Insect & Bird Apocalypse from Neonics

Enormous recent decreases in butterflies, bees, and birds due to vast increases in the use of systemic neonicotinoid poisons in commercial agriculture over the past few decades.

Very scary: without insects, humans themselves cannot survive.

Published in: on August 16, 2019 at 10:29 am  Leave a Comment  

TFA and TNTP don’t understand how to teach math

Veteran math teacher Gary Rubinstein explains how the reformster organization TNTP has no clue about the teaching of mathematics. As a retired math teacher, I very much enjoyed this dissection of the concept of slope.

Published in: on July 31, 2019 at 6:46 am  Leave a Comment  

When is technology useful in the classroom?

The answer is, “That depends.”

Larry Cuban analyzes when it’s helpful and when it’s just a waste of time and money.

Published in: on July 28, 2019 at 11:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Thought question on abortion, fetuses, and children

 “Say you are in a fertility clinic. The reason why you’re there doesn’t matter. The fire alarm goes off and you run to the exit. You get to a hall where you hear a child crying behind a door and when you enter the room you find a 5-year-old child in one corner and a container with ‘1000 viable human embryos’ written on it in another corner. The fire around you is getting worse, and you know you can only save one of the two: the child, or the container. If you try to save both, you will perish and so will the child and the embryos. So what do you do?”

According to Tomlinson, he has never received a clear answer from the pro-life camp. Why not? “Simply because everyone instinctively knows that the only right choice is to save the 5-year-old child”, he says. That child is worth more than 1000 embryos.

Now take a look at the way the American conservative right treats children on the border. You have a lawyer representing the trump administration going in front of judges to defend not providing children with good food, toothbrushes, a place to shower, beds, etc. Still, they claim to be pro-life! How is that even possible?

The truth is, foetuses and children are not the same. Not morally, not ethically and not biologically. Even people who are against abortion and claim that a foetus has just as much value and rights as a living child know that a foetus and a child are not the same. The pro-life claim is nonsense and more importantly insincere. It is insincere because, ultimately, the purpose of the anti-abortion movement is not to protect life but to dominate and oppress women.



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Published in: on July 17, 2019 at 2:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Anti-Abortion Hypocrisy

Donald Trump is held up as a wonderful leader of the “Pro-Life” cause.

Do those pro-lifers ever wonder how many abortions playboy Trump has paid for in his life?


Published in: on July 12, 2019 at 9:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why Does Jo-Ann Armao Still Express Love For the “Reformed” status quo in education?

I really don’t know where she gets the idea that Michelle Rhee’s “Reign of Error” was a wonderful success.

Is she personally paid by the Broad, Arnold, Gates and Walton foundations? Her position of support for everything “reformista” in education sounds like the derangement of Trump supporters. It certainly predates Jeff Bezos’ purchase of the Post, so he can’t be credited with her stance. Then again, he can hire and fire anybody he wants.

It pays to read what a veteran education reporter had to say about JAA a few years ago.

Published in: on July 6, 2019 at 7:38 pm  Comments (1)  

WaPo Board still loves IMPACT for DCPS

The Washington Post editorial board has a long history of opposing unions, especially of teachers. They have been steadfast backers of proven liars and cheats such as Michelle Rhee and her hand-picked acolytes and successors.

They pretend everything was horrible about publication education in DC before mayoral control and the evaluation process called IMPACT, and they cherry-pick numbers to make it appear that progress has been made since 2007.

I fully agree (along with others) that there were lots of things wrong with DCPS before 2007, when Michelle Rhee was hired. But, ya know what? Most of it is STILL wrong, and some of it is even more screwed up than ever now. Listen to almost any teacher. In fact, as the data show and as anybody who spends time with regular neighborhood schools here in DC knows that this myth of tremendous success in DCPS and the charters is a flat out lie.

In certain schools (mostly but not all with significant white or Asian populations and well-educated parents) like Lafayette, Janney, BASIS, Deal, Walls, and Banneker, test scores are very high.

In the field of math education, this retired, award-winning math teacher sees little or nothing positive in what’s going on in DCPS math classes at levels from 5-12; I cannot comment intelligently on grades K-4.

