Arne Duncan is Leaving

I am pleased to report that Arne Duncan is stepping down as the US Secretary of Education. I wish he was being fired and disgraced, because he has done more to destroy and resegregate public education than any other individual. Except Barack Obama, who appointed him.

Good riddance. But his replacement is not likely to be better: John King, who was utterly indifferent to parent complaints about over-testing.

(PS – sorry for the original typos. Trying to write a post via my iPhone is asking for errors galore.)

See Jersey Jazzman use the Gaussian Distribution to Show that Arne Duncan and Mike Petrilli are full of it

Excellent lesson from Jersey Jazzman showing that the old tests produce pretty much the same distribution of scores as the new tests.

old and new tests

He has superimposed the green scores from 2008 on top of the 2014 scores for New York state in 8th grade reading, and basically they have almost the same distribution. Furthermore, a scatter plot shows nearly the same thing, and that there is a nearly perfect correlation between the old scores and the new scores, by school.

old and new tests again

Read his article, which is clear and concise. I don’t have time to go into this in depth.

Where have all the teachers gone?

A lot of them have retired (like me) or quit in disgust. This writer collected comments from dozens of teachers around the nation who explained why they retired early or quit teaching altogether because they could not stand the direction that American education has taken.

Very worthwhile reading.

Freeloaders – a couple of well-financed anti-union teachers

Recently the NYT had an interview with two anti-union teachers in California, who are the faces (but not the funders) of the lawsuit before the Supreme Court on whether unions can charge their members ‘agency fees’.

If the wrong side wins this case, it will have a devastating impact on what remains of the pitifully small American labor movement.

Jersey Jazzman has a good article summarizing and demolishing the arguments made by those two right-wing teachers.

By the way, nearly everything Mark Weber (Jersey Jazzman) writes is excellent. (My goof: for some reason I imagined that the article was by Arthur Goldstein, another excellent writer and teacher.)

Published in: on August 12, 2015 at 7:06 pm  Comments (1)  
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From Mark Naison – Parent Strike!

 This is from Mark Naison, an author and professor at Fordham in NYC — gfb
Mark Naison
July 23 at 4:51pm
What Our Children and Grandchildren Deserve: No Compromise With Current Education Policies

Every post I get from around the country suggests that the attack on teachers, students and public education shows no sign of letting up. Students are being tested more than ever; great teachers are being given low ratings and driven out of the profession; and whole cities are being turned into all charter districts without evidence that this will do anything to empower students, while at the same time funneling profits to consulting firms and real estate developers. While the worst of the attacks are hitting high poverty schools, no districts are immune from the scripting, the micromanagement and the obsession with test results. This nightmare is occurring in states with Republican governors and states with Democratic governors.

Anyone who thinks that the new ECAA legislation being passed by Congress is going to bring relief is being extremely naive. Those who think than any Presidential candidate will make things better is living in Never Never Land. The momentum of current policies on the state and local level is powerful because it is driven by Billionaire dollars. The same people who are controlling the political process in DC are driving privatization and profiteering in public education at the local level.

The only way to fight back against this is civil disobedience. Parent strikes, Student strikes. Teachers strikes. Test Refusal. And innovative tactics to bring the pressure on those who would destroy students lives and teachers careers. Disrupt meetings. Picket peoples houses. Make those who would make students and families pay the price pay a price themselves.

This is why I am very excited about the formation of the group ParentStrike. And the refusal of United Opt Out to compromise at all with ANY federal legislation that uses standardized testing as the basis of school evaluation and uses federal funds to punish schools, school districts and entire states on the basis of test scores.

Now is not the time to compromise. We are already losing badly. It is the time to disrupt. To confuse. To undermine, To resist

Our children and grandchildren deserve better. Much better.

With Friends Like These …

With Friends Like These…

(public education doesn’t need enemies!)

An assessment by Ken Derstine of the overhaul of ESEA / NCLB / ECAA act. Here is the link:

Weekly Roundup of Educational Resistance by Bob Schaeffer

{As usual, this list is collected and distributed by Bob Schaeffer, not by me.}

The U.S. Senate has joined the House of Representatives in responding to growing, grassroots pressure by voting to overhaul “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB). The bills passed by both the Senate and House reflect widespread rejection of failed top-down, test-and-punish strategies as well as the “NCLB on steroids” waiver regime dictated by Arne Duncan. While neither version is close to perfect from an assessment reform perspective, each makes significant progress by rolling back federally mandated high-stakes, eliminating requirements to evaluate educators based on student test scores, and recognizing opt-out rights. FairTest and its allies will closely monitor the conference committee working on compromise language to make sure the gains remain in the final bill sent to President Obama — the alternative is to keep the yoke of NCLB-and-waivers in place for at least two more years, if not much longer. Meanwhile, organizers in many states are keeping the spotlight on the problems of test overuse and misuse, modeling better practices and winning additional policy victories.

