CG on Vouchers

From Caroline Grannan via Facebook:

School vouchers (public money for private school tuition) are one of the many things that sound really good until you look a little more closely. To paraphrase President Trump, nobody knew it could be so complicated. Here are some things.1. The fantasy that poor kids are going to Town or Hamlin or you-name-it Elite Private Acres Academy is delusion. Vouchers would no way cover the tuition, and those schools don’t want and couldn’t handle challenging low-income students. That’s why the private-school sector doesn’t really support vouchers — they’re afraid they might be pressured to accept students they don’t want and aren’t equipped to serve.

2. In places where vouchers have existed for a long time, educational achievement and the fortunes of impoverished kids have not budged. (Milwaukee has been voucher mecca, since the ’90s. There’s been no benefit for kids or the community whatsoever.)

3. What has happened is lots of theft, corruption and waste as people open phony private schools just to rake in the public funds. Plus presumably plenty of well-meaning incompetents who didn’t intend to steal, but find that it’s not that simple to run a school.

4. If not means-tested (given only to low-income families), vouchers are welfare for the privileged who are already using private schools.

5. Vouchers just given to low-income families will mostly send them to bare-bones private schools or the frauds, crooks and incompetents mentioned above, since they won’t cover tuition at elite private schools and elite private schools only want the very most carefully selected high-functioning low-income kids. 

6. Private schools are not magic. Their benefit is that they select their students and don’t accept challenging, troubled, hard-to-teach or high-need students. Obviously, they’re not going to solve the real challenges of education since they won’t touch them. Also, people who think private-school teachers are better, that’s BS. They are teaching handpicked students. If you plunked a class full of high-need, impoverished students into their school, they would face the same challenges all teachers do. 

7. So, vouchers for private schools aren’t going to help any kids whom private schools don’t want to accept, and those are the ones who most need help. And that means a privatized school system isn’t going to solve any problems. All it will do is harm public schools and the kids they serve, and ultimately eliminate public education, which is the real intent.

Published in: on April 21, 2017 at 3:26 pm  Comments (2)  

Comparing Texas Charter and Public Schools

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


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

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

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

Thomas Ratliff

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

Dropout and Graduation Rates:

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

Academic Performance:

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

Staff expenditures & allocation:

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

Teacher salary/experience/turnover and class size

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning Arabic!

Yesterday, for the very first time, I succeeded in typing a word in Arabic on my smartphone and then got the phone to translate it into English. Instead of the other way around. The word is


  • which is written from right to left, and pronounced “mabsout” or “map-soot” in English.
  • The meaning is appropriate: “happy”, because I’m finally making a little progress, and the translation confirms what I learned 40+ years so living and working and studying Hebrew on a left-wing kibbutz in Israel. At one point I could actually read technical manuals in Hebrew and carry on many conversations, but I didn’t learn much Russian, Arabic, or Yiddish, which I heard a lot of at the time.
  • Not even the Arabic alphabet…
  • As a result I always felt a little stupid because even tho Hebrew and Arabic are pretty closely related, I never had ANY IDEA what words written in Arabic meant– not even obvious place names on trilingual road signs.
  • Yiddish is basically a dialect of German written in Hebrew characters with a good bit of Slavic and Hebrew vocabulary, so I could at least sound that out and if you know any older American or Israeli Jews you know a lot of Yiddish phrases
  • I had already taught myself the Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet
  • But I had no clue whatsoever as to how Arabic was written.
  • Now I can sort of sound them out… progress!)👶🏼👅🌞🌟

So this says the same thing in all three languages though Arabic doesn’t have a “v” sound so it’s more like “Tel Abeeb”.

Image may contain: cloud, sky and text
I think that Arabic is one of the hardest languages I’ve tried to learn (up there with Japanese or Chinese) especially since those dots that you see make enormous differences.  For examples, these four letters mean different things:

ذ د ز ر

(R, Z, D, Zh) and similar shapes could also be “B”, “T”, “Th”, “N”, or “Y” depending on dots. Plus colloquial spoken Arabic is different in every Arab country, really different – much more different than British and American or South African English, say. Almost like the differences between Catalan and Castilian.
What’s more, “correct” “modern standard Arabic” is essentially the same language as the Q’ran (Koran) with some modern additions – and which nobody speaks except for announcers and writers of newspapers and books. Can you even imagine reading and writing and having to speak the forms of English, Latin, German, or French that were spoken in the year 800 (when Charlemagne was crowned)? The Koran was recorded over 100 years earlier!


Published in: on April 17, 2017 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Number-crunching charter and public schools in New York City

School Finance 101 is a blog those writer does a much better job than I have ever done of looking into, uh, school finances and so on. In this post, which you should definitely read, the analysis is of charter and public schools in New York City from 2008-10, since it was written back in 2012. 

