Why Does Eva Moskowitz Get to Avoid Following the Rules?

You may know that Eva Moskowitz runs the Success Academies charter school chain in New York City, whose students score extremely well on the mandatory New York state-wide ELA and math tests – better than any schools in the state.

This can only partly be explained by the very high attrition rates from SA schools – many, many students drop out or are pushed out, and not replaced. For example, a class of 73 first graders becomes 26 ninth graders much later on.

However, not a single one of SA graduates has EVER scored well enough for entry into any of the specialized public New York City magnet schools.

In addition, they have refused to release the Regents’ exam scores for any of their students, even though every other school must do so. Even though the students’ OWN TEACHERS at SA get to grade their students’ Regents exams – something no regular public school is ever allowed to do.

Something is extremely fishy, and teacher-blogger Gary Rubinstein is trying to uncover it without much help from anybody.

Read his account here.


An Interactive, Up-To-Date Map of World Conflicts

Remember when we used to see maps of what ISIS/ISIL/Daesh was up to in Syria and Iraq, every day? Or what the Russian and Ukrainian governments were up to?

Don’t think it’s over just because it’s not on the news. Those conflicts are still on-going.

I just found an online utility that shows what side is currently holding what territory, and what recent bombings or attacks or meetings or mass murders have taken place in the last day or so. It looks like it gets updated very frequently. I am sure that like eveybody else, whoever puts this out has a certain amount of biases, but it’s probably a more complete source of information on world conflicts than you are likely to find in any other news outlet I can think of.

The link is here.

With it you can select your preferred area of interest. Here is a screen shot from today (4/23/2016), focused on Syria and Iraq. You really do need the legend to figure out what is going on, since the conflicts are very complicated affairs that I am glad I am not living close to. Let me know if clicking on the image below enlargse it, and feel free to follow the link above.

middle east conflicts

Published in: on April 23, 2016 at 8:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The hard-to-kill lie that low-fat diets are good for you

In 1980, health authorities in the US and the UK issued food guidelines that urged people to eat less fat, less protein, less cholesterol, and more grains and other carbohydrate-rich foods.

People in general (including me) followed that advice, even though in hindsight it has become clear that there was absolutely no evidence that it would work. If you’ve been paying attention, 1980 was about the year that the problem of obesity became an epidemic in the US and in Great Britain. Proponents of a low-carb, higher-protein, low-sugar diet like John Yudkin or Robert Atkins were called all sorts of names by powerful figures in the American and British health establishments, in particular by Ancel Keys and his many acolytes. Yudkin in particular had is reputation besmirched, and Atkins was called a fraud.

Gary Taubes, Nina Teicholz, and Robert Lustig are some of the researchers and writers who have recently pointed out that the familiar low-fat hypothesis has no evidence whatsoever backing it up, and that there is lots of evidence contradicting it.

A few paragraphs from a recent article on this in the Guardian, which I urge you to read in its entirety:

Only in the last few years has it become acceptable to study the effects of Atkins-type diets. In 2014, in a trial funded by the US National Institutes of Health, 150 men and women were assigned a diet for one year which limited either the amount of fat or carbs they could eat, but not the calories. By the end of the year, the people on the low carbohydrate, high fat diet had lost about 8 lb more on average than the low-fat group. They were also more likely to lose weight from fat tissue; the low-fat group lost some weight too, but it came from the muscles. The NIH study is the latest of more than 50 similar studies, which together suggest that low-carbohydrate diets are better than low-fat diets for achieving weight loss and controlling type 2 diabetes. As a body of evidence, it is far from conclusive, but it is as consistent as any in the literature.


In 2008, researchers from Oxford University undertook a Europe-wide study of the causes of heart disease. Its data shows an inverse correlation between saturated fat and heart disease, across the continent. France, the country with the highest intake of saturated fat, has the lowest rate of heart disease; Ukraine, the country with the lowest intake of saturated fat, has the highest. When the British obesity researcher Zoë Harcombe performed an analysis of the data on cholesterol levels for 192 countries around the world, she found that lower cholesterol correlated with higher rates of death from heart disease.

In the last 10 years, a theory that had somehow held up unsupported for nearly half a century has been rejected by several comprehensive evidence reviews, even as it staggers on, zombie-like, in our dietary guidelines and medical advice.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, in a 2008 analysis of all studies of the low-fat diet, found “no probable or convincing evidence” that a high level of dietary fat causes heart disease or cancer. Another landmark review, published in 2010, in the American Society for Nutrition, and authored by, among others, Ronald Krauss, a highly respected researcher and physician at the University of California, stated “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD [coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease]”.

