FBI investigation into massive DCPS fraud?!?!

This is enormous.

Apparently the FBI is now beginning to look into the massive fraudulent scheme to make DC education officials and their “reform” effort look good.

“ThE Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Education and D.C. Office of the Inspector General are investigating the school system, with a focus on Ballou High School, where questions about graduation rates first emerged, according to a current and a former D.C. government employee familiar with the probe.

The FBI, the D.C. inspector general and the U.S. Department of Education all declined to comment. The FBI’s involvement in a matter involving graduation rates is unusual…”



I and many others have been documenting these scams and others like this one for a longtime. Many of us (including Jeff Candy) have called for criminal investigations. I hope this one isn’t a complete whitewash — as a number of others have been.

(And I’m including a previous one by Alvarez & Marsal, but not so much this time… )

But the third hand, let’s recall that A&M and OSSE are precluded from doing any such thorough investigation into charter schools! So the public gets what somebody paid for: either a cover-up or a serious investigation. (A coverup can be written in a couple of afternoons, by two lawyers and an accountant. A real investigation takes months and months and a large team of trained and experienced investigators and forensic experts of all types (e.g. statisticians, computer analysts of all sorts, handwriting & paper examiners, etc, etc. I think I can figure out which one’s cheaper.

In Atlanta, Georgia, there was similar massive fraud some years ago involving changing test scores; some people got very large bonuses, by tampering with students answers; a number of Atlanta “educators” and their former superintendent, are now in prison for this after confessions, trials, convictions and sentencing and whatever appeals they may have tried. Big news and you can look it up.

I would say the educational fraud here in DC over the past decade is just as serious as that in Atlanta. Ive personally heard allegations of serious fraud from teachers here in DC, and But I don’t have any smoking gun memos from one Rheefirmist educrat to another, though I’ve showed that Rhee told complete bare-faced lies on her resume about an educational miracle she claimed to achieve in Baltimore.

Jay Matthews IIRC wrote that I was being too harsh on Michelle Rhee: it’s not a lie if she thought it was true, and she was just going by what her principal told her and she hadn’t written it down.

Well, Jay, let’s assume you’re right for a moment: let’s assume Rhee really thought that she had taken a class with 90% of them scoring at or below the 13th percentile, and in only two years (she followed the class and team taught with another teacher, so she had them for two years, back in the early 1990s in Harlem Park Elementary, an Edison Tesseract project, where they engaged in a controlled experiment to see if in fact a charter school could get better results on numerous measures of improvement) Rhee had managed somehow to make it so that 90% of them were now … wait for it …. above the 90th percentile!

If Rhee didn’t realize that accomplishment was itself beyond miraculous, then she’s too stupid regarding statistics to have a job in education. At all. Ever.

But if Rhee had really believed that she had really done that — an accomplishment (90% of a group of randomly selected kids moving from below the 13th to above 90th percentile!) then she would have gone to her employer (Edison/Tesseract), along with her principal, and all the data printouts from CTBS, proving that she had indeed performed this utter miracle. Tesseract then would have gone to the authorities in Baltimore and at UMBC and jumped up and down and demanded that their contract be continued, because they had this team of miracle-producing teachers in their successful, measured, experimental charter school, and they had beaten every expert everywhere and produced an educational miracle that had never been equaled, anywhere!

But Tesseract got closed down anyway by Baltimore, saying that Edison cost more money and got essentially the same or slightly worse results, while providing a slightly worse education overall. And nobody said boo about Rhee’s mythical miracle. Because it existed only in Rhee’s mind. (And notice: she gave no fictitious credit to this almost-completely-unknown co-teacher. If she had tried, her colleague would have told her, “No, that’s not what happened. What really happened was this…”

So there are only two, not three choices. We know from the statistics that I (with help) unearthed, that there was no such miracle in Harlem Park under Michelle Rhee’s watch.

It’s clear that her numbers were made up by her — much the way Ronald Reagan and many politicians (like #45) do. And most people have probably heard wild tales about family members; some of them are actually and literally true; some are downright lies meant to harm or amuse; and some of these stories get changed, gradually, as we retell them. And when we look at documentary evidence, sometimes we see we didn’t remember things quite the way they really were.

