12 public education facts ‘reformers’ don’t want you to know

This is from Marie Corfield, and it’s great. Please redistribute this list and please read the supporting data in her post.

1. Poverty matters.

2. “US schools with less than 10% poverty lead most top-performing countries with similar rates.”

3. Even at higher poverty levels, US students still outperform students in other countries who live in similar levels of poverty.

4. “High performing countries are doing a better job at reducing the achievement gap.”

5. The US really doesn’t spend the most on public education.

6. “The US ranks near the bottom in providing poor children equal access to quality educational materials.”

7. Since the Great Recession, US education spending is decreasing compared to that of other OECD nations.

8. The US ranks 24th out of the OECD nations in early childhood education.

9. US teachers spend the most hours teaching and are paid far less than other PISA countries.

10. In other high-performing countries, teachers are paid for the work that US teachers bring home and do on their own time. 

11. OECD says the claim that other countries have better teachers because they are recruited from the top 1/3 of college graduates is “not supported by evidence.”

12. Unions are not the problem

Published in: on February 16, 2015 at 4:28 pm  Comments (1)  

Jails are for the Poor and the Mentally Ill, according to report

This report echoes a recent New Yorker article on the same topic. From the New York Times today:

Jails across the country have become vast warehouses made up primarily of people too poor to post bail or too ill with mental health or drug problems to adequately care for themselves, according to a report issued Wednesday.

The study, “Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America,” found that the majority of those incarcerated in local and county jails are there for minor violations, including driving with suspended licenses, shoplifting or evading subway fares, and have been jailed for longer periods of time over the past 30 years because they are unable to pay court-imposed costs.

While most reform efforts, including early releases and the elimination of some minimum mandatory sentences, have been focused on state and federal prisons, the report found that the disparate rules that apply to jails is also in need of reform.

Published in: on February 11, 2015 at 5:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Looks like the reading levels of the new PARCC were deliberately set so high that most students will give up

Russ Walsh has taken a close look at the levels of difficulty of reading the passages of text in the new PARCC tests, and the results are alarming.

He used using six different formulas, including the Fry, Raygor, Flesch-Kincaid, and Lexile scoring algorithms, all of which use word length and sentence lengths to produce estimates of how hard something is to read and comprehend.

He discovered that in all but one case, the passages selected for the students to read and interpret on the new PARCC Common Core tests were two or more grade levels above the grade levels of students themselves on all of the measures except the Lexile.

Thus, sixth grade students were made to analyze text that was at the 8th or 9th grade reading level, which he says will cause many students simply to give up and of course fail the test.

Many analysts say that mass failure is precisely the goal of the people who designed the Common Core tests: if they define “mastery” as reading and doing math two grades above current grade level, then by definition all but a tiny fraction of students will fail, and these “experts” can proclaim that public education is a failure and must be abolished.

It’s an evil plan worthy of an evil genius.

Published in: on February 8, 2015 at 10:13 am  Comments (7)  

Washington State Democratic Party Central Committee Votes to Reject Common Core

Anthony Cody reports that for the very first time, an important state committee of the Democratic Party has voted to reject the Common Core curriculum. This happened in Washington State quite recently.

common core violates rights

Here is the text of the resolution:

Resolution Opposing Common Core State Standards

WHEREAS the copyrighted (and therefore unchangeable) Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of controversial top-down K-12 academic standards that were promulgated by wealthy private interests without research-based evidence of validity and are developmentally inappropriate in the lowest grades; and

WHEREAS, as a means of avoiding the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment prohibition against federal meddling in state education policy, two unaccountable private trade associations–the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)–have received millions of dollars in funding from the Gates Foundation and others to create the CCSS; and

WHEREAS the U.S. Department of Education improperly pressured state legislatures into adopting the Common Core State Standards and high-stakes standardized testing based on them as a condition of competing for federal Race to the Top (RTTT) stimulus funds that should have been based on need; and

WHEREAS as a result of Washington State Senate Bill 6669, which passed the State legislature on March 11, 2010, the Office of the Superintendent of Instruction (OSPI) adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on July 20, 2011; and

WHEREAS this adoption effectively transfers control over public school standardized testing from locally elected school boards to the unaccountable corporate interests that control the CCSS and who stand to profit substantially; and

WHEREAS the Washington State Constitution also calls for public education to be controlled by the State of Washington through our elected State legislature, our elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction and our elected local school boards; and

WHEREAS implementation of CCSS will cost local school districts hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for standardized computer-based tests, new technology, new curricula and teacher training at a time when Washington is already insufficiently funding K-12 Basic Education without proven benefit to students; and

WHEREAS some states have already withdrawn from CCSS;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we call upon the Washington State legislature and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to withdraw from the CCSS and keep K-12 education student-centered and accountable to the people of Washington State.