Many nutritionists refused to accept these conclusions. The journal that published Krauss’s review, wary of outrage among its readers, prefaced it with a rebuttal by a former right-hand man of Ancel Keys, which implied that since Krauss’s findings contradicted every national and international dietary recommendation, they must be flawed. The circular logic is symptomatic of a field with an unusually high propensity for ignoring evidence that does not fit its conventional wisdom.

Published in: on April 10, 2016 at 12:58 pm  Comments (1)  
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Having Two Separate School Systems Is Wasteful

Peter Greene keeps making the point that having a charter school system along side a public school system is wasteful. One reason is that each system would need its own set of administrators. In Washington, DC, where nearly half of the students now attend charter schools, we now have MORE school buildings than we did when I was in junior high school just over 50 years ago, but only about HALF as many students — thus, a lot of unused space.

Inventing two separate school systems has done essentially nothing to reduce the score gaps between children from white, affluent families (living mostly in upper Northwest) and children from minority, poor families (living elsewhere). The segregation is not quite as awful as it was in the 1960s, but it’s pretty close.

Here is an excellent article from Valerie Strauss’ blog where a DC parent decries the waste, segregation, and general bass-ackwardness of what passes for ‘reform’ in the nation’s capital.

An excerpt:

“Two years ago, when I moderatedthe mayoral education debate, I gave each candidate a math problem:

“–In 1965, the District had 147,000 students and 196 schools. That’s [an average of] 750 kids per school.

“–In 2014, we had 85,000 students and 213 DCPS [D.C. Public Schools] and charter school buildings. That’s [an average of] 399 kids per school.

“That means we have half the kids that we had in the 1960s, and more buildings, many of them gravely under-enrolled. Yet, we still authorize up to 20 new charters per year, and an unclear number of DCPS new schools. Enrollment is flat. At what point do we match school growth with enrollment needs, geographic balance, and transportation planning in mind? At one point do we focus on using data to invest in and manage the schools that we have?”

She also describes

“…the scene I watch from my house near North Capitol Street. It’s straight-up racial apartheid. If I see white children walking to the parks, I knew they are from Mundo Verde or Inspired Teaching schools. The lack of white faces in a group of children makes me know the kids are from Langley, Harmony, or KIPP.”

Noam Chomsky on the 2016 Elections:

Chomsky is often right about things.

I reprint a couple of paragraphs from Chomsky’s recent interview which I found in Truthout, which says that Bernie Sanders’ positions on things like universal health care coverage and free public higher education are held by large majorities of the population, both right now and for many decades in the past.

On the remaining Republican candidates:

Q: Cruz and Rubio appear to me to be both far more dangerous than Trump. I see them as the real monsters, while Trump reminds me a bit of Silvio Berlusconi. Do you agree with any of these views?

A: (Chomsky) I agree – and as you know, the Trump-Berlusconi comparison is current in Europe. I would also add Paul Ryan to the list. He is portrayed as the deep thinker of the Republicans, the serious policy wonk, with spreadsheets and the other apparatus of the thoughtful analyst. The few attempts to analyze his programs, after dispensing with the magic that is regularly introduced, conclude that his actual policies are to virtually destroy every part of the federal government that serves the interests of the general population, while expanding the military and ensuring that the rich and the corporate sector will be well attended to – the core Republican ideology when the rhetorical trappings are drawn aside.

and on what we should do:

Q: Is America still a democracy and, if not, do elections really matter?

A: With all its flaws, America is still a very free and open society, by comparative standards. Elections surely matter. It would, in my opinion, be an utter disaster for the country, the world and future generations if any of the viable Republican candidates were to reach the White House, and if they continue to control Congress. Consideration of the overwhelmingly important questions we discussed earlier suffices to reach that conclusion, and it’s not all. For such reasons as those I alluded to earlier, American democracy, always limited, has been drifting substantially toward plutocracy. But these tendencies are not graven in stone. We enjoy an unusual legacy of freedom and rights left to us by predecessors who did not give up, often under far harsher conditions than we face now. And it provides ample opportunities for work that is badly needed, in many ways, in direct activism and pressures in support of significant policy choices, in building viable and effective community organizations, revitalizing the labor movement, and also in the political arena, from school boards to state legislatures and much more.

Published in: on March 10, 2016 at 3:53 pm  Comments (1)  
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Horrifying …

I’m sure most of my former students will tell you I was too strict and gave too much homework, but the chapter I hope you read on apparent abuses by a KIPP CEO at a school in California is absolutely horrifying. It was posted at Steven Krashen’s blog, Schools Matter.

Or click on this link:


Why do we need charter schools?

Peter Greene, the Curmudgucator, hits the nail right on the head about why charter schools are necessary.

(Hint: it’s not for making schools better!)

A quote:

So, really– what do we need charters for?