So, perhaps there was some sort of a small increase in CTBS scores at her grade level. But you have to ignore the very high rate of decline in the student population at her school (what effect did that have? It could vary) and the extremely high number of kids whose scores were so low that they weren’t counted (that will HUGELY improve a class’ average).


(1) Rhee is too mathematically illiterate to know how statistically impossible her made-up figures are and the effect of cutting out all the low-scoring students’ scores;


(2) She understood the statistics just fine and decided to go with the lie because she knew that most people (that includes most reporters and politicians) don’t understand mathematics or statistics well enough and are intimidated by anybody who spouts numbers.

So —

she’s either hugely stupid or a big fat liar.

Which is it?



Published in: on February 2, 2018 at 1:19 pm  Comments (6)  

Baltimore Police Corruption Testimony

Amazing. (Link here)

“Over the past four years, some members of the Gun Trace Task Force stole more than $300,000, at least three kilos of cocaine, 43 pounds of marijuana, 800 grams of heroin and hundreds of thousands of dollars in watched from suspected drug dealers and civilians, according to officers’ plea agreements and statements in federal court.” (…)

“As they went rogue, the same officers took home hundreds of thousands of dollars in unearthed overtime pay from a city struggling to pay its teachers.”

And people wonder why many don’t trust police.

Published in: on February 1, 2018 at 6:13 pm  Comments (1)  

The Future Is Scary

On this tiny planet of ours, we humans can pretty much only survive on a small fraction of it. Forget the polar regions, the high mountains, the oceans, and the deserts.

And forget finding some other planet. They are way too far away to ever visit, and all the ones we’ve explored with telescopes or satellites so far are various forms of totally uninhabitable HELL.

If we fuck up the nice parts of planet Earth — which is precisely what Trump’s proposed deregulations will accomplish in the service of Big Capital$$$ — we are absolutely screwed, as a species.

There is no plan B.

Published in: on January 30, 2018 at 11:26 pm  Comments (3)  

Blowing in the wind

How many lies can one orange pres read

Before the TelePrompTers stop?

How many times will the ‘publicans rise

And applaud all the shit that he drops?

The answer, my friend,

Is shit hitting the fan

The answer is shit hitting the fan

Published in: on January 30, 2018 at 11:00 pm  Comments (2)  

Poverty vs Proficiency In DC Public and Charter Schools

You’ve all heard the slogan:

“A child’s course in life should be determined not by the zip code she’s born in.” Source

Reformers like Bush2, Barack Obama, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Arne Duncan, Adrian Fenty, Bill Gates, the Bradleys and the Waltons, all said they were going to bust the educational effects of poverty in DC and other places around the country. Their chosen methods were gutting the teachers’ unions, establishing lots of charter schools, firing or forcing into retirement thousands of teachers, establishing a revolving door of inexperienced teachers who almost all crash and burn out after a few years, and transforming schooling into all testing and test prep, all the time, especially on-line, so as to collect lots of data.

Have they been successful at solving the zip-code-and-destiny problem?

If we look at the only publicly-available data that we have for Washington, DC, namely PARCC scores and percentages of students who are designated as ‘At Risk’, the answer is:


Look at these two graphs, which I’ve prepared by matching the percentages of students scoring ‘Proficient’ or ‘Advanced’ in Washington, DC, at every single DC public school and charter school, versus OSSE’s official list of the percentages and numbers of students officially designated as being ‘At Risk’.

Unfortunately, the correlation is extremely strong, and negative. In other words, the fewer the kids who are officially ‘At Risk’ at any given school, the higher the percentage of kids scoring ‘Proficient’ or ‘Advanced’ on the PARCC – the Big Standardized test given in April of 2017. And obversely the greater the percentage of students at risk at any school, the lower the percentage of students ‘passing’ the PARCC.

The effect is particularly strong in the English and Reading part of the test.

(Note: I didn’t make up the ‘At Risk’ category. It’s relatively new, but combines statistics regarding homelessness, receiving food, living in poverty, divorces, family members being incarcerated, and so on.)