The bottom line is that the NYC charter schools are NOT achieving the miracles that the public is led to believe, even though the charters have smaller classes, fewer learning-disabled or poor students, and more money per pupil and longer school day and year.

Here is the link:

Published in: on April 16, 2017 at 2:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Attacks on Teacher Tenure are Nonsensical

Jersey Jazzman does a good job here in explaining that there is no connection between teacher tenure rules (aka LIFO) and student achievement.

Published in: on April 11, 2017 at 1:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Many People Steal If They Can

Many clever psychology experiments have shown that most of us steal if we think we can really get away with it. (I’ll give you the source later– I’m out at the observatory trying to image M81 and not at home)

These very clever experiments also show that the tighter the controls, the less money and valuables that get stolen — by very ordinary people. Not all are equally larcenous, of course. You, dear reader, are among the saintly few — right?
Which is why, when you have a big enterprise of some sort that involves a lot of people and property and cash, you gotta have controls. 

My predecessor at the Carnegie First Light program — whom I never met– spent some years in jail iirc for embezzling from the Carnegie Institution for Science. (I do a Saturday class for MS kids in science, where they get to do a lot of hands-on stuff…) so I guess the controls weren’t tight enough then.

My own local teachers union president (Barbara Bullock, WTU LOCAL 6) with whom I sat on one negotiating cycle, as a classroom teacher representative, stole MILLIONS of dollars from us teachers. She had allies that helped her pull it off, to their mutual benefit. (Some of them did time, too)

Many embezzlers strike churches, unions, and private schools, perhaps because the controls are looser, and sums that are stolen are easier to hide. Often only one person really understands the “books” anyway, so, opportunity knocks. Not everybody succumbs, but many do (I’m not guessing percentages here!!) and if you make it easy to steal by having no regular financial accounting and scrutiny at every step, then the organization is going to have a lot stolen.

I don’t see any evidence that the many embezzlers who get away with large sums, ever pay it back, either.

I just read an estimate that American street crime causes $5 billion in losses per year.that’s a lot, and it’s quite painful to those who suffer, but wait:

White collar crime is somewhere between 40 and 100 times LARGER than street crime.

 Nobody knows for sure how much embezzlement, fraud via credit cards or whatever, and all other types of “white collar” crime, happens. But I have seen estimates that these losses are anywhere from $200 BILLION or into the trillions. Per year.

 In other words, crime pays well unless you use a knife or a gun. 
And of course we need to have what? 

(Sarcasm on)

1. More Law And Order — crack down on street criminals — and we all know what their skin tone is like — and Lock ’em up forever

2. Deregulate — so there are fewer safeguards to prevent white collar, massive, organized theft from us taxpayers and workers and citizens, young and old, all races nationalities. 

(Sarcasm off) 

It sounds to me real bad guys who want this.  Deregulation, which is one of the core Republican Party goals, simply makes it easier for certain people to steal more and get away with more damage to people and the environment we live in…

A big part of their Schtick is trying to get the rest of us not to notice their thievery — by getting various groups of not-at-all-well-off people hating on each other. You can fill in the blanks here…

Some people make so much money that you and I couldn’t even DREAM of any way of buying stuff as fast as they earn it. (Think bill gates)

And a whole lot of that wealth is earned in criminal ways…

Anybody recall Bernie Madoff? Those USNavy admirals? Paul Manafort? Shipping “skids” loaded with bundles and bales of hundred-dollar bills, being shoveled into the hands of politicians and warlords anywhere the US government is involved …
Those creeps at Enron, Goldman Sachs, and all the other crooks, liars, rapists, embezzlers and so in who’ve been so famously stealing from all of us? Before that, they were all considered pillars of society. But they are just well dressed thieves.

“Some men rob you with a six-gun, but most with a fountain pen”

Remember what I calculated in this blog a month or so ago: if all the private and non profit wealth of the US were equally divided, each household would nearly become a millionaire. No kidding!!

There is so much money — and so little of it gets to most of us who actually do the work. 

In the charter school sector, the public pays, but there is extremely little financial or public accountability. I have lost count of the number is charter school operators who stole money just right here in Washington DC and the school got closed down. It’s enormous all over the country.

(Sarcasm back on)

But that’s not important. The most important thing is to regulate who uses which bathroom. Yup. 

Oh, yeah, we need to take almost ALL of that $600 billion in US educational funding, which is pretty well watched over and is under public financial policy guidelines and is by law open to the public, and turn it over to private groups with no transparency at all — and are often the inside hardest hit by fraudsters, some of whom are the chiefs of those institutions.

(Sarcasm off)

Good lord. 

