DCPS says it is data-driven, but then hides all the important data

For a school system that supposedly makes all of its decisions based on data, the DC public schools system sure goes out of its way to hide any data that makes the higher-ups look bad.

One of those areas of hidden data involves teacher evaluations. I was leaked the 2009-10 IMPACT sub-scores from the Value-Added Monstrosity (VAM) nonsense and the Teaching and Learning Framework (TLF), with the names removed. I plotted the two scores and showed that the correlation was very, very low, in fact about 0.13, or nearly random, as you see here:

vam vs tlf dc 2009-10

A consultant for DCPS found a similar result, but I suspect she gave the value of R (about 0.33) rather than R-squared, which I have above. (link here). See this as well. I’ve also taken the data from New York City teachers that was released by various newspapers there; I found that Value-Added scores for any given teacher jumped around like crazy from year to year. For all practical purposes, there is no reliability or consistency to VAM whatsoever. Not even for elementary teachers who teach both English and math to the same group of children and are ‘awarded’ a VAM score in both subjects. Nor for teachers who taught, say, both 7th and 8th grade students in, say, math, and were ‘awarded’ VAM scores for both grade levels: it’s as if someone was to throw darts at a large chart, blindfolded, and wherever the dart lands, that’s your score. Don’t believe me? See here and here. And here.

Plus, the National Academy of Science report on mayoral control of schools in DC has shown that teachers in high-poverty schools get lower ratings on IMPACT than do teachers in low-poverty schools. Before you say, “It’s those lazy union teachers that caused all that poverty in the first place,” please remember this: under the current DCPS – teacher contract, teachers can be fired very, very easily. Every single teacher who has a job in DCPS right now was either hired by Chancellor Rhee or Chancellor Henderson, or has passed all of the teacher evaluations with flying colors, repeatedly.

(It’s also that the case that the turnover rate, or churn rate, is enormous. Some estimate that one-third of the teachers in high-poverty schools in DC quit or are fired every year; many bright-eyed, energetic young college grads (TFA or not) eager for a chance to work with our poorest and most neglected kids, find themselves utterly burned out and quitting even before the school year is over, disillusioned with the incredible work load, lack of administrative support when it’s needed, and insane, contradictory commands to do things that don’t help students learn a thing.)

Meanwhile, the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) and the national American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have been asking the DCPS administration for information on the value-added scores and classroom observation scores for the teachers that they represent. DCPS has steadfastly refused to release that information, for months, despite Freedom of Information Act requests very carefully prepared by legal staff. (That’s where some of the union dues should, in fact, be spent on!) The goal was so that actual statisticians could look over the data (kind of like I try to do on this blog, but with much greater expertise).

(The stonewalling by DCPS and OSSE is famous. Staffers who work (or worked) in DCPS central administration have told me stories about how they were specifically forbidden to give parents or teachers any information that would be helpful to the students. Similarly, the NAS report repeatedly cited examples where DCPS and OSSE refused to release needed information, or lied claimed that it was simply unavailable.)

Now, the DC City Council is planning on making ALL that teacher evaluation data officially secret and not subject to public release — not even to the bargaining agent for those teachers, their union.

That’s nuts.

I will leave you with statements by my former teaching colleague, Liz Davis, who is the current WTU president, and one by Randy Weingarter, who is the president of the AFT, on the subject.


From Ms. Weingarten:

What are the District of Columbia Public Schools and some in the city government trying to hide?

On Tuesday, the Washington, D.C., City Council will vote on a stunning new rule that would make it impossible for educators, parents and the general public to judge whether some of DCPS’ core instructional strategies and policies are really helping District children succeed.

Send a letter to the D.C. City Council and tell members to vote NO on the “Educator Evaluation Data Protection” provisions of the mayor’s Budget Support Act.

Here’s the nitty-gritty: Over a year ago, the Washington Teachers’ Union filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to see the data from the school district’s IMPACT evaluation system—a system that’s used for big choices, like the firing of 563 teachers in just the past four years, curriculum decisions, school closures and more. The FOIA request was filed because DCPS refused to provide the data.

The data is essential for the union to be able to represent our members and serve our students. It’s essential to understanding and addressing the DCPS policies and practices that impact our members’ daily work. We requested the data with all personal information removed to protect teachers’ privacy.

Now, the district not only has rejected our request, it is also trying to override the FOIA laws through a radical new secrecy provision to hide the information that’s being used to make big decisions that impact our kids, our teachers and our schools.

