Hedge Funder, DFER leader Whitney Tilson debates Diane Ravitch

Interesting discussion between Diane Ravitch and a leader in the billionaire-funded Ed “Reform” movement we are currently facing. The link is here.

(Note: I accidentally called Tilson a leader of DFA, Democracy for America, which was founded by Howard Dean. I meant to say that Tilson is a founder of DFER, Democrats for Education Reform, which is entirely different. Diane Ravitch set me straight.)

Published in: on April 26, 2016 at 8:20 am  Comments (1)  

Steven Singer on Testing, Eugenics, Racism and Big Business

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Standardized Tests Have Always Been About Keeping People in Their Place
There are some things that can’t be unseen.


America’s history of standardized testing is one of them.


Today, critics from all sides of the political spectrum decry the overuse of high stakes tests while paradoxically championing them for accountability purposes – especially for schools serving minority students.


Civil rights organizations that last year opposed testing have suddenly come to demand it – not because testing ensures racial equity but for fear of losing wealthy donors tied to the assessment industry.


Yet one look at where these tests come from and how they have been used in the past shows their essentially classist and racist natures.


Make no mistake – standardized testing has been a tool of social control for the last century. And it remains one today.


Twisted statistics, made up math, nonexistent or biased research – these are the “scientific” supports for standardized testing. It has never been demonstrated that these kinds of tests can accurately assess either intelligence or knowledge, especially as that knowledge gets more complex. But there is an unspoken agreement in political circles to pretend that testing is rock solid and produces scores that can be relied on to make decisions that will have tremendous effects on the lives of students, teachers, parents and communities.


Our modern assessments are holdovers from the 1910s and ‘20s, an age when psychologists thought they could isolate the racial markers for intelligence and then improve human beings through selective breeding like you might with dogs or cats.


I’m not kidding.


It was called eugenics.


Psychologists like Carl Brigham, Robert Yerkes, and Lewis Terman were trying to find a way to justify the social order. Why is it that certain people are at the top and others at the bottom? What is the best way to decide who belongs where?


To answer these questions they appealed to a radical misreading of Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin. They thought they had discovered something new about the human brain. Positive traits such as intelligence were widespread in Northwestern European races and almost nonexistent in others. Moreover, negative traits such as laziness and criminality were common in nonwhites and almost absent in those same Northwestern Europeans.


It was really just the same kind of racial prejudices that have been prevalent throughout Europe for centuries, but now American pseudoscientists had found a justification for believing them. In fact, they argued that these deductions weren’t prejudices at all. They were facts based on evidence. It was “science.”


To make such conclusions they had to blind themselves to the effects of wealth and social class. The rich tend to be more well-behaved and educated than the poor. These psychologists took this to mean that the rich were somehow genetically superior. And since the rich were mostly of Northwestern European ancestry, they concluded their genes produced a racially superior type of human. They ignored the fact that a privileged upbringing bestows certain benefits while an impoverished one inflicts life-altering wounds. Ultimately, their “science” was simply a justification for their prejudices.


Brigham later created a civilian test of intelligence that could be used to sort and rank students just as the Army Alpha and Beta tests had been used to sort soldiers. He called it the Scholastic Aptitude Test or S.A.T.




Though the test has been revised multiple times since Brigham created it, the purpose has remained the same – to distinguish the wheat from the chaff, to hold some students up as worthy of further educational investment and to keep others out. Moreover, the means by which the SAT makes this distinction was and remains culturally and economically biased. Researchers have been pointing out since Brigham’s day that the test favors students from wealthy, white backgrounds over those from poor minority homes. Yet today 2.1 million teenagers every year still must take the test to get into the college of their choice.


And so eugenics became education policy throughout the country from primary to post-secondary school.


Terman, who created the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test to identify “slow” children for special education programs, went on to champion rigid academic tracking for all students in public schools based on standardized testing. The idea was to give the racially pure students extra resources and keep the mixed or lower races in classes more suited to their lower intellects and eventual menial stations in life.


It is sad that many of these ideas persist in our present-day schools. Even today, economically disadvantaged and minority students still make up the majority of remedial and academic classes while the children of the middle class and the wealthy (most of whom incidentally are white) disproportionately populate the honors classes. Today we write that off as merely accidental if we think about it at all. However, a peek at history shows quite clearly that it is exactly how the system has been designed to work.