Remember that back issues of these weekly updates are archived at:

National End High-Stakes Testing to Help Fix Public Education: Key Civil Rights Leader
National U.S. Senate Rejects Proposal to Give Federal Government More Say in Identifying “Failing” Schools
National Both House and Senate NCLB Overhaul Bills Allow for Penalty-Free Test Opt Out
National “Race to the Top:” Lofty Promises and Top-Down Regulation Brought Few Good Changes to America’s Schools

Exit Exam on Way Out

Two Small Districts Set Opt Out Records

Opposition Coalesces Against Smarter Balanced Tests

Governor Vetoes Opt-Out Bill; State PTA Pushed for Override Vote

More than 10,000 Young People Who Did Not Pass Grad. Test Recently Received Diplomas

Hawaii Teachers Fight Evaluations Based on Student Test Scores

Why Common Core Tests Are Harmful to Students

Third-Grade Promotion Test Pushes Reading Down Into Kindergarten

Fight to Make Charter School Disclose What Test It Uses for Kindergarten Entry

Test Cuts Came After Thorough Debate

Exam Scores Don’t Tell Full Story of Teacher Preparedness

Time Allocated to New State Tests Cut in Half

Nevada After Testing System Breakdown, State to Hire New Assessment Vendor

New Hampshire Schools Can Replace Smarter Balanced Tests with ACT or SAT

New Jersey
Be Wary of New State Teacher Ratings

New Mexico
Court Rejects Suit Seeking to Strip Pearson’s Common Core Testing Contract

New York
High School Models Authentic Assessment
New York Opt Out Movement Plans to Ratchet Up Actions Against Standardized Exam Overkill
New York Pending NCLB Overhaul Offers Hope to Reduce State’s Testing Obsession

North Carolina State’s Largest District Cuts Back Local Test Mandates
North Carolina Cautions About Test-Score-Based Teacher Pay

Students Can Meet Graduation Requirement with Work Samples in Their Home Language

Questions Mount About Using Volatile Test Results to Evaluate Teachers and Schools
Pennsylvania Teachers to School Board: Standardized Testing is Harming Students

Rhode Island
What Tests Like PARCC Do Not Measure

Teachers School Governor on Testing and Evaluations
Tennessee Local School Board to Take Up Opt Out Resolution

New Test Leading Fewer to Get GEDs

Washington State Testing Revolt Pushes State Into Uncharted Waters
Washington Over-Testing is a Flawed Strategy

“How Many Tests Can a Child Withstand?” — with apologies to Bob Dylan

The Beatings in Education Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office-   (239) 395-6773   fax-  (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468

Comment by Duane Swacker on Stuart Yen’s Study, at Diane Ravitch’s Blog

I hope Duane Swacker will not mind me reposting one of his long comments after the recent blog post by Diane Ravitch about professor Stuart Yen’s study on the lack of validity of Value-Added Metrics.


To understand the COMPLETE INSANITY that is VAM & SLO/SGP read and understand Noel Wilson’s never refuted nor rebutted destruction of educational standards and standardized testing (of which VAM & SLO/SGP are the bastard stepchildren) in “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” found at:

Brief outline of Wilson’s “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” and some comments of mine.

1. A description of a quality can only be partially quantified. Quantity is almost always a very small aspect of quality. It is illogical to judge/assess a whole category only by a part of the whole. The assessment is, by definition, lacking in the sense that “assessments are always of multidimensional qualities. To quantify them as unidimensional quantities (numbers or grades) is to perpetuate a fundamental logical error” (per Wilson). The teaching and learning process falls in the logical realm of aesthetics/qualities of human interactions. In attempting to quantify educational standards and standardized testing the descriptive information about said interactions is inadequate, insufficient and inferior to the point of invalidity and unacceptability.

2. A major epistemological mistake is that we attach, with great importance, the “score” of the student, not only onto the student but also, by extension, the teacher, school and district. Any description of a testing event is only a description of an interaction, that of the student and the testing device at a given time and place. The only correct logical thing that we can attempt to do is to describe that interaction (how accurately or not is a whole other story). That description cannot, by logical thought, be “assigned/attached” to the student as it cannot be a description of the student but the interaction. And this error is probably one of the most egregious “errors” that occur with standardized testing (and even the “grading” of students by a teacher).