Never mind that the latest national study — done by the frigging Fordham institution — showed that by the yardstick they were using — scores on Big Standadized Tests — the US voucher system as we know it is actually harmful to the students whose parents take that route. Students who remain in the local public schools do better. And online schools? They are by far the worst– students in many cases learn absolutely NOTHING during an entire year. (As measured by those BS tests)  (which are the chosen yardstick of the EduDeformers like Michelle Rhee, Ernie Duncan, and Betsy DeVos and all the rest of them)
Some people are gonna make a killing! And not by , uh, actually helping students learn.

Published in: on April 2, 2017 at 9:03 pm  Comments (3)  

Destroying public education

I’m copying and pasting here:

End of public schools and school breakfast and lunch.
The school voucher system proposed by Education secretary Betsy DeVos does not mean you can choose any school you want your kid to go to. It means the public education program will be dismantled.

If your child has an IEP (individual education plan for students with special needs), kiss it goodbye.

If you have a job in special-education, if you’re a special education teacher, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech pathologist, a para, a teacher’s aid, or an ESL (English as a second language) teacher, you’ll go first.

House Bill 610 makes some large changes. Inform yourselves. This bill will effectively start the school voucher system to be used by children ages 5-17 and starts the defunding process of public schools. The bill will eliminate the Elementary and Education Act of 1965, which is the nation’s educational law that provides equal opportunity in education. ESSA is a big comprehensive program that covers programs for struggling learners, advanced and gifted kids in AP classes, ESL classes, classes for minorities such as Native Americans, Rural Education, Education for the Homeless, School Safety (Gun-Free schools), Monitoring and Compliance, and Federal Accountability Programs.

The Bill also abolishes the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch.

The bill has no wording whatsoever protecting Special Needs kids, no mention of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education). Some things ESSA does for Children with Disabilities:

-Ensures access to the general education curriculum.

-Ensures access to accommodations on assessments.

-Ensures concepts of Universal Design for Learning.

-Includes provisions that require local education agencies to provide evidence-based interventions in schools with consistently underperforming subgroups.

-Requires states in Title I plans to address how they will improve conditions for learning including reducing incidents of bullying and harassment in schools, overuse of discipline practices and reduce the use of aversive behavioral interventions (such as restraints and seclusion).

Please call your representative and ask him/her to vote NO on House Bill 610 (HR 610) introduced by three Republican reps.
PLEASE copy and paste, don’t just share. That limits it to friends we have in common.

Published in: on March 30, 2017 at 12:48 pm  Comments (5)  

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

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

Here are a couple of paragraphs:

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

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


A Whole Bunch of Things that Standardized Tests Cannot Measure

BS tests can't measure this

Published in: on March 24, 2017 at 9:37 pm  Comments (2)  

Trump-Don’t Care Is Dead!!

Yahoo! Biggest Loser, MangoMussolini, Old Rot 45, has lost again!

He pulled his nasty Trump-Don’t-Care (AHCA) written by evil Orc Paul Ryan.

That being said, I don’t see why it’s a CONSERVATIVE position to wish millions of your fellow-citizens to go bankrupt from medical bills that they can’t possibly pay. That doesn’t sound like conserving anything – you know, keeping people safe … ?

I say that because the far right wing of the Republican party reportedly rebelled against allowing people to get insurance with pre=existing conditions, or allowing young people to stay on their parents’ plan until they are 26. (At which point there is a slight possibility that said young adult just might find an actual job with benefits, if they are lucky and well-connected… Young people tend to think of themselves as invincible and immortal beings, but one never knows when something catastrophic can happen.

I’m not going to say that the ACA aka Obamacare aka Romneycare is perfect. What I have, through Kaiser Permanente, isn’t perfect either, but it sounds a whole lot more reasonable – for me and my family – than anything I see in ACA. Paul Ryan’s apparent idea that it’s somehow unfair to people who are healthy if their premiums get used to help those who are sick.

Well, DUH, that’s PRECISELY the idea. You spread the risk over the largest and most random group you can find, if you want to keep premiums low. The best way is to do what just about every other advanced nation does: have a national, single-payer government-run health payment plan. Every single person is covered, from birth. Each person would have a contact physician and nursing team, and schools would have optometrists, general practictioners, PAs, RNs, LPNs and DDS and behavioral health personnel, who would do a checkup regtularly of each and every kid, and do dental, optical, hearing and immunizations and everything else, right at the scvhool, so that at most, a kid might have to miss a period or two – unless they have to go to a specialist or be hospitalized for some reason. And you have actual, trained cooks who make good food for the students – good breakfasts, good lunches, and if need be (evening classes etc) suppers and meals during weekends and when school is otherwise closed for inclement weather. Not cheerios, tater tots, and white-bread-and-jam or – bologna sandwiches. Real food.

That’s how you keep people healthy.

Unless the only people and things you want to keep healthy is the very wealthy and the size of the gazillionaires’ bank accounts.



Published in: on March 24, 2017 at 9:04 pm  Comments (2)  
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