Published in: on January 25, 2015 at 9:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Beautiful comment on Diane Ravitch’s Blog about Data Points

Who Benefits from Standardized Testing? Not Students.
by dianeravitch
A reader posted this comment about the debate over testing [on DR’s blog]:


The narrative of students as “product” does none of us activists any good, because truly it’s a reformer red herring–whether offensive or not–and it seems to me we should ditch it fast. Children are not the “products” in reformers efforts to change education. Children are the consumers. Reformers aren’t working to “improve” children, their brains, or their prospects. They’re working to SELL them stuff. If reformers cared about the quality of learning American children receive, standardized testing would be the last thing they’d subject them to, because it’s the last thing they subject their own children to. They know it’s a colossal waste of their own kids’ valuable learning time and it does nothing to help them or their teachers.

Reformers do care about whether–actually how many–children will form their latest target audience in the Race to the Top of the education “market,” and standardization is the key to quantity in that biz. The testing, charter, and tech industries live and die by test scores. Without scores, specifically standardized scores in quantity, they’d have a much harder time justifying their existence or creating a market worth the investment. Every industry has its labor issues–must cut costs!–and how can you fire teachers in bulk if you don’t have a single digit number by which to “evaluate” a year’s worth of work? What if you have to rely on messy realities, such as what goes on in real classrooms, to understand the nuanced relationship between mentor and mentee? Forget the extenuations of family, nutrition, opportunity, oh never mind. What’s more, reformers simply cannot reduce overhead by firing the small percent of teachers who are phoning it in. That’s why 2/3rd of New York children HAD to fail the state’s standardized tests and why Cuomo and Tisch aren’t satisfied with the junk VAM they originally okayed that returned only 1% of teachers as ineffective. How can you take over neighborhood schools with charters, and raise millions from financial services execs, if you can’t brag about “higher” test scores in the Wall Street Journal? How can you replace entire urban school districts with a warren of administratively redundant and cookie-cutter charters, if you can’t scream “failing” while whacking at a colorful bar graph? How can you sell booklets and applications and assessments on a big enough scale if the whole school year isn’t building up to a single test that the entire nation of children takes, preferably on a computer? Worse, what if teachers and kids actually read good books together, took field trips, created performances, conducted hands-on experiments in classrooms–using old stuff like recycled soda bottles, eggs, and baking soda of course? Invest in Arm & Hammer stock now!

Reformers will trot out every argument–any argument–to keep standardized testing to vindicate the “business” of education, rooted fundamentally in the need for change on a grand scale. The latest, I see, is the “civil rights issue of our time” argument again–that without annual, universal standardized tests, we wouldn’t “know” that children in high-poverty neighborhood (therefore schools) do not score as well on standardized tests as children in middle and upper class neighborhoods. REALLY? What rock do they live under? Seems to me, folks with a shred of sympathy have understood for decades–centuries?–not only this disparity but the far more serious one that poor children have too slim a chance of moving out of poverty. Anti-poverty organizations have been working to change things all along, but with precious little support from the government OR party-going philanthropists. Sampling and the NAEP would provide, has provided, more than enough data for reformers to glean this nugget. Anyway, NOW THEY KNOW. And what happened? This testing revelation has resulted in the worst atrocities of curriculum-trimming, test-prep, and educational “disruption” being visited upon only the poorest schools and districts. The dawning revelation of social inequity makes a convenient defense when what you’re really trying to do is transforms schools into the next strip malls of America.

Standardized testing has nothing to do with improving education–not for wealthy suburbanites in Westchester and not for needy children in the Bronx. It’s all about scale, and propping up a vast and growing “education industry” that’s only worth the trouble (money) of the likes of Gates, Murdoch, the Waltons, and the Bushes, and, sadly, Obama and Duncan, if it’s standardized and millions of customers–I mean children–are buying.

Published in: on January 24, 2015 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

One Way to Fight Back Against Racism


Published in: on January 23, 2015 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Some excellent questions about God, Adam, and so on…

Steve Ruis is one of the most original writers I know on the subject of religion and society. I don’t agree with everything he has to say, but much of the time I do. I think he asks a lot of questions in a very insightful way — and at times, I have never seen the thoughts expressed just like that before, which I intend as high praise. *

. Here is his article on the entire Genesis story, which is supposedly the origination myth common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as most of their variations and sects. I hope Ruis doesn’t mind that I am reposting the entire thing and not just providing a link. Actually I’m going to guess he’ll be pleased.