Improvements in quality, choice, innovation, instruction, programs– all of it can be accomplished in a public school system. All of these ideas for improving education could be applied to public schools, which would have the additional advantage of bringing the improvements to ALL students instead of a small group.

Of course, part of the challenge would be that changes and reforms would have to be discussed, debated and deployed publicly. A person who wanted, say, to subject non-wealthy non-white students to boot camp style No Excuses education would have to convince the taxpayers that it was a good idea. It’s possible that only charters can provide an opportunity for one driven visionary to impose his or her ideas on a school without being answerable to anyone. But that would be less like a democratic institution and more like a small-scale dictatorship. It’s not a very admirable goal– and anyway, the invention of mayoral control has once again made it possible to establish small scholastic dictatorships without resorting to charters. This, too, we can accomplish without charter schools.

There isn’t anything on this list of goals that we actually need charter skills to accomplish.

Is there any other goal I’m forgetting to– oh, wait a minute.

Redirecting Tax Dollars

Charter schools do accomplish one goal that can’t be achieved by public schools– they manage to redirect public tax dollars into the pockets of private corporations, charter operating companies, corporate shareholders, and guys who just figured they’d make some money in the charter biz.

(my emphasis – gfb)

Hearings address surplus of STEM workers in USA

There are official Senate hearings going on right now on the ways that large multinational corporations like Disney are firing relatively well-paid American tech workers and replacing them with workers overseas at much lower rates of compensation. In some cases they use a special visa program designed to hire foreign tech workers if there are no American workers available.

But anybody who claims – as do the heads of Microsoft and ALCOA – that there is a lack of highly-skilled American workers is simply lying. There are lots of highly-trained US STEM grads who cannot find jobs in the fields they were trained in.

Partly that’s because such American STEM grads expect to get paid a living American wage, with benefits and that’s not something that large multinational corporations are fond of paying for any more, except for a privileged few at the very top (like CEOs who make tens or hundreds of millions of dollars per year…).

Here is a quote from the Science magazine article:

At the hearing, titled “The Impact of High-Skilled Immigration on U.S. Workers,” subcommittee chair Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) kept the discussion focused on the moves by a number of U.S. companies to replace long-serving American workers with workers on H-1B skilled guest worker visas and to force the laid-off Americans to train their replacements. As Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) explained, “Congress intended the H-1B program to allow an employer to hire a skilled foreign worker in a specialized occupation when the employer could not find an American worker with needed skills and abilities,” and for many years the debate has focused on employers’ claims of a STEM skills shortage. But, Sessions said, “the sad reality is that not only is there not a shortage of exceptionally qualified U.S. workers, but across the country thousands of U.S. workers are being replaced by foreign labor.” As H-1B expert Ron Hira of Howard University in Washington, D.C., testified, “over the past year, in addition to the Southern California Edison case, a number of other cases—including Disney, Northeast Utilities, the Fossil Group, Catalina Marketing, New York Life, Hertz, Toys R Us, and I could keep going on—were highlighted by the press. But these were only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There are many more cases out there.” Testimony by labor force expert Hal Salzman of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in New Jersey added that “all evidence and events suggest [that] the substitution of guest workers for U.S. workers is accelerating.”

Jersey Jazzman Examines the ‘Myth of the Heroic Charter School’ — New Jersey Style

As you know, certain charter chains keep claiming that nothing needs to be done about poverty in America.

All that needs to be done to get rid of the ‘achievement gap’ is to get rid of unionized, veteran teachers; hire inexperienced, untrained teachers; and require them to follow a script, have ‘high expectations’, maintain tight discipline. Then, the scores will go through the roof.

Jersey Jazzman has actually taken the time to look into this, and has lovely graphs and tables backing up his words showing that it’s really a load of cow manure. The graphs should be read deciphered by all.

Pay particular attention to the graph that shows that on one Big Standardized (BS) test (where a particular charter chain scored quite high), the vast majority of the public-school students they were compared to, didn’t even bother taking the test, because they knew it didn’t matter to their futures in any way at all and was a big PITA.

Here is the link.

Shortage of US STEM workers? High-Tech Companies Think Otherwise

In fact,

“Although employers often claim in public statements that shortages of domestic talent prevent them from finding workers, they tell a different story in filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Salzman noted. “Accenture states that restrictions on guest worker supply would result in ‘new or higher minimum salary requirements and increased costs.’ Another firm says they would have to ‘replace existing offshore resources with local resources, namely U.S. workers, at higher wages.’ That is, without the congressional discount for guest workers, the highly profitable IT industry would have to hire more U.S. workers and pay them more than guest workers.”

Read this article in the prestigious magazine Science:


Published in: on March 5, 2016 at 8:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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