Here is the graph I made for the English Language Arts test. That R-squared correlation, 0.7016, is one of the strongest correlations you will find anywhere in the social sciences.

2017 ELA Parcc, proficient vs at risk, public and charter

Now here is the graph for the Math section of the PARCC:

2017 math PARCC proficiency vs at risk, public and charter

This is certainly not an indication that education ‘reform’ in DC has been a success. After more than a decade.

Next time I’ll break this down into charters and public schools. I think you will find that many of the charter schools have populations near the middle of these charts, while the regular DC public schools have populations near the extremes.

Many thanks to Ruth Wattenberg, Mary Levy and Matthew Frumin for showing me where these data files were kept – here and here. Any errors are my own.



Who’s Graduating from DC Public and Charter High Schools Without, uh, Going to School or Doing Any Work?

You’ve heard about the scandal.

But it’s not just Ballou.

It’s extremely widespread at all of the regular, ‘comprehensive’, ‘neighborhood’ DC public high schools, but it’s not just there.

Let’s look at the data.

I did just that for each graduating class, at each publicly-financed high school in DC (i.e. the regular public schools as well as the charter schools), for June of 2015, 2016, and 2017. I figured out what fraction of the students at each and every school managed to receive a diploma despite missing 30 percent or more of the school year (i.e. missing 54 days of school) according to the report published by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education for DC and conducted by Alvarez and Marsal.

(I’m not making this data up, though I would not be surprised to discover that I have copied a few numbers incorrectly. If you find any such errors, please let me know! And please examine the report yourself!)

We know that many of the charter schools, and the selective public high schools like Ellington, Banneker and Walls, can and do find ways to get rid of (or not admit) students with very poor attendance and work habits. To be fair, a few DC charter schools (e.g. Kingsman and Maya Angelou) do make an effort to work with this sort of hard-to-educate student.

The OSSE/A&M report makes it clear that at the non-selective regular public high schools like Anacostia, Ballou, Cardozo, Dunbar, Eastern, and so on, the pressure on teachers to pass and promote students is enormous, even if the students don’t attend class, do almost no work, pass no tests, write no papers, and complete no projects. See my excerpt here.

Here is the graph for SY 2016-2017:

all high schools -2017 percent of graduating class with enormous numbers of absences

Note that I did not have accurate data for Walls or Banneker. The orange bars are the charter schools, and the blue ones are for the regular public schools. Eight charter high schools reported no such students.

Notice that at Woodson SHS, about 75% (that’s three quarters) of the graduating class missed 30% of the school year! (That is, 54 days — well over an entire marking period of school!) At Ballou and Luke Moore, about 66% of the class that was absent that much!

Let me emphasize: this does not mean that those students failed and had to repeat the 12th grade. No: they were given diplomas. Despite very clear DC municipal regulations (DCMR) stating that anybody missing that much school must fail.

In many cases, teachers were forced by the administration to give the students passing grades. In other cases, administrators unilaterally changed failing grades to passing ones. In others, students were allowed to do some trivial exercises for an hour or two on a computer, and were then rewarded with a passing grade for the year. That’s called ‘credit recovery.’ In other instances, despite the student not having received passing grades or fulfilling other requirements spelled out in DCMR, they got diplomas anyway.

Increases in ‘graduation’ rates may make administrators look good, but doesn’t educate the students at all — except to learn that the entire public school system in DC has been turned into a joke, and that rules mean nothing. It also teaches teachers that they are wasting their time actually assigning projects, papers, tests or quizzes since they know that for the most part, a student who is absent much or most of the time will pass their class and be given a diploma anyway.


Let’s compare this to the previous school year, SY 2015-16:

all high schools grad absences 2016

and here is the corresponding graph for SY 2014-15:

all high schools absences 2015

And lastly, let us look at the percentage of formally ‘At Risk’ students at each of these schools. This is not a category I am making up: it’s official, composed of a composite of things like the percentage of homeless students, those on TANF or food stamps, and so on.

