Part Two: Cheating in DCPS

DC Education Reform Ten Years After, 

Part 2: Test Cheats

Richard P