks of those showing
    1. academic promise and
    2. the ability to empathize and
    3. the ability to explain patiently and clearly.
  8. Classes should be much, much smaller. If 12:1 is good enough at Phillips Exeter Academy with their Harkness Tables, why not at Malcolm X ES in far Southeast Washington DC? And if it’s a hands on activity like a chemistry lab or using compasses & straightedges or making birdhouses, get an assistant or two so that it’s more like 3:1.
  9. Let the teachers wrangle over curriculum. State level is fine. County level is fine. School level is fine. To hell with these state-wide standardized tests and curricula, be they bubble type or click and drag.
  10. Actual hands-on vocational training that leads to actual jobs should be available to all who want it, and corporations must engage to hire those grads at decent rates of pay and with promises of additional training.
  11. State-college or  state-university higher education needs to be much, much cheaper. Student debt, like all other debt, should be dischargeable upon bankruptcy, and should be payoff able by many kinds of national service. (Exact provisions TBD, but teaching should definitely be one of those forms of national service. Payments and interest in limbo for the first X years, paid off at Y percent per year, fully paid off after Z years. Exact values of X, Y, Z are TBD.)
  12. Teachers should be paid well enough that they don’t need to get second jobs. Pay in DCPS is not the problem. Working conditions are the problem.
  13. I think that 3-4 hours of personal contact time with kids per day is enough. Planning for each class and heading papers can easily take 2x the amount of class time. So each paper turned in by a student should be returned the next day, marked intelligently.
  14. Since the bosses have their own organizations (NAM, Chamber of Commerce, ALEC, the Koch Brothers network, Council on Foreign Relations, the Cosmos Club, etc) so should the employees. Teachers’ unions should continue to exist but should be more democratic.
  15. Students should, in fact, be held responsible for their success or failure. It’s not all on the teacher, as it is now. Social promotion for a number of years is OK, many countries do it without bad effects, but there should be some sort of a test, I think, of all sorts: practical (eg drawing something, playing a musical piece, climbing a wall, drilling a hole, writing an essay, doing a proof, viewing something under the microscope, etc) as well as a pencil-and-paper or mouse-and-screen test of some sort. Not just arcane reading and math.
  16.  Those who don’t meet the mark should obviously be advised as to what their options are, and those options should be available and well-funded, whatever they might be.
  17. We should strike a balance between having kids go to their walk-to neighborhood schools and having truly integrated schools where each school has a mix of kids of all ethnic groups and incomes. How to do that, exactly , under our current mega-segregated urban patterns, is beyond me. The superhighways and redlinings of the last 80 years are not going to be overcome overnight, but having kids ride for hours to charter schools where there is no neighborhood connection – that’s not the answer.
  18. Anything I left out?
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