Students in Louisiana’s School Voucher Program Do Much WORSE Than Those Who Stay in the Public Schools

This is staggering: students who attend private Louisiana schools on vouchers, selected by lottery, do MUCH worse than those who “lost” the lottery and remained in their supposedly “failing” public schools: 40% of a standard deviation worse, which is huge.

Here is a link to Diane Ravitch’s blog on this:

First-Year Evaluation of Louisiana Voucher Program: Student Achievement Declines

Published in: on January 12, 2016 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Need to resist the 1/100 of 1%

From Diane Ravitch:

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New post on Diane Ravitch’s blog

John Thompson on Education and the Media

by dianeravitch

John Thompson, historian and teacher in Oklahoma, writes here about a growing awareness in the mainstream media of the infusion of Big Money into education. The New York Review of Books is a major influence among highly educated people and has a reach far beyond professional educators.
The New York Review of Book’s Michael Massing, in “Reimagining Journalism: The Story of the One Percent,” proposes a new journalism to document and explain the effects of secretive corporate elites on our diverse social institutions. He basically calls for a very well-funded version of the Diane Ravitch blog.

O.K., it’s more complicated than that. Massing notes that “Education is but one area of American life that is being transformed by Big Money.” He wants a website that is staffed by top investigative journalists, and experts in the fields that are being taken over by “billionaires [who] are shaping policy, influencing opinion, promoting favorite causes, polishing their images—and carefully shielding themselves from scrutiny.”

Massing proposes a site, complete with reporters, editors, and “digital whizzes,” who “could burrow deep into the world of the one percent and document the remarkable impact they are having on so many areas of American life.” Similar to Ravitch’s blog, its purpose would be “tracking the major participants, showing the links between them, assessing their influence and impact, and analyzing the evidence on the performance of both public and charter schools.”

Moreover, Massing wants a site that:

Could also serve as a sounding board for people in the field, encouraging principals, teachers, parents, and grantees to send in comments about their dealings with these institutions. The most thoughtful could be edited and posted on the site, providing a bottom-up perspective that rarely gets aired.

Massing explains that “even amid the outpouring of coverage of rising income inequality … the richest Americans have remained largely hidden from view.” And, “journalists have largely let them get away with it.” We need sites that will cover more than education, but Massing, who has been influenced by the work of Mohammad Khan, Zephyr Teachout, and Ravitch, uses their work as a model for the 21st century journalism we need.
His website would:

Produce an ongoing record of the activities of the foundations and private donors trying to affect education policy. The political and lobbying efforts of the teachers’ unions and their allies would be included as well, showing how much money and influence they are able to mobilize in elections and for what candidates.
In the first of two articles, Massing describes Paul Singer, the CEO of the hedge fund Elliott Management as an example of “the ability of today’s ultrarich to amass tremendous power while remaining out of the limelight.” Singer is not merely a key funder of the blood-in-the-eye, anti-union StudentsFirst NY, but also the test, sort, reward and punish policies pushed by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and other corporate school reformers. The billionaire is the single largest donor to the Republican Party; a backer of Marco Rubio and many Tea Party candidates; a funder of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which attacked John Kerry’s war record; a donor to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and the anti-tax group, Club for Growth; and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “which has worked tirelessly to isolate and sanction Iran.”

To illustrate the secretive and far-reaching influence of the One Percent, Massing draws upon the Washington Park Project, and Kahn’s and Teachout’s “Corruption in Education: Hedge Funds and the Takeover of New York’s Schools.” 
They offered:

An eye-opening look at the large sums being spent by what it called “a tiny group of powerful hedge fund executives” seeking to “take over education policy” in the state. This “lightning war on public education,” they wrote, was “hasty and secretive” and “driven by unaccountable private individuals. It represents a new form of political power, and therefore requires a new kind of political oversight.”

Massing then praises the online Hechinger Report and Diane Ravitch who have sharply analyzed the record of the Billionaires Boy’s Club and education reform movement. He explains the need to further document the activities of the Gates, Broad, and Walton foundations, as well as analyze their real world effects on schools.