Let me add this article made me think of something that bothered me when I used to try reading sections of my wfie’s copies of the “Silmarillion”. (That’s by Tolkien, who wrote the 3-book novel that the Lord of the Rings movies were made of, including The Hobbit, if you didn’t know.)

Here’s the similarity and the bother: In the beginning of Middle-Earth as I recall from Tolkien, thge great spirit (sorry I can’t remember his/her/its name) created a bunch of creatures (elves?) to be all perfect, but somehow they started fighting with each other, massive bloody fights and they turn to evil. Why did the creator allow that to happen?

(Of course, other questions, less important, also came to mind: Why would anybody fight to the death over, say, what tune the elf-fathers were signing, anyway? And how do orcs eat and reproduce, anyway? Where are all the farms and workers and mines needed to make all that armor, or even the metal tools in the Shire? Let us point out that every single detail in  the founding myth of Middle-Earth, was completely imaginary and made up by Tolkien with some suggestions from his writer friends. But the founding myth that Tolkien invented does seem to borrow a lot of ideas from The Bible used by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

For completeness, let me add one important question that has already been asked by many, which is why Ruis probably didn’t bother asking:

How do we know any of that stuff in your “sacred book”? Why should we believe your story any more than we should believe in the “Silmarillion” or, say, he wacky ideas behind Scientology or the myths of all the Jewish tribes fighting Indians all over the Americas for thousands of years as vaguely spelled out in King James-style writing on the invisible “Golden Plates” of Mormonism and translated by someone speaking through his hat?

Just who was there watching and recording all of these imaginary and mystical acts anyway? What was he/she eating/drinking/breathing? Where did they get the papyrus and ink? Or did these supposed witnesses carry around clay tablets, or simply write on cave walls?

(BTW, if you’ve ever been to the Metropolitan Museum in NYC, you know that writing long texts down on walls like the Persians did takes a really, really long time and is very, very heavy and nearly impossible to carry around – it was a major feat for the Rockefellers (?) to steal it from Iraq or Iran and put it back together again in Manhattan.)

How did they witness God or Elbereth or the Titans or Shiva do all supposed creation stuff when there wasn’t any ocean or air or universe in the first place?

Why should I believe YOUR version of this fairy tale, since there are clearly so many that completely contradict each other? Why should your version get any more credibility than the Popul Vuh of the Mayas, say, or the stories of Enansi, the Spider Trickster? Does your group of believers really  act in such a wonderful way in the world, or are they the usual mixture of decent people, frauds, friends, cheaters, leaders, followers, sinners and fools just like everybody else? The bigger the religion, often the better was the technology and organization that allowed the group to conquer others by killing.*

Remember that at one time, Buddhism was the dominant religion in Eurasia because the Mongol cavalry (“hordes”) came out of seemingly nowhere and conquered nearly all of it about 1200 AD. Christianity rose to prominence by having the head of the Roman Empire (Constantine) convert so he could win more battles. Islam rose by conquering the Persian Empire** (which worshipped yet other gods — Mazda? Definitely not Hyndai or Ford like we do today.) and a large part of the Byzantine and Roman empires. And there was a time that the worship of the Norse gods was pretty much the rule in Northern Europe, until the Vikings settled down and took on the religions of the people they had once conquered. Which is probably why our week days are named after gods like Wotan, Thor and Freya (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday). Gadzooks! Why do we still use these evil Pagan names! Zounds!)

Enough asides from me. Read on.

My main takeaway is that exactly none of these religions are based on any evidence whatsoever.


Adam and ?

by Steve Ruis

All right, I admit it, I am obsessed with the Adam and Eve story. Not the story per se but what meanings people put into it. To cut right to the chase, in this story God (Yahweh) creates Adam and then slightly later he creates Eve (maybe, there are two stories covering the same material and they are different). Shortly thereafter, Adam and Eve disobey God’s direct orders and, being rebels, were expelled from the Garden of Eden to live lives cruel, brutish, and short. From them, then, we are said to be born as sinners, said sin (disobedience?) inherited from Adam and Eve. We weren’t wiped clean of that stain when God killed all but six people so that we, supposedly, all descended from those six, clean, holy people, but … nope, we are still born in sin.

Now these people who are the keepers of such stories say this with a straight face. Their also say that God is love itself. He loves us they say and He is perfect, having no flaw and knows all, sees all, can do all, etc.