At Risk students 2017

Once again, blue columns are for the regular DC public high schools, and orange represents charter schools. (I couldn’t find the data for National Collegiate.) It is clear that there is not a 1:1 correlation between the number of students ‘At Risk’ and levels of absenteeism. It is also clear that at many regular DC public schools, the actual policy is to NOT hold students accountable for much of anything.

In my opinion, simply warehousing students until they turn 18, and not ensuring that they have learned a lot of important stuff, is not exactly doing those kids any favor. If anything, that is precisely the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ that the education reformers who run the educational system in DC and elsewhere around the country, warned against.

This enormous attendance and grade fraud that OSSE, NPR, WAMU, this writer, and many others have been documenting here in Washington DC, provides yet more evidence that the bipartisan educational ‘reforms’ of Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Adrian Fenty, Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, the Walton family, and a bunch of other billionaires and their servants, has been a colossal and expensive failure.

A Bit More on the Fraudulent Grades and Promotions in DC Schools

Anybody interested in reading the official OSSE/Alvarez & Marsal report on grade inflation and phony graduations in many DC high schools, both public and charter, can read it here.

You might be wondering, how did the Ballou administration get teachers to give passing grades to students who were not present and did no work?


Any teacher who had a student failing their class for any reason had to fill out numerous, complicated, and time-consuming documents showing that the teacher had given the student all sorts of interventions to save them from failing. This might sound like a good idea, but think about it: A high school teacher typically has 100 students or more; if half or more of them are chronically absent (and hence failing), the teacher (not the student) who intended to give all those students the F grades they deserved would have to actually perform hundreds of hours of labor filling out documents showing how they were going to perform a miracle: get the student to come to class and study. The student would never actually be required to show any real evidence of actually learning anything. The teacher would be punished, instead. So, many teachers simply caved in.

From page 19 of Interim Report:

“Teachers at Ballou described direct and indirect pressures from school-level leadership, particularly the Principal and Assistant Principals to pass, advance, and graduate students regardless of content mastery. Administrators required teachers to demonstrate and document the completion of many interventions for any student receiving a failing grade, often despite the teacher’s communication that students were excessively absent and performing little to no school work. The Administrative burden to fail students in accordance with grading policy is extremely high and generates a significant amount of extra work for teachers who wish to adhere to the DCPS grading policy. In many cases teachers were left with the choice of developing additional documentation of supports and missing strictly enforced grading deadlines, possibly incurring negative personnel/review repercussions, or simply passing students. The Ballou Administration required this process for students who were failing due to excessive unexcused absence, despite the DCMR requirements that students with greater than 30 unexcused absences shall receive a failing mark for the year.

So how bad was it, and was the Friday DC City Paper correct?

Very bad, and yes, the DC City Paper interpreted the graphs in the report correctly, but a number of people misinterpreted things. I will try to rectify this.

Here are two graphs from the Alvarez & Marsal/OSSE report, for Anacostia HS (which did not make the news the way Ballou did, but had similar attendance issues). I think I see what the DC CP did wrong.

anacostia HS graph 1

The legend is a bit small, but the gist is this: only students with the light aqua blue color have satisfactory attendance, which is seen as missing less than about 9 days of school (5% of the school year). All the other colors indicate that the student was absent a LOT more than that. For example, the bright red bars indicate students who have missed over HALF the school year — over 90 days!!!

Note that the two bars on the left represent school year 2014-15, the middle bars are for 2015-16, and the right two bars are for the school year that ended in June of 2017. In each case, the left hand bar is for the students who graduated, and the right-hand bar is for students who did not graduate. I notice that roughly 24% of the non-graduates in 2014-2015 had satisfactory attendance, as opposed to perhaps 2% of the graduates. Why that is the case, I have no idea, and I wonder if the two bars got switched.

I think this graphic really should have been in the form of a circle graph with proportionally-sized circles, so we could see easily that there were almost as many non-graduating seniors back in 2014-5 but many fewer non-graduating seniors last year.

The next graph is the one that I think confused the writers at DC CP:

anacostia HS graph 2

What this graph does NOT say is that 91.1% of the seniors at Anacostia in 2017 missed 30 to 50 percent of their classes AND that another 40% of them missed half or more of their classes — that is logically impossible.