What’s even more damning is that the very point man for IMPACT, Jason Kamras, promised NOT to bring anything like IMPACT along with him when he was tapped to be superintendent of Richmond City public schools. The pro-Rheeform group The74 reports that Kamras has cast himself pretty much as the exact opposite of anything Michelle Rhee advocated:

[Rhee, Kamras and other “reformers”] … “tried to pretend that poverty made no difference and that all students were equal, and if we could just get teachers to teach all students in the same way, the achievement gap would be eliminated,” said [Marc] Simon, now a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute. “That was the Michelle Rhee–Kaya Henderson–Jason Kamras philosophy. That was wrong. It sounds like Jason is taking a little bit of the opposite approach now, and that’s a good thing.”

Actually, it sounds to me at Kansas is at least >>appearing<< to be precisely the opposite of Rhee, judging by what I see in an extremely brief review of a few recent Richmond Post-Gazette articles.

Now an actual review board of the National Academies, using actual statistics, showed that Education “Reform” in DC was almost a complete failure. I recall Maxine Singer, chairperson emerita of the Carnegie Institution for Science, lamenting that the enormous extra monies thrown at IMPACT and so on produced so little positive change. So much money was spent on consultants, computer technology, on micromanaging teachers by hiring lots of central-office auditors (excuse me, master educators) and other central office folks, at very nice salaries.

However, teacher turnover and burnout keeps increasing. Boys and girls: this is NOT a good thing!

To the WAPO editorial board, the lynchpin of school reform is IMPACT. In their eyes, generous billionaires like the Waltons and Michael Bloomberg and their acolytes are to be trusted; those who spend their their lives in the classroom trying to help youngsters — they and their evil unions are not to be given any credence.

It’s so sad that they are so consistently wrong. Just like Arne Duncan and Barack Obama, and Betsy DeVos.

Published in: on July 5, 2019 at 6:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

As usual, a lack of transparency and accountability in DC’s public and charter schools

All that is laid out in detail by Valerie Jarrett.

Here is her article:

Tomorrow, Wednesday June 26, the city council will hold a hearing on two bills, which are generally aimed at budget transparency in our publicly funded schools—most notably, for better recording and tracking of all public funds, especially at risk funds. The latter are supposed to supplement, not supplant, other expenditures in our schools, to target resources to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children in our city.

(See here and here for each bill–0046 and 0239, respectively. School data expert Mary Levy has a good redline version of DC Code to show what would change with each.)

Transparency in at risk funding in DC’s publicly funded schools has been historically bad. While it has reported its use of at risk funds generally, DCPS has repeatedly not followed the law regarding use of the money. Charter schools, on the other hand, have only voluntarily reported their use of at risk money–and the incomplete reporting in available documents varies wildly, with seemingly inappropriate uses (i.e., check out the $20,000 for 5 uniforms recorded here for Digital Pioneers. I’d like to think this is a mistake–OTOH, what if it isn’t??)

To the extent that these bills would ensure greater budget clarity overall, and specifically WRT at risk funds, it would be a help.

OTOH, holding a hearing mid-2019 on these two bills is a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on a rapidly sinking Titanic as a way to ensure passengers are comfortable.

Take this handy chart, from EmpowerEd, which graphically outlines some of the most obvious areas of public exclusion from our schools. But there isn’t a piece of paper big enough to outline more fulsomely how we the public have utterly NO clue what happens in our schools or their governance–by design.

Here are just some recent items:

–All videos of charter board meetings before 2018 are gone, with no back-ups. For some meetings, there are just notes, not official transcripts. Charter board staff confirmed this to me at the end of April 2019, when I tried to access video of the June 2017 charter board meeting and couldn’t find it.

–Who actually owns the building of St Coletta’s–paid for in large part by DC taxpayer money–is unclear.

–The executive director of the charter board urged the schools his agency regulates to lobby against the suspensions bill that became law and mocked the student suicide prevention act–all with the assistance of FOCUS, a private charter advocacy group.