And to top it all off, the language in the law is so poorly written, no one’s even sure what it says. The mayor’s office claims it would only apply to certain schools, but open-government advocates say that—as written—it would apply to all schools. This confusion alone is enough reason to reject this bad idea.

Tell the D.C. City Council to vote NO on this over-the-top secrecy provision.

Without access to this data, there’s no way for the public or our union to tell whether the strategies DCPS uses—like mayoral control—are helping students or simply creating school closures and high teacher turnover. And just last week, the National Academy of Sciences released a report that raises a lot of questions about whether those strategies have really moved the needle of student achievement.

Transparency shines a light on whether the District’s policies are helping kids, supporting teachers and improving schools. Hiding this data takes us in the wrong direction.

In unity,

Randi Weingarten
AFT President


From Ms. Davis:

DCPS wants to block access to

valuable information regarding

IMPACT scores–help put a stop to it

For more than a year, the WTU has asked DCPS for public records related to the IMPACT teacher evaluation system, even recently filing a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court in an effort to obtain those records. This information is essential for the union to be able to represent you and to understand and address the DCPS policies and practices that impact your work.

In order to protect the privacy of educators, the union has requested this data with names and personal information redacted.

Yet, DCPS has stubbornly refused to provide that information. And now the D.C. City Council is considering–without either a public hearing or public input–legislation that would block those records from ever being disclosed.

On Tuesday, June 16, the DC City Council will take up the bill blocking access to the IMPACT records. WTU is urging members, parents and others to contact council members, whose e-mail addresses are below, and ask them to oppose the legislation.

On Monday, WTU members will also be receiving a phone that call will directly connect them to members of the council, as well as an e-activist letter that they can easily forward to the council.

The WTU is also asking that you attend the June 16hearing, if possible, and urge other education stakeholders to attend. The hearing begins at 10 am.The hearing will take place while teachers are still in their classrooms, so we encourage parents, concerned citizens, and retirees to attend.

This legislation poses a serious threat to a fair and transparent teacher evaluation system. Let’s make sure our voices are heard.

We will also be discussing the proposed legislation during tomorrow’s Union Leadership Institute at Wilson HS, 9 am- 2 pm, and what WTU members and other educators can do to help defeat it. Hope you can join us!

HERE is the letter WTU President Elizabeth Davis sent to members of the D.C. City Council urging them to oppose the legislation. The letter describes in detail the WTU’s very real concerns about the bill.

 Mayor Muriel Bowser: eom@dc.gov

Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles: dme@dc.gov

Council Chair Phil Mendolson: pmendolson@dccouncil.us












Published in: on June 14, 2015 at 7:22 pm  Comments (1)  

Is it just rich white parents and teachers who want to Opt Out of testing?

Um, no. Read this article by an African-American parent in New Jersey on the multi-racial movement against the corporate educational “reform” movement and in favor of Opting Out of mandated standardized testing.

Here’s the link:


Published in: on June 13, 2015 at 8:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

A little Tumblr fun with NCLB 

Here are a few amusing mini-sketches on Tumblr that someone made, showing how normal people generally react when faced with yet another outrage from the crazy edu-dictates of NCLB.


(You can add your own, I was told. Unfortunately, I’ve never experienced Tumblr before today and CANNOT tell you how to do that!)

Published in: on June 13, 2015 at 8:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Watch Christie rant against teachers and then read the counterattack from a teacher

Both the video and an NJ teacher’s response can be found here or below:

Watching the video, I was appalled at the endless stream of untruths spill from that fat fool’s mouth. No mention of the fact that in Camden and Newark, the places where he claims that over $25,000 is spent per pupil, and achievement and family incomes are both very low, are booth under HIS direct control as governor of NJ. Control of those schools is not under the local school board, nor the mayors. He, Chris Christie, runs the show there. I am also willing to bet that enormous amounts of that money is going to pay for high priced consultants, central office administrators, unnecessary hi-tech boondoggles, and middle level APs or whatever title they have who make sure that teachers are following today’s’ lesson script. He is in charge. His “reformers” spouting the very same rhetoric have been in charge in those cities for about 20 years, and the kids there do not have a choice of doing vocational tech OR college. No, vocational training had been banned. And those wonderful online lessons via iPad and so on? Sorry, but they all suck. Most textbooks I’ve seen are better. And you know what? A 15-year old math textbook may indeed be kilometers better thanlesdons produced online. And you can buy those books cheap, too!