It’s saying something different:

Of the Anacostia students with profound chronic absences in 2017, 91% of them still managed to graduate, in violation of DC Municipal Regulations.

Plus, of those who missed over half of the school year (‘extreme chronic absence’), 40% of them still managed to graduate.

And, as you can see, the problem indeed did worsen over time.

Now, let’s look at Ballou:

ballou HS graph 1

If I am reading those numbers correctly, about 97% of Ballou’s graduating seniors last year missed 18 or more days of school, and about two-thirds of them missed over fifty days of school!! What’s more, it looks like 23% (47 students out of 159 + 47) didn’t graduate at all, which contradicts the propaganda that all of the seniors there both graduated and were accepted into college.

And here is the confusing graph:

ballou HS graph 2

What this says, first of all, the Ballou administration allowed the truancy situation to get worse over the last three years. For instance, in 2017, of the 50 students with Profound Chronic Absences, about 88% of them still graduated – that’s the ones who missed between 54 days and 90 days of school. And of the ones who had Extreme Chronic Absence (i.e. missed more than half of the school year), about 63% of them still graduated. Amazing.

Here is Wilson, and then we’ll look at a charter school that (like many of the non-selective neighborhood DC public schools) serves a challenging population.

wilson graph 1

The graph indicates that at Wilson, which is by far the largest high school in DC, public or charter, it is again possible to graduate while having missed literally months of school, and the situation is getting worse over time, which is shown most clearly by the graphic below, which rise as you go from left to right. According to this graph, last year, of the 49 students with Profound Chronic Absence (missing between 30% and 50% of the school year), 96.1% of them still managed to graduate. And of the 17 students who missed more than half the school year, a full 81% of them still managed to be awarded a high school diploma.

wilson graph 2

Now let’s look at Maya Angelou Charter HS, which clearly has major attendance issues as well. The second graph reads ‘DS’ because there were fewer than 10 students; it should not be read as meaning that there weren’t any students who graduated despite excessive absences.

maya angelou graph 1

maya angelou graph 2

In fact, by my calculations (and since I’m not bound by OSSE’s data rules), in 2017, two-thirds (67%) of the thirty students in the Profound Chronic Absence category received a diploma. In 2016, the corresponding figure is 33%, and 17% of the students in the Extreme Chronic Absence category received a diploma. In 2015, 63% of the Maya Angelou 12th grade students in the “Profound” category received diplomas, and 11% of the students in the “Extreme” category that year did, as well.

One could remake the graph in this manner:

maya angelou graph 3


Note: after looking at the DC City Paper graphs and the ones in the report, I realized that the DC CP graphs were correct.




More Fraud in DCPS School Attendance

It’s not just Ballou, according to this info graphic from DC City Paper:

Look at those statistics! At most of the public DC high schools, a majority of the students who miss over 30% of their classes, still graduate.

At five of them (Wilson, Woodson, Eastern, Cardozo and Ballou), over half the students who miss half their classes still graduate.

Boy, that’s some wonderful reform that Rhee, Fenty, Henderson, and the billionaires backing them, have inflicted on the students, teachers, parents and citizens of Washington, DC. Just peachy.


Actually, the DC CP graph is correct and my original interpretation was wrong.

It is NOT saying that at Woodson, for example, 80% of the students missed 50 percent of their classes, yet graduated. It’s saying that of those students who missed over half the school year (that’s 60 students) still graduated.

I apologize for the misreading.

Published in: on January 26, 2018 at 9:46 pm  Comments (2)  

Vision of a Dystopian Education Future, Coming to Kids Near You

Not sure who wrote this, but if this is where education is going, it’s not a future I want anybody to grow up in. Not my kids, not my grand-kids, nobody.

Computerized education can really suck.

{Update: “Wrench in the Gears” is Alison McDowell; the section I referenced is the third of a series}

Automated Education: Building Sanctuary Part 5

Electronic Classroom of (Tomorrow/Yesterday/Never Mind)

Mother Jones describes how Ohio’s ECOT scammed its way to millions for the owner while the students supposedly enrolled learned little or nothing.

Published in: on January 20, 2018 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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