Yes, America needs websites for examining the structure of money and influence on all of our institutions. Ravitch and her contributors, commenters, and readers should all feel proud of our bottom-up efforts. Massing is correct; our nation needs to produce Diane Ravitchs to lead similar grassroots efforts in health, finance, economics, and politics. I bet it will happen.
dianeravitch | January 11, 2016 at 10:00 am | Categories: Billionaires, Corporate Reformers, Education Industry, Media | URL:

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Published in: on January 11, 2016 at 11:02 am  Leave a Comment  

The USA is not the only country where people believe weird, un-scientific things

Apparently India now has something of an epidemic of religious fundamentalists who believe odd things. A conference of Hindu pseudo-scientists apparently saw presenters making outlandish claims about traditional Hindu gods, ancient jet transportation, and more.

Published in: on January 11, 2016 at 8:15 am  Leave a Comment  

How Widespread Is Merit Pay (or Piecework, or Pay For Performance) in the Private Sector?

You have probably heard the argument that teachers should be paid by measuring the scores of their students, since that’s akin to the method that management uses to decide what to pay workers in private industry.

Never mind that Daniel Pink and Edwards Deming have shown that piecework profoundly DEmoralizes workers and causes their work output to go into a tailspin.

It also happens that only a very tiny percentage of private-sector workers get paid that way after all: about 5%, or one worker in 20, according to sources cited by Peter Greene, aka Curmudgucation, arguably the best education blogger out there.

Here is the link:

Published in: on January 10, 2016 at 12:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Value-Added Measurements Are Less Accurate Than Flipping a Coin

From a recent comment on my blog:

‘You’re probably familiar with “Reanalysis of the Effects of Teacher Replacement Using Value-Added Modeling” by Stuart Yeh that looked at a broad spectrum of studies that found a similar result regarding the (un)reliability of VAM. Namely, that it was no better than flipping a coin.

‘“The intertemporal reliability of value-added teacher rankings was investigated by Aaronson et al. (2007), Ballou (2005), Koedel and Betts (2007), and McCaffrey et al. (2009). In each study, VAM was used to rank teacher performance from high to low. In each study, a majority of teachers who ranked in the lowest quartile or lowest quintile shifted out of that quartile (or quintile) the following year (see Tables 1 and 2). Furthermore, a majority of teachers who ranked in the highest quartile or quintile shifted out of that quartile (or quintile) the following year (see Tables 1 and 2).


‘“In the case of value-added rankings, it is inappropriate to infer that a teacher should be hired or fired based on the rankings from any given year. Since this inference would be inappropriate, the results of valueadded teacher rankings are not valid for the purpose of high-stakes decisions regarding hiring and firing. In short, VAM lacks validity for the purpose of high-stakes decisions regarding individual teachers. 

‘While some researchers suggest averaging two or more years of rankings, averaging may introduce significant bias– raising the issue of validity once again (McCaffrey et al., 2009). Furthermore, it would not be uncommon for data to be missing in a way that would prevent averaging. For large numbers of teachers, it would be impractical. (Newton et al 2010).

‘Regardless, when two years of rankings are used for tenure decisions, intertemporal reliability remains low: In reading, data from North Carolina indicate that 68% of teachers ranked in the bottom quintile shift out of that quintile after tenure (indicated by a weighted average of all post-tenure observations), and 54% of teachers ranked in the top quintile shift out of that quintile post tenure (Goldhaber & Hansen, 2008). When three years of rankings are used, reliability is even worse: 74% of teachers ranked in the bottom quintile shift out of that quintile post-tenure, and 56% of teachers ranked in the top quintile shift out of that quintile post tenure (Goldhaber & Hansen, 2008). In math reliability is somewhat better, but over half of all teachers in the bottom and top quintiles shift out of those quintiles post tenure (Goldhaber & Hansen, 2008).

‘“These results were confirmed by a second value-added analysis, also using data from North Carolina, which found that more than half of all teachers who ranked in the bottom quintile shifted out of that quintile the following year, regardless of whether one, two, three, four or five years of data were used to predict future performance, regardless of the subject area (math or reading), and regardless of whether a simple or complex Bayes estimator was used to improve predictive accuracy”

//end quote’

Published in: on January 10, 2016 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

An Argument in Favor of Reforming Public Education …

…but not in the way that the Rheeformers want.