–There are no records of outsider visits to the mayor and council, while an ed reform-supported group buys council members and staff breakfast and lunch every year, but is not registered as a lobbying organization.

–What control individual DCPS principals have over their own budgets (and buildings) appears determined by politics as well as power, with DCPS keeping two sets of books for accounting purposes. (See video of the exchange between DCPS budget specialist Allen Francois and council members at the April DCPS budget hearing here starting at 3:38:37.)

–More than a quarter of all charter board meetings between October 18, 2017, and October 31, 2018, were closed to the public.

–In 2019, Chavez and Monument charter schools closed without parents or teachers involved in the decisions (see here and here), while Mundo Verde charter school blocked parents from entering and hired a consultant to intimidate unionizing teachers.

–The expansion of Washington Latin charter school was not made known publicly until its application with the charter board in April—despite having been announced in a blog a year earlier.

–Teacher turnover within our schools is only self-reported at best—and, as school data guru Mary Levy noted, not accurately.

–Lead has been found in yet more school playground surfaces—but testing was not done, nor initially reported, by any city agency.

–Sexual abuse in one school’s aftercare revealed lack of oversight in the entire vetting process of employees for at least one company; whether the lack of vetting is more widespread remains unknown, amid a bevy of unanswered questions from elected officials.

–According to investigative journalists, DC schoolchildren have been subjected to unusual, harsh, and detrimental treatment, including seclusion and restraints and restricted bathroom passes.

–Also according to investigative journalists, there’s an ongoing grading and graduation scandal in at least one DC charter school that remains unexamined by city officials.

–A member of the charter board, Naomi Shelton, recently took employment with KIPP—and no city leader has publicly stated any problem with that, despite the fact that it appears to violate two sections of DC code (see here and here).

Neither of the bills here addresses most of these things. In fact, they don’t address well or at all the most basic items of true democracy, FOIA and the Open Meetings Act (OMA).

Right now, nearly half our kids attend charters for which neither FOIA nor the OMA apply. Although one of the bills here (0239) does provide for the OMA to apply to charter schools, it doesn’t mention FOIA at all.

This is especially weird given that the council actually has a bill that provides for both OMA and FOIA in our charter schools. But that bill, 0199, is not officially part of this hearing. Rather, its hearing is slated for–wait for it–October. Here is what 0199 provides for our charter schools:

–Transparency in contracts greater than $25,000;
–Complying with FOIA and the Open Meetings Act;
–Teachers and students represented on boards.

(See here for Mary Levy’s handy write-up of the differences in the THREE transparency bills (0199, 0239, and 0046), and here for a write-up by EmpowerEd of the differences between 0199 and 0239, only the latter of which is part of the June hearing.)

In an ideal world, of course, all of what is provided for in 0199 would be in at least one of the bills (0239 and 0046) at the June hearing. But the fact that FOIA is explicitly being excluded from tomorrow’s hearing on budget transparency suggests that something else is at play.

Although charter schools elsewhere do follow FOIA, charter advocates here have noted that those schools are governed differently than in DC, being under either one board of education or the leadership team of traditional public schools. Thus, those charter schools are all directly controlled by government actors–unlike in DC, where charters are run more like publicly funded nonprofits than government agencies.

All of which constitutes a rather charming excuse, given that there is a much bigger unstated reason to not have FOIA in our charter schools: the interests of government actors in a system of school choice.

In DC as elsewhere, school choice endeavors to turn what is provided as a public good (public education of right in every quarter for everyone) into a marketplace, ensuring that people whose schools of right may not be well-supported or with high ratings have a way of opting out of them and choosing something else.

But in DC, the public cannot inform or shape this marketplace *at all*.

[Confidential to the DC council and Mayor Bowser: People make demands. Waitlists are lists. People are not waitlists. Waitlists are not demands.]

It’s not merely that no DC parent has a choice of what school will be selected for their child in the lottery by a computer. The DC public also has no agency in what schools are planned, created, approved, or closed. Just this school year, for instance, our city created Bard, expanded Banneker, approved many charter schools opening, expanding and closing, and in none of those did the public have any meaningful part before the decisions were made and announced.