Apparently not. Do these people even take note of what they are saying? Adam and Eve were created by their perfect God and the first thing they did was to disobey. If God couldn’t get that right why do we supposed He got anything else right? Was it that he could not admit an error that he kept the Adam and Eve Experiment running? Why didn’t he just go “Oops,” eliminate his flawed creatures and start over. His motivation is he wanted a gardener (to tend the Garden; it is right there in scripture for Pete’s sake). If you were looking for a Gardener and the first one didn’t work out, wouldn’t you fire him and hire another? Apparently God doesn’t make mistakes and when He does He makes them permanent.

“Adam and Eve were created by their perfect God and the first thing they did was to disobey.
If God couldn’t get that right why do we supposed He got anything else right?”

Yo, Christian theists, do you actually read this stuff and use the brains your God gave you (I got mine from my parent’s) to realize there is something not quite right about scripture?


PS For those of you who wish to invoke the Devil in this story, stop. Don’t. Sheesh. Who created the Devil? Who could “uncreate” the Devil? (Repeat after me, children … God.) In a fighting match in the Octagon between the Devil and God, who is going to win? If the Devil did things and God didn’t notice, how can you label him as all-knowing? (See, I told you. Don’t!)


* (I’ve never met him) GFB

** Killing people in other groups is nothing new. I’m reading George Catlin now, who went to live with and travel among and paint and document life among the Indians of North America in the 1830s. It was clear that the various Indian tribes loved to do nothing more than to stealthily murder and ritually mutilate the members of other tribes, and steal their valuables just like soldiers on many sides still do today, including our own US military from time to time. Otherwise, he found the Indians to be generous, honest, kind, good family members, and clean-living But murderers and warriors all. Today, we entrust the job of killing and robbing to specialists rather than requiring every single able-bodied man to do it. GFB

Published in: on January 23, 2015 at 2:57 pm  Comments (1)  

Camins on the Failure of the Current Federal Education Policy

Money quote from Arthur Camins on the basic absurdity of our current federal policy regarding education:

It cannot be repeated often enough: No country that has made significant improvement in its education system has done so through test-based accountability, teacher evaluation systems, charter schools or other school choice schemes. Improvements will only come from a national commitment to the values of equity, democracy, empathy, respect and community responsibility and by providing the funding for solutions based on those values.


We do not need the federal government to specify teacher evaluation mechanisms, rank teacher preparation programs based on the test scores of their graduates students, fund privately operated charter schools or promote education entrepreneurs. The proper role for the federal government is to be the guarantor of justice and equity.


Thanks as usual to Diane Ravitch and Valerie Strauss for bringing this to my attention.

Published in: on January 20, 2015 at 12:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Mark Naison on Poverty and Education

A Few Thoughts About the Testing Crisis and Attacks on Public Education:

1. Although there is no evidence that a stagnant public school system has been a major cause of growing poverty and inequality in the United States- which is in large part caused by wage compression, outsourcing of jobs, , regressive tax policies and the burdens imposed by a huge and expensive prison industrial complex- many liberals have decided that a revamped and privatized public education system, carefully monitored and regulated by the federal government, represents out the only realistic hope of breaking the cycle of poverty. This is partly wishful thinking, but it also represents a cold assessment of political reality, because liberals view school reform is the only anti-poverty strategy that has any hope of gaining bi-partisan support.

2. Once you decide to make the schools the major instrument of reducing inequality, your focus inevitably turns to teachers and teachers unions, who, in stead of being seen as allies in this effort, are increasingly seen as obstacles to the great national crusade. Many liberals have convinced themselves that if teachers feet are not held to the fire by nationally mandated tests and test based evaluations, they will spend their time baby sitting low income students rather than teaching them. This pessimistic assessment of the nation’s teaching force underlies every pronouncement of the Duncan headed US Department of Education, who sees teachers as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

3. We have now had nearly 15 years ( since 2011 [he means 2001]) of the bi-partisan school reform crusade launched by No Child Left behind, and by every indicator- from child poverty, to racial wealth gaps, to housing quality and distribution of income across the racial and economic spectrum- poverty and inequality have grown in the US.. Has this led liberals to question using Test based school reform and attacks on teachers and teachers unions as their major strategy for achieving equity? No! To judge by what his happening in New York State with Governor Cuomo, and in the US Department of Education, they are doubling down on failed policies.

4.Eventually, the nation will wake up to the fact that School Reform is a disastrous anti-poverty strategy, especially when that strategy involves deluging schools with tests, closing neighborhood public schools and terrorizing, scripting and micromanaging teachers, but by that time, the nation’s public school may have suffered near fatal damage.

Time is short. Many conservatives see the damage imposed by excessive testing. Liberals had better wake up.