I think this may be by Marion Brady. Here is the link:

Published in: on January 10, 2016 at 12:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Anthony Cody endorses Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders has recently gone on record as opposing privatization of the public schools. Anthony Cody, an activist for public education, has endorsed him; you can read his thoughts here.

My wife and I are among the hundreds of thousands of people who have sent small donations to the Sanders campaign. Let there be millions!

Bernie said, “The bottom line in terms of politics is this. Republicans win, and push their extreme right wing agenda, when the people of this country turn their backs on politics and turnout is low. Democrats and progressives win when working class people and young people get involved in the political process.”

Published in: on January 7, 2016 at 8:56 pm  Comments (1)  

A Concise Primer on Privatization from Marion Brady

This is a concise primer, written by Marion Brady, on how the 1/100 of 1% have been privatizing our schools and getting away with it. -GFB

Advice column for pundits and politicians

Privatizing public schools: A primer for pundits and politicians


When, about thirty years ago, corporate interests began their highly organized, well-funded effort to privatize public education, you wouldn’t have read or heard about it. They didn’t want to trigger the debate that such a radical change in an important institution warranted.

If, like most pundits and politicians, you’ve supported that campaign, it’s likely you’ve been snookered. Here’s a quick overview of the snookering process.


The pitch


Talking Points: (a) Standardized testing proves America’s schools are poor. (b) Other countries are eating our lunch. (c) Teachers deserve most of the blame. (d) The lazy ones need to be forced out by performance evaluations. (e) The dumb ones need scripts to read or “canned standards” telling them exactly what to teach. (f) The experienced ones are too set in their ways to change and should be replaced by fresh Five-Week-Wonders from Teach for America. (Bonus: Replacing experienced teachers saves a ton of money.) (g) Public (“government”) schools are a step down the slippery slope to socialism.




Education establishment resistance to privatization is inevitable, so (a) avoid it as long as possible by blurring the lines between “public” and “private.” (b) Push school choice, vouchers, tax write-offs, tax credits, school-business partnerships, profit-driven charter chains. (c) When resistance comes, crank up fear with the, “They’re eating our lunch!” message. (d) Contribute generously to all potential resisters—academic publications, professional organizations, unions, and school support groups such as PTA. (e) Create fake “think tanks,” give them impressive names, and have them do “research” supporting privatization. (f) Encourage investment in teacher-replacer technology—internet access, I-pads, virtual schooling, MOOCS, etc. (e) Pressure state legislators to make life easier for profit-seeking charter chains by taking approval decisions away from local boards and giving them to easier-to-lobby state-level bureaucrats. (g) Elect the “right” people at all levels of government. (When they’re campaigning, have them keep their privatizing agenda quiet.)




If you’ll read the fine-print disclaimers on high-stakes standardized tests, you’ll see how grossly they’re being misused, but they’re the key to privatization. The general public, easily impressed by numbers and mathematical razzle-dazzle, believes competition is the key to quality, so want quality quantified even though it can’t be done. Machine-scored tests don’t measure quality. They rank.

It’s hard to rank unlike things so it’s necessary to standardize. That’s what the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) do. To get the job done quickly, Bill Gates picked up the tab, got the CCSS “legitimized” by getting important politicians to sign off on them, then handed them to teachers as a done deal.

The Standards make testing and ranking a cinch. They also make making billions a cinch. Manufacturers can use the same questions for every state that has adopted the Standards or facsimiles thereof.

If challenged, test fans often quote the late Dr. W. Edward Deming, the world-famous quality guru who showed Japanese companies how to build better stuff than anybody else. In his book, The New Economics, Deming wrote, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Here’s the whole sentence as he wrote it: “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it—a costly myth.”


Operating the weapon


What’s turned standardized testing into a privatizing juggernaut are pass-fail “cut scores” set by politicians. Saying kids need to be challenged, they set the cut score high enough to fail many (sometimes most) kids. When the scores are published, they point to the high failure rate to “prove” public schools can’t do the job and should be closed or privatized. Clever, huh?