3. Wilson identifies four “frames of reference” each with distinct assumptions (epistemological basis) about the assessment process from which the “assessor” views the interactions of the teaching and learning process: the Judge (think college professor who “knows” the students capabilities and grades them accordingly), the General Frame-think standardized testing that claims to have a “scientific” basis, the Specific Frame-think of learning by objective like computer based learning, getting a correct answer before moving on to the next screen, and the Responsive Frame-think of an apprenticeship in a trade or a medical residency program where the learner interacts with the “teacher” with constant feedback. Each category has its own sources of error and more error in the process is caused when the assessor confuses and conflates the categories.

4. Wilson elucidates the notion of “error”: “Error is predicated on a notion of perfection; to allocate error is to imply what is without error; to know error it is necessary to determine what is true. And what is true is determined by what we define as true, theoretically by the assumptions of our epistemology, practically by the events and non-events, the discourses and silences, the world of surfaces and their interactions and interpretations; in short, the practices that permeate the field. . . Error is the uncertainty dimension of the statement; error is the band within which chaos reigns, in which anything can happen. Error comprises all of those eventful circumstances which make the assessment statement less than perfectly precise, the measure less than perfectly accurate, the rank order less than perfectly stable, the standard and its measurement less than absolute, and the communication of its truth less than impeccable.”

In other word all the logical errors involved in the process render any conclusions invalid.

5. The test makers/psychometricians, through all sorts of mathematical machinations attempt to “prove” that these tests (based on standards) are valid-errorless or supposedly at least with minimal error [they aren’t]. Wilson turns the concept of validity on its head and focuses on just how invalid the machinations and the test and results are. He is an advocate for the test taker not the test maker. In doing so he identifies thirteen sources of “error”, any one of which renders the test making/giving/disseminating of results invalid. And a basic logical premise is that once something is shown to be invalid it is just that, invalid, and no amount of “fudging” by the psychometricians/test makers can alleviate that invalidity.

6. Having shown the invalidity, and therefore the unreliability, of the whole process Wilson concludes, rightly so, that any result/information gleaned from the process is “vain and illusory”. In other words start with an invalidity, end with an invalidity (except by sheer chance every once in a while, like a blind and anosmic squirrel who finds the occasional acorn, a result may be “true”) or to put in more mundane terms crap in-crap out.

7. And so what does this all mean? I’ll let Wilson have the second to last word: “So what does a test measure in our world? It measures what the person with the power to pay for the test says it measures. And the person who sets the test will name the test what the person who pays for the test wants the test to be named.”

In other words it attempts to measure “’something’ and we can specify some of the ‘errors’ in that ‘something’ but still don’t know [precisely] what the ‘something’ is.” The whole process harms many students as the social rewards for some are not available to others who “don’t make the grade (sic)” Should American public education have the function of sorting and separating students so that some may receive greater benefits than others, especially considering that the sorting and separating devices, educational standards and standardized testing, are so flawed not only in concept but in execution?
My answer is NO!!!!!

One final note with Wilson channeling Foucault and his concept of subjectivization:

“So the mark [grade/test score] becomes part of the story about yourself and with sufficient repetitions becomes true: true because those who know, those in authority, say it is true; true because the society in which you live legitimates this authority; true because your cultural habitus makes it difficult for you to perceive, conceive and integrate those aspects of your experience that contradict the story; true because in acting out your story, which now includes the mark and its meaning, the social truth that created it is confirmed; true because if your mark is high you are consistently rewarded, so that your voice becomes a voice of authority in the power-knowledge discourses that reproduce the structure that helped to produce you; true because if your mark is low your voice becomes muted and confirms your lower position in the social hierarchy; true finally because that success or failure confirms that mark that implicitly predicted the now self-evident consequences. And so the circle is complete.”

In other words students “internalize” what those “marks” (grades/test scores) mean, and since the vast majority of the students have not developed the mental skills to counteract what the “authorities” say, they accept as “natural and normal” that “story/description” of them. Although paradoxical in a sense, the “I’m an “A” student” is almost as harmful as “I’m an ‘F’ student” in hindering students becoming independent, critical and free thinkers. And having independent, critical and free thinkers is a threat to the current socio-economic structure of society.

Teacher Depression

“Mr. Fitz” is perhaps my favorite comic strip, even though he teaches English rather than math (as I did).

He discusses here (and draws strips about) the intense amount of stress that has come about for teachers since NCLB and RTTT pressures became way more than overwhelming.