Perhaps worse is the fact that we have relatively few city leaders with actual power over our schools. Here’s the sum total: the mayor, the council, the charter board, its executive director, the DCPS chancellor, the deputy mayor for education, and the state superintendent of education.

Together, these 25 people have absolute power over our schools and their budgets of more than $2 BILLION every year. Eleven of these people–those with the most direct authority–are unelected. The 14 elected officials have many other duties besides school governance, which means their ability to monitor the unelected officials (much less be directly answerable in the event of “bumps in the road”) is necessarily limited.

So it is that DC’s school “marketplace” is entirely determined without any unbiased, neutral assessment of need either by government actors, who often act in private (i.e., Kenilworth, Banneker, Bard), or by private operators making their case to an unelected board not directly answerable to the public (and that now has a member with an apparent conflict of interest).

In addition, none of the true costs of DC’s school “marketplace” are ever disclosed or accounted for, despite new charter schools implicating millions in new facilities fees every year and consequent loss of resources and enrollment at existing schools.

Perhaps expectedly, such a “marketplace,” created with insider knowledge and decision making, confers true choice and freedom only to insiders:

–private operators, free of the responsibility of rights in education and free of reporting most uses of public funds to the public and

–government actors, free from ensuring all schools of right are equitable because if any school can be chosen, there is no need to bother fixing any, thus continuing proliferation of new schools; defunding existing schools of right with poor students; enrollment loss; and closures, all of which ensures a steady stream of revenue and buildings to privatizers (who, not coincidentally, help fund campaigns–a win-win!).

But into this casino-shiny narrative of choice, competition, and “quality” in schools, FOIA provides a democratic disruption. In our city, where “options” stand in for education rights, and schools are treated like toilet paper (a commodity chosen, used, then discarded based on facts and figures that measure nothing as much as demographics), the costs of imposing choice, competition, and “quality” as stand-ins for rights are never accounted for publicly. Indeed, those costs are not even borne by the people monetarily benefitting from choice, competition, and “quality,” but by the people with the least say in any of it: the public!

Against that backdrop, FOIA is one of the most basic tools of school transparency, providing answers to the question of who stands to lose when the public funding our school choice casinos finds out where the money is really going.

Not surprisingly, some of DC’s education leaders appear to reserve great well springs of hate for FOIA. At an oversight hearing on February 15 this year, for instance, the executive director of the charter board referenced a FOIA request filed in what he characterized as a “sheer act of spite.” (See the video here at about 2:20:45)

Notwithstanding that there is no requirement for, uh, lack of spite in FOIA requests, the idea that a government actor would dismiss a law because it might allow a perceived act of spite is, well, extraordinary.

Such apparent fear of FOIA has also raised the spectre of its cost–even when last year a total of $3 million (out of a city budget of nearly $15 BILLION) was spent by all city agencies answering FOIA requests (including $22,000 spent by the charter board). The total number of FOIA requests in DCPS last year was 184 versus 74 in the charter board.

In the end, it may not be the money spent on FOIA that’s creating fear, but the money being spent right now on what FOIA could uncover. (Like, I don’t know, emails about a government official using his government position for private gain.)

Regardless, be sure to at least listen to the excuses tomorrow for why we cannot have FOIA in all our schools–and then ask yourself who’s giving the excuses and what they stand to lose.

Because they are deeply, deeply scared.


Published in: on June 25, 2019 at 2:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why School Takeovers Fail

Three of the myths of the billionaire-led school “reform” movement are:

(1) persistently low test scores at certain public schools are entirely the fault of lazy, unionized, teachers and administrators;

(2) if those schools are “taken over” by an outside group, there will be nearly-instantaneous, amazing successes;

(3) the less experience the new teachers and administrators possess, the better.

We now have over 15 years of evidence. None of those myths are true, and none of those school takeovers have been successful, as Peter Greene explains in today’s Curmudgucation.

Here in Washington DC, Dunbar SHS was taken over not once, but twice. Both attempts were complete failures.