Published in: on April 5, 2016 at 8:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Injuries and “High intensity” exercise

My son runs a gym called True180 Fitness in Georgetown (DC), and shared this article with me.

He wrote:

“This article is a disturbing reminder of why safety is so important (and to a lesser extent why calling what we do “high intensity exercise” isn’t a great idea because that’s now associated with people doing stupid and irresponsible things):  ”


Published in: on April 2, 2016 at 1:07 pm  Comments (2)  

More data falsification in DCPS

My former colleague Erich Martel keeps uncovering and documenting evidence of DC education officials fabricating or falsifying data to make themselves look good without actually helping any students or parents or teachers. This letter from him deserves to be read, digested, disseminated, and acted on.
However, if the past is any guide – which it usually is – Erich’s letter will probably be ignored. Here it is:


[Attachment(s) from Erich Martel included below]

March 28, 2016 (margins: 7″ ; tabs 0.25″)

Ms. Hanseul Kang, D.C. State Superintendent of Education
Ms. Kaya Henderson, Chancellor, DC Public Schools
Ms. Jennie Niles, DC Deputy Mayor for Education
Mr. Scott Pearson, Executive Director, DC Public Charter School Board
Mr. David Grosso, Chair, Education Committee, DC Council

cc: Urban Institute 3/29 program facilitators; DC Mayor; DC Council;
bcc: media, DC public education supporters

Dear District of Columbia School Officials,

I am looking forward to your presentations at the Urban Institute’s public panel on DC’s Next Generation of Data and Research. This could truly be the start of a new day, if you commit to full data transparency within the reasonable limits of the FERPA and to true standards-based education research. I am writing this as an open letter, which, as public officials, you should welcome.

As a high school social studies teacher, my interest in data began with discoveries at Wilson H.S. of altered student grades and the high school diploma awarded to students despite missing or fabricated entries on official records and transcripts. In 2002, it led to an independent audit of all DCPS high schools that found the same mismanagement in each one. In 2006, the DC Inspector General confirmed new discoveries at Wilson HS. In 2010, the Thomas Fordham Institute distributed my report on credit recovery, describing how Chancellor Rhee’s so-called credit recovery program bypassed DC graduation requirements (http://tinyurl.com/l8cjxac ).

As a member of the Washington Teachers’ Union Executive Board (2007-10), I served on the OSSE/OCTO SLED (State Longitudinal Education Data) adoption committee (2008) and, in 2010, testified before the NAS/NRC PERAA Evaluation Committee, whose final report noting the difficulty of getting accurate and complete data led to this Urban Institute event. In both cases, I submitted descriptions of data suppression or skewing and recommendations for data reporting.

Attached is a document that all parents and teachers would welcome from every DCPS and charter high school: The College Board’s “School Integrated Summary.” Attached in one from North Carolina, which I found posted on the web. It displays student performance results on the PSAT, SAT, SAT subject tests and AP, by test and scores. They are available annually by early September:
(full letter continued on attachment)
Erich Martel
Retired DCPS high school teacher

Attachment(s) from Erich Martel | View attachments on the web

3 of 3 File(s)

Friendship Collegiate 3 2011 Transcripts Analyzed 15 0101.doc

Coll Bd School Integrated Summary NC HS 2014-15.pdf

Letter to DC Officials re Urban Inst Panel Data&Rsch.doc

Posted by: “Erich Martel” <ehmartel@

Published in: on March 28, 2016 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mike Martin on Lead Poisoning and Public Institutions

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

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

Mike Martin

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


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



“There are strong relationships between long-term 

lead poisoning (oftentimes unacknowledged and/or 

denied) and standardized testing outcomes in 

poverty-ridden school districts where the majority 

of students are African American and Hispanic or 

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


Return joy to our classrooms where exploration, creativity and innovation are prized along with academic programs that foster life-long learning by signing the letter 


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

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)


In the wake of the steady Republican clamor for pillorying Hillary Clinton over an attack that left four US diplomats dead, we often forget that without American intervention in Libya on the side of anti-Ghaddafi rebels in the first place, Libya probably would not have become the failed state that it is.

Interesting NYT article on just how Clinton got persuaded that intervening in Libya was going to be a great idea, and how she then persuaded the initially skeptical Obama administration as well.