Important Article Shows that ‘Value-Added’ Measurements are Neither Valid nor Reliable

As you probably know, a handful of agricultural researchers and economists have come up with extremely complicated “Value-Added” Measurement (VAM) systems that purport to be able to grade teachers’ output exactly.

These economists (Hanushek, Chetty and a few others) claim that their formulas are magically mathematically able to single out the contribution of every single teacher to the future test scores and total lifetime earnings of their students 5 to 50 years into the future. I’m not kidding.

Of course, those same economists claim that the teacher is the single most important variable affecting their student’s school and trajectories – not family background or income, nor peer pressure, nor even whole-school variables. (Many other studies have shown that the effect of any individual teacher, or all teachers, is pretty small – from 1% to 14% of the entire variation, which corresponds to what I found during my 30 years of teaching … ie, not nearly as much of an impact as I would have liked [or feared], one way or another…)

Diane Ravitch has brought to my attention an important study by Stuart Yen at UMinn that (once again) refutes those claims, which are being used right now in state after state and county after county, to randomly fire large numbers of teachers who have tried to devote their lives to helping students.

According to the study, here are a few of the problems with VAM:

1. As I have shown repeatedly using the New York City value-added scores that were printed in the NYTimes and NYPost, teachers’ VAM scores vary tremendously over time. (More on that below; note that if you use VAM scores, 80% of ALL teachers should be fired after their first year of teaching) Plus RAND researchers found much the same thing in North CarolinaAlso see this. And this.

2. Students are not assigned randomly to teachers (I can vouch for that!) or to schools, and there are always a fair number of students for whom no prior or future data is available, because they move to other schools or states, or drop out, or whatever; and those students with missing data are NOT randomly distributed, which pretty makes the whole VAM setup an exercise in futility.

3. The tests themselves often don’t measure what they are purported to measure. (Complaints about the quality of test items are legion…)

Here is an extensive quote from the article. It’s a section that Ravitch didn’t excerpt, so I will, with a few sentences highlighted by me, since it concurs with what I have repeatedly claimed on my blog:

A largely ignored problem is that true teacher performance, contrary to the main assumption underlying current VAM models, varies over time (Goldhaber & Hansen, 2012). These models assume that each teacher exhibits an underlying trend in performance that can be detected given a sufficient amount of data. The question of stability is not a question about whether average teacher performance rises, declines, or remains flat over time.

The issue that concerns critics of VAM is whether individual teacher performance fluctuates over time in a way that invalidates inferences that an individual teacher is “low-” or “high-” performing.

This distinction is crucial because VAM is increasingly being applied such that individual teachers who are identified as low-performing are to be terminated. From the perspective of individual teachers, it is inappropriate and invalid to fire a teacher whose performance is low this year but high the next year, and it is inappropriate to retain a teacher whose performance is high this year but low next year.

Even if average teacher performance remains stable over time, individual teacher performance may fluctuate wildly from year to year.  (my emphasis – gfb)

While previous studies examined the intertemporal stability of value-added teacher rankings over one-year periods and found that reliability is inadequate for high-stakes decisions, researchers tended to assume that this instability was primarily a function of measurement error and sought ways to reduce this error (Aaronson, Barrow, & Sander, 2007; Ballou, 2005; Koedel & Betts, 2007; McCaffrey, Sass, Lockwood, & Mihaly, 2009).

However, this hypothesis was rejected by Goldhaber and Hansen (2012), who investigated the stability of teacher performance in North Carolina using data spanning 10 years and found that much of a teacher’s true performance varies over time due to unobservable factors such as effort, motivation, and class chemistry that are not easily captured through VAM. This invalidates the assumption of stable teacher performance that is embedded in Hanushek’s (2009b) and Gordon et al.’s (2006) VAM-based policy proposals, as well as VAM models specified by McCaffrey et al. (2009) and Staiger and Rockoff (2010) (see Goldhaber & Hansen, 2012, p. 15).

The implication is that standard estimates of impact when using VAM to identify and replace low-performing teachers are significantly inflated (see Goldhaber & Hansen, 2012, p. 31).

As you also probably know, the four main ‘tools’ of the billionaire-led educational DEform movement are:

* firing lots of teachers

* breaking their unions

* closing public schools and turning education over to the private sector

* changing education into tests to prepare for tests that get the kids ready for tests that are preparation for the real tests

They’ve been doing this for almost a decade now under No Child Left Untested and Race to the Trough, and none of these ‘reforms’ have shown to make any actual improvement in the overall education of our youth.


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