Published in: on January 16, 2015 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Basic Conclusions on How State Tax Systems are Inherently Regressive

I am quoting extensively from this report:from ITEP:

Economists have widely discredited trickle-down economic theories espoused for more than three de­cades, but that hasn’t stopped new generations of supply-side theorists from repackaging those philoso­phies and pushing for lower state tax rates for wealthy individuals, businesses and corporations. In fact, recent years have brought tax proposals and changes in multiple states that would overwhelmingly benefit the highest income households under the guise of stimulating economic growth. This report doesn’t seek to rebut ideological claims; rather it is an in-depth analysis of all taxes that all people pay at the state and local level.

This study assesses the fairness of each state’s tax system by measuring state and local taxes paid by non-elderly taxpayers in different income groups in 2015 as shares of income for every state and the District of Columbia. The report provides valuable comparisons among the states, showing which states have done the best — and the worst — job of providing a modicum of fairness in their overall tax systems. The Tax Inequality Index (Appendix B) measures the effects of each state’s tax system on income inequality and is used to rank the states from the most regressive to the least regressive.

The bottom line is that every state fails the basic test of tax fairness. The District of Columbia is the only tax system that requires its best-off citizens to pay as much of their incomes in state and local taxes as the very poorest taxpayers, but middle-income taxpayers in DC pay far more than the top one percent. In other words, every single state and local tax system is regressive and even the states that do better than others have much room for improvement.

Overall, effective state and local tax rates by income group nationwide are 10.9 percent for the bottom 20 percent, 9.4 percent for the middle 20 percent and 5.4 percent for the top 1 percent (see chart below). This means the poorest Americans are paying two times more of their income in taxes than the top 1 percent.

Virtually every state tax system is fundamentally unfair, taking a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families. The absence of a graduated personal income tax and overreliance on consumption taxes exacerbate this problem.

The lower one’s income, the higher one’s overall effective state and local tax rate. Combining all state and local income, property, sales and excise taxes that Americans pay, the nationwide average effective state and local tax rates by income group are 10.9 percent for the poorest 20 percent of individuals and families, 9.4 percent for the middle 20 percent and 5.4 percent for the top 1 percent.

• In the 10 states with the most regressive tax structures (the Terrible 10) the bottom 20 percent pay up to seven times as much of their income in taxes as their wealthy counterparts. Washington State is the most regressive, followed by Florida, Texas, South Dakota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Ari­zona, Kansas, and Indiana.

Heavy reliance on sales and excise taxes are characteristics of the most regressive state tax systems. Six of the 10 most regressive states derive roughly half to two-thirds of their tax revenue from sales and excise taxes, compared to a national average of roughly one-third . Five of these states do not levy a broad-based personal income tax (four do not have any taxes on personal income and one state only applies its personal income tax to interest and dividends) while four have a personal income tax rate structure that is flat or virtually flat.

State personal income taxes are typically more progressive than the other taxes that states levy (e.g property, consumption). Sales and excise taxes are the most regressive, with poor families paying almost eight times more of their income in these taxes than wealthy families, and middle income families pay­ing five times more. Property taxes are typically regressive as well, but less so than sales and excise taxes.

Personal income taxes vary in fairness due to differences in rates, deductions, and exemptions across states. For example, the Earned Income Tax Credit improves progressivity in 25 states and the District of Columbia, while nine states undermine progressivity by allowing taxpayers to pay a reduced rate on capital gains income, which primarily benefits higher-income households.

State consumption tax structures are highly regressive with an average 7 percent rate on sales and excise taxes for the poor, a 4.7 percent rate for middle-income people, and a 0.8 percent rate for the wealthiest taxpayers. Because food is one of the largest expenses for low-income families, taxing food is particularly regressive; five of the ten most regressive states tax food at the state or local level.

Taxes on personal and business property are a significant revenue source for both states and locali­ties and are generally regressive in their overall effect, particularly for middle-income households. A homestead exemption (exempting a flat dollar or percentage amount of property value from a property tax) lessens regressivity. A property tax circuit breaker that caps the amount a property owner pays in property taxes based on their personal income can also reduce regressivity; none of the 10 most regres­sive states offer this tax break to low-income families of all ages.

States commended as “low tax” are often high tax states for low- and middle-income families. The 10 states with the highest taxes on the poor are Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington. Seven of these are also among the “terrible ten” because they are not only high tax for the poorest, but low tax for the wealthiest.

I  found out about this from EJDionne, via a facebook post by my friend David Aylward.

Published in: on January 15, 2015 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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