And guess what kind of schools have all the kids sitting in rows listening silently while the teacher lectures? Highly-regimented no-excuses exclusionary charter schools. You know, the ones that Christie says get great results (he doesn’t mention that it’s because they exclude or push out kids who don’t work and are rebellious — solutions that are specifically forbidden to high poverty public schools).
What a lying hypocrite Christie is!
He’s the much greater threat to this nation than ISIS ISIL!

Published in: on June 12, 2015 at 11:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Defrauded College Students at For-Profit “Universities” Face High Hurdles

I applaud the fact that USDoEd is offering debt relief to students who were defrauded by places like Corinthian College.
Unfortunately, the burden of proof will be on those students, and even getting some of the documentation they need will be hard, partly because CC is out of business and of course can’t and won’t give the students any of the documentation they will need to prove their case. Plus they need to show exactly which state law was violated by the scamming college.
I predict that most of those students will need legal help of some kind to prove their case. Will we discover a new generation of legal con artists taking on these cases in yet another scam, or will we have pro-Bono activists helping them out?

Published in: on June 10, 2015 at 6:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Let’s Leave All “Those Children” Behind – the modern school choice mantra

We have astonishing levels of segregation here in Washington, DC, my home town. It might be the worst in the USA, but there are a lot of other major cities vying for the title – Los Angeles being one of them. Take a look at this column, maybe from Salon:


Re: Charter schools, like cars and other products, are creeping into TV shows.

Joshua Leibner/Salon March 21, 2015

Hipsters for charter schools The big lie Togetherness tells about race and education

Charter school dogma has made it to the Big Time. It just got its own soapbox on the Duplass brothers’ HBO Sunday night series “Togetherness.”

Who cares what a Hollywood show about “disenfranchised and lost” film industry workers and their precious progeny does?

We all should, because “Togetherness” very much reflects the state of national discourse on education and its corrosive effects on public schools, particularly as it has played out in Los Angeles.

The reality is that wealthy white people, as a rule, control the charter school industry across the country. White people run the billionaire philanthropic foundations that funnel money into charter schools. White people dominate the editorial boards of the major urban papers who sympathize with charter school interests.

Neighborhood schools with ever-growing class sizes, maligned teachers, obsessed with standardized test-based “rigor,” stripped of arts, music, field trips, nurses, janitors, counselors, libraries, physical education, integrity, or as Education Secretary Arne Duncan might put it, “air.” They are schools deprived of much-needed physical repairs and teachers deprived of support and training in favor of ill-considered technological quick-fixes. Schools have fallen victim to “market-based” reforms imposed without a shred of evidence of pedagogical effectiveness, except the fantasies of economists and billionaire businessmen who demanded them in the first place.

The sad reality is that almost anything can be imposed on the neighborhood schools of poor kids of color — testing, school closing, inexperienced “revolving door” teachers — because those parents simply do not have the same economic or political clout as their white counterparts.

Many HBO “Togetherness” scenarios are familiar in LAUSD from some of the charter school skirmishes on the West Side where parents with clout and power argue for co-locations. One HBO dinner table discussion will be familiar to plenty of educated, middle-upper class parents in urban districts who would like to consider a local school but are too busy in their own lives to do the true hard work of making public education better.  So, they leave it to “organizations” with a glossy spiel to do the heavy lifting and then sign up with them. Then they convince themselves that this is the best thing for their kid, and once that decision is made, they have a vested interest in believing it to the point where now they will do the hard work to preserve what they have for their kid.

Instead, it’s clear that the HBO Duplass brothers, and their characters, are speaking completely un-ironically and obliviously about all their white privilege and entitlement and, yes, racism and classism in defining what constitutes “good” for them. With HBO’s endorsement, they believe and hope that they are speaking for and to an affluent white audience who are rooting for the show’s characters.

And the viewpoints depicted in the show trickle down Colorado Blvd. to L.A’.s District 5 school board race and join the debate throughout the rest of the country.

We should all be very, very concerned with the type of “togetherness” we are being sold here.

Published in: on June 9, 2015 at 2:53 pm  Comments (1)  

Weekly Roundup of Resistance

Sorry for not keeping on top of this – Bob has these lists every single week!