Published in: on June 20, 2019 at 6:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Elephant in the School Choice Room

Peter Greene explains what it is at Curmudgucation:



Magical Money And School Choice

Posted: 14 Jun 2019

Pennsylvania’s legislature is currently having Version 2,433,672,127 of the same argument that emerges every five minutes in the places where charter schools and public schools bump up against each other. The PA legislature just passed a suite of charter school bills addressing a variety of issues, but not the single issue that folks on all sides want to have addressed:

Absent from all four bills is any mention of the elephant-in-the-room issue when it comes to charter schools, namely how they are funded.

School districts complain that the bills to educate resident students who choose to attend a charter school are one of the largest expenditures in their budgets. According to the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, 37 cents of every new dollar that districts raised from property taxes in 2017-18 went to charter schools.

Charter schools, meanwhile, complain they are underfunded because the amounts they are paid are less than what a school district spends to educate their own students.

Public schools are getting hammered by the loss of public tax dollars that have been diverted from public school finances into charter and choice school accounts. Charters, having forgotten the era when they bragged that they could do more with less, complain that they are underfunded compared to public schools.

The problem here, as with several other choice-related issues, is in a false premise of modern school choice movement. That false premise is the assertion that we can fund multiple school districts for the same money we used to use to fund one single public system.

This is transparent baloney. When was the last time any school district said, “We are really strapped for funds. We had better open some new schools right away!” Never. Because everyone understands that operating multiple facilities with multiple staffs and multiple administrations and multiple overhead expenses– all that costs more than putting your operation under one roof.

But the choice pitch has always been some version of, “Your community can have twelve different schools with twelve different flavors of education in twelve different buildings with twelve different staffs– and it won’t cost you a nickel more than what you’re paying now!” This is carnival barker talk, the same kind of huckster pitch as “Why buy that used Kia? I’ll sell you a brand new Mercedes for the same price!”

Adding charters and choice increases educational costs in a community. Sometimes we’ve hid that by bringing in money from outside sources, like PTA bake sales to buy a public school office equipment, or pricey benefit dinners for charters, or increasing state and federal subsidies to help charters stay afloat.

But mostly school choice is the daylight savings time of education– if we just shuffle this money around in new and different ways, somehow there will be more of it.

This trick never works. And we talk all too rarely about why it never will.

The reasons for avoiding the financial elephant in the educational parlor are several. For some choice advocates, it’s a feature and not a bug. It is hard to look at, say, Florida’s legislature and not conclude that they are fully aware that they are starving public education and they’re perfectly happy about that, that the hope is that public education can be shrunk down to nothing. DeVosian dominionists like that idea as well; I’ve heard more than a few religious conservatives declare that it’s time for the church to take schools back from the government. Starve the government, starve the evil teachers’ union, shrink the whole public system until it can be drained out of the proverbial bathtub.

There are other choice advocates who are sincere believers in a hybrid system in which charters and public schools coexist, thrive, and help each other. But even among those folks, there’s nobody who has the political will to say to the public, “We want to expand our education system into a beautiful spread of shiny options, bringing freedom and choice and other swell things to education, but to do it will take a lot more money, so we’re going to have to raise your taxes to get it done.”

And so the lie persists, the false notion that we can education 100 students in either one school or in ten different schools, and it will cost exactly the same amount. Maybe if we pass the money through a different set of hands in an tax credit scholarship or some other kind of super-voucher, it will somehow multiply.

Of course, if money were no object for all students in education, we’d already have public schools so great that the subject of choice would never have come up in the first place. But the defining trait of US education has always been that we want a Mercedes at Kia prices, and Those Peoples’ Children should just use a bicycle. (and teachers should only have their wages raised when they reach the point that they’re actually embarrassing), and we definitely don’t need to talk about using money and resources to improve the societal conditions that create the environment in which education occurs.

Despite my reputation as a charter hater, I can actually imagine a world in which charters would be a useful addition to the educational landscape– but it would be a world without magic. The falsest promise that choice advocates have made is that somehow we can have a super-greater education system without having to actually pay for it. That kind of magical thinking is not going to help anybody except, of course, the hucksters with snake oil to sell.

Published in: on June 14, 2019 at 2:11 pm  Comments (9)  
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