Published in: on February 28, 2016 at 4:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Terrorists in America…

Extermination of the North American Indians was genocide.

Maintaining slavery in the US meant practicing terrorism on a very wide scale.

The Ku Klux Klan practiced terrorism with much local government support (and lack of opposition from the federal government, most of the time) from the collapse of Reconstruction until the mid-1960s.

I think it’s important to remember history. Please read this article:


Published in: on February 28, 2016 at 4:42 am  Leave a Comment  

On Guns And Terrorism in America

Terrorism has a long history in America.

I’ve owned guns since I was a little kid, and have shot targets and hunted deer, squirrels, rabbits and birds from time to time since I was in my 20s. But I am alarmed at the frankly fascist, insurrectionist threats coming from right-wing, openly racist militias all over this country.

This is from an acquaintance of mine, Ron Carver: He starts by discussing the violent, racist reaction to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Armed Klansmen burned 50 African-American churches and kidnapped and killed three civil rights activists in an infamous attack that became a pivotal moment in the civil rights struggle. During the search for Andrew Goodman, James Cheney, and Michael Schwerner, Lyndon Johnson sent Navy sailors to scour Neshoba County’s riverbeds. They didn’t find them, but they uncovered the corpses of dozens(* note) of African American men. It was a time and place where any crime was tolerated if it preserved the segregationists’ “way of life.”

In the previous hundred years, thousands of African Americans had been lynched, as documented in scores of gruesome photos that were proudly sold as souvenirs.

It is no surprise to me, then, to learn that James Madison’s reason for proposing the Second Amendment in 1789 was to preserve the state militias, the white population’s “principal instrument of slave control.” As documented in The Hidden History of the Second Amendment, an article published in 1998 in the University of California, Davis Law Review, these militias (often called “slave patrols”) were tasked with periodic sweeps of plantations to seek runaway slaves and intimidate any who dreamed of freedom.

Today, the proliferation of armed hate groups, which sometimes call themselves militias, is at least as dangerous as isolated, unbalanced, and gun-toting men with scores to settle. The number of anti-government so-called Patriot groups, such as armed militias, grew by 755 percent in the first three years of President Barack Obama’s first term, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The number of these groups rose from 149 at the end of 2008 to 1,274 in 2011, the SPLC reports.

Hate groups have expanded into every state but Hawaii. They are in everyone’s backyard.

The atmosphere today is toxic. Radio talk jocks promote armed struggle and one security industry executive boasts on YouTube that he would “start shooting people” in response to new gun controls.

For more than a hundred years the NRA promoted sportsmanship and responsible gun ownership — period. But since extremists seized control in 1977, the organization has forced a stranglehold on Congress while promoting the myth that the Second Amendment was enacted to facilitate armed rebellion against our own government, should it become tyrannical.

I support the right to own guns, but we don’t need 30 rounds in a semi-automatic weapon — or a well-armed militia — to bag a deer. I draw the line when my fellow citizens turn their homes into armories and begin training for insurrection. We used to call that treason.

Ron Carver, a former Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) field organizer


  • I read that it was eight, but that’s still 8 too many!
Published in: on February 28, 2016 at 4:30 am  Comments (1)  

Gerald Bracey Speaks (an interview from 2003)

The late Gerald Bracey was one of the very first researchers to point out that much of the attacks on public education in America was actually false. I remember reading some of his detailed annual “Bracey Reports” and having my preconceptions shattered one by one. For example, he was the first one to convince me that in fact there is NO great shortage of trained STEM grads in this country — in fact we have a large surplus of them, despite all the propaganda saying otherwise!

Bracey died suddenly about 6-7 years ago and is greatly missed. I never met him, but I just came upon an interview from about 23 years ago, and I recommend watching it. His intellect is remarkable.

Around the 16:00 time of the half-hour interview, he gives a list of 21 qualities that are not (and probably cannot) be measured by any test, but which are actually much more important. They include things like creativity, persistence, resilience, critical thinking, motivation, leadership, empathy, curiosity, humor, civic mindedness, and courage.

These are actually much more important than any score on any test. He also points out that if nothing else, American students are trained to ask questions.

{However, there are certain charter schools that actively discourage that, and want to produce students who follow directions without any questions at all… But that obviously did not come up in this interview, because those charter chains hadn’t even been invented yet…}

Here is the link:

Published in: on February 14, 2016 at 6:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

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