With stories from more than half of the 50 states, this week’s news clips show the expanding breadth, depth and clout of the assessment resistance and reform movement. You can help strengthen support for grassroots activism by making contributing to the campaign for Less Testing, More Learning


“We Now Know That Students Cannot Be Tested Out of Poverty”
Keep Pressing the U.S. Senate to Roll Back Federal Test Overkill Mandate

Arkansas on Verge of Dropping PARCC Test

Schools Face Challenge of Explaining Common Core Test Results to Parents
California Rural Districts Develop Innovative Assessment Alternatives

New Law Would Reduce Test Exhaustion for 11th Graders

Parents Understand Why to Opt Out

Testing Problems Mean Fewer Third Graders Held Back
Florida Too Much Testing in Schools Critics Say

Test Contractor Problems Delay Score Reporting

District Supers Call for True Accountability, Not Reliance on ISTEP Scores
Indiana High-Stakes Testing To Come Under Scrutiny by Legislative Committee

Trying to Pilot Local Assessments Under NCLB Waiver

SciTech Charter School Testing Irregularities

Maine School Officials Say Test is Fatally Flawed
Maine House and Senate Revive Test Opt-Out Bill

Massachusetts Groups Launch Week of Actions for Less Testing, More Learning
Massachusetts Teacher Takes Stand Against Controversial Tests

Is There Too Much Testing in Public Schools

Legislature Throws Out Smarter Balanced Test

Flawed Test Cancellation May Threaten Federal School Ratings
Montana New Bugs Further Delay Test Administration

New Hampshire
Opt Outs Drove City Participation Rate Below 95%

New Jersey
Local Opt-Out Rates Approached 50%

New York
How Standardized Testing Can Maintain the Status Quo
New York Students Hold Hearing at State Capitol on Testing Policies
New York Judge Finds Second Version of State Teacher Licensing Test Racially Biased

North Carolina End of Course Tests Cause Too Much Stress, Dread
North Carolina Test Taking Is Not True Learning

Throws Out Writing Test Scores Due to Reliability Concerns
Oklahoma Questions Raised Over Quality of Temp Exam Graders

Meaningful Learning Can’t Be Measured With a Standardized Test

Hundreds of Philly Students Opted Out of Tests This Year

Rhode Island
ACLU, Other Groups Petition for Public Hearings on Using PARCC Test for Graduation
Rhode Island Listen to Teachers About Tests

Texas Teachers Give Failing Marks to New State School Grading Scheme
Texas Houston Schools Will Scale Back Local Testing in Response to Grassroots Pressure

Utah Education Organization Wants to Reduce the Impact of Standardized Exams

Governor Signs Testing Reform Bills
Virginia Parents Protest SOL Exam Volume

Washington Testing Overkill Takes Toll of Parents, Students

Testing Task Force Begins Work

SAT Cheating Scandal Broadens with Indictment of 15 Chinese Nationals

“High-Stakes Testing” Podcast From Humankind Radio

Five Myths About Standardized Testing and the Opt-Out Movement

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office-   (239) 395-6773   fax-  (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468
web-  http://www.fairtest.org

Students Create Art Answering the Question “How Do You Feel About Standardized Tests”

Published in: on June 9, 2015 at 1:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Quick Look at the National Academy of Science report on Mayoral Control of Schools in Washington DC

Last week, the National Academy of Science released a very long report assessing the progress (or lack of it) of the education of young people in Washington DC under mayoral control in both the regular public schools and in the charter schools.


The picture isn’t pretty, as Candi Peterson has pointed out.


Here are my major conclusions:

1. Mayoral control of schools has been a spectacular failure if you care anything about reducing the gaps between achievement levels of white students and those of color, the poor, special ed students, and English language learners (i.e. immigrants). The gaps between the pass rates on the DC-CAS standardized tests of those groups under mayoral control or the PERAA (Public Education Reform Amendment Act) are enormous and have essentially remained unchanged since 2007, when the law was implemented, according to the data in this report. Note that the report combines the data for both the DC public schools and charter schools, combined, at all grade levels, in both reading and math. Here are two graphs, made by me from data in the report, which show the lack of change. I estimated the percentage of students ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’ in each of the groups (whites, blacks, hispanics, students receiving free or reduced-price lunches, English language learners, and special education students) from graphs provided by the report, and then subtracted the pass rates from each other. HIGH NUMBERS ARE BAD because they show large gaps in proficiency rates. Low numbers are good. Notice that there has been almost no change since mayoral control; some lines go up a tiny bit, some go down a bit, others waver back and forth a bit. Not a success story.
gap[s under mayoral control, math, dc-cas, acc to NAP report on PERAAgaps under mayoral control, reading, acc to national academies press
2. Ratings for teachers remain very much dependent on what students they teach. Many millions of dollars and enormous effort has been spent to devise supposedly scientific ways of measuring teacher effectiveness — i.e. VAM and IMPACT. Every single teacher remaining in DCPS has either been hired under Their Chancellorships or has been repeatedly measured as efffective or better. Yet the ratings for teachers at schools with high poverty rates, and in wards 7 and 8, remain much lower than those at schools with low poverty rates and in ward 3. Repeat: these low-ranked teachers are not holdovers from the ‘bad old days’ – they are either brand-new hires or have been repeatedly measured as good or excellent under IMPACT. (One bit of data: at my last school, from which I retired 5 years ago and which has over 100 faculty and administrators, only about 5 or 6 teachers remain from my time there.) I copied these two tables directly from the report:
teac her ratings under IMPACT, by ward teacher ratings under impact by ses
3. Now that we have 60-odd publicly-funded local school districts in Washington DC, most of which [the charter schools] are not required to provide much of anything in the way of data, we no longer have any effective way of saying what are good practices and which are poor practices, because we have no city-wide way of describing what is going on.
4. The report generally omits any data from before 2007, and in some cases before 2009, which makes it hard to compare pre-mayoral control and post-MC. The exceptions are with some NAEP data, in which it is clear that any progress post-PERAA is indistinguishable from progress before PERAA. See these four graphs, which could have been taken from my blog but are again from the National Academy of Science report (I added the stuff in red for emphasis):
pre-post mayoral control naep scores 4th grade math pre-post mayoral control naep scores 4th grade reading pre-post mayoral control naep scores 8th grade math pre-post mayoral control naep scores 8th grade reading
5. The report totally omits the contractual obligations entered into by Rhee and Henderson with the Broad, Arnold and other foundations back in 2007 when they laid out 60-some goals they said they would meet by 2014. As you may recall from looking at my blog or what Erich Martel wrote on the topic, their success rate in meeting those goals (regarding things like NAEP and CAS scores for the most part) was approximately TWO PERCENT. Not 20%. But 2%. And I was being generous.
6. Finally, despite all the really damning data in the report, I predict that the Washington Post and others of their mindset will proclaim that it shows that mayoral control has been a wonderful success.
PS, here is the link so that you can download your own copy of the 341-page report:

On the Hard Ethical Choices Facing Teachers Today

This is from a commencement address by Richard Rothstein at the Bank Street College of Education last month:

I imagine that you, like me, believe that a teacher’s highest ethical obligation is to his students’ welfare. We understand that teachers are criminal if they enhance students’ passing rates by erasing and changing answers in test booklets. Is it equally unethical, should it perhaps even be criminal, for school systems to enhance passing rates by devoting excessive time to test preparation and robbing children of the broad curriculum they need to truly succeed?

When a teacher is enrolled in a corrupt system, where fulfillment of her legal and organizational responsibilities require her to harm her students, when does she owe it to herself and to her students to refuse?

How should teachers balance the good they may do by saving their right to participate in a corrupt system, with their professional and ethical obligations to shun corruption? If a teacher might be fired, or if her school might be closed, if she refused to commit the illegal act of test tampering, should she nonetheless refuse? If a teacher might be fired, or if her school might be closed, if she refused to engage in excessive test prep, should she nonetheless refuse to engage in that practice? If a teacher is expected to get her students to proficiency while no one worries about her students’ stress, or homelessness, or lead poisoning, or abuse, should she rebel?

Recently, the most powerful resistance to corruption in American education has been articulated by middle class, really upper-middle class, parents who’ve withdrawn their children from testing. Few teachers openly encourage this resistance; doing so risks being fired, and the loss of opportunity to nurture children. They might only be replaced by obedient teachers who do less well at nurturing. How should teachers respond?

Published in: on June 7, 2015 at 10:35 am  Comments (3)  

David Sirota on the many failures of the billionaire’s ‘Education Reform’ movement

David Sirota is one of the best investigative journalists out there today. He has an excellent article in Salon on the many, many failures and outright frauds behind the educational DEform movement we see all over the country. I highly recommend it.

Its title is instructive: Instead of a War on Teachers, How About a War on Poverty?

Here is the link.

Published in: on June 4, 2015 at 9:00 pm  Comments (2)  

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