The privatizing machinery is in place. Left alone, it’ll gradually privatize most, but not all, public schools. Those that serve the poorest, the sickest, the handicapped, the most troubled, the most expensive to educate—those will stay in what’s left of the public schools.


Weapon malfunction


Look at standardized tests from kids’ perspective. Test items (a) measure recall of secondhand, standardized, delivered information, or (b) require a skill to be demonstrated, or (c) reward an ability to second-guess whoever wrote the test item. Because kids didn’t ask for the information, because the skill they’re being asked to demonstrate rarely has immediate practical use, and because they don’t give a tinker’s dam what the test-item writer thinks, they have zero emotional investment in what’s being tested.

As every real teacher knows, no emotional involvement means no real learning. Period. What makes standardized testslook like they work is learner emotion, but it’s emotion that doesn’t have anything to do with learning. The ovals get penciled in to avoid trouble, to please somebody, to get a grade, or to jump through a bureaucratic hoop to be eligible to jump through another bureaucratic hoop. When the pencil is laid down, what’s tested, having no perceived value, automatically erases from memory.


Before you write…


If you want to avoid cranking out the usual amateurish drivel about standardized testing that appears in the op-eds, editorials, and syndicated columns of the mainstream media, ask yourself a few questions about the testing craze: (a) Should life-altering decisions hinge on the scores of commercially produced tests not open to public inspection? (b) How wise is it to only teach what machines can measure? (c) How fair is it to base any part of teacher pay on scores from tests that can’t evaluate complex thought? (d) Are tests that have no “success in life” predictive power worth the damage they’re doing?

Here’s a longer list of problems you should think about before you write.



America’s schools have always struggled—an inevitable consequence, first, of a decision in 1893 to narrow and standardize the high school curriculum and emphasize college prep; second, from a powerful strain of individualism in our national character that eats away support for public institutions; third, from a really sorry system of institutional organization. Politicians, not educators, make education policy, basing it on the simplistic conventional wisdom that educating means “delivering information.”

In fact, educating is the most complex and difficult of all professions. Done right, teaching is an attempt to help the young align their beliefs, values, and assumptions more closely with what’s true and real, escape the bonds of ethnocentrism, explore the wonders and potential of humanness, and become skilled at using thought processes that make it possible to realize those aims.

Historically, out of the institution’s dysfunctional organizational design came schools with lots of problems, but with one redeeming virtue. They were “loose.” Teachers had enough autonomy to do their thing. So they did, and the kids that some of them coached brought America far more than its share of patents, scholarly papers, scientific advances, international awards, and honors.

Notwithstanding their serious problems, America’s public schools were once the envy of the world. Now, educators around that world shake their heads in disbelief (or maybe cheer?) as we spend billions of dollars to standardize what once made America great—un-standardized thought.

A salvage operation is still (barely) possible, but not if politicians, prodded by pundits, continue to do what they’ve thus far steadfastly refused to do—listen to people who’ve actually worked with real students in real classrooms, and did so long enough and thoughtfully enough to know something about teaching.


Note: I invite response, especially from those in positions of influence or authority who disagree with me.

Marion Brady

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Hard Hitting Analysis of 2015 in Education

Gene Glass wrote a satirical review of 2015 in education. Here is a quote, for July:

“Scientists at the American Institutes for Research release study that shows that the first two hours of the school day – from 5:30 am to 7:30 am – account for less than 1% of the day’s learning due to students’ somnambulant state. Study recommendations include delaying the start of school until 5:45 am, so as to ensure that high school grads will be college and career ready.”

Published in: on January 1, 2016 at 4:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Taxing Stock Trades

Why don’t stock trades get taxed like almost every other transaction the rest of us make? At 3% per transaction, and given that about $43 billion was traded on NASDAQ alone yesterday 12/28, we would get rid of the deficit in a hurry. And soak the hedge fund asshats just a little.

Someone pointed out that raising money for corporations to invest – the justification for stock markets that we were taught in civics classes – makes up only a tiny portion of the actual business of Wall Street, NASDAQ, and all of the other stock markets around the world. It’s just speculation, where the very wealthy try to figure out ways to gamble their way to greater riches.

Three percent of $43 billion is a lot of money, by the way! (Work it out!)

Published in: on December 30, 2015 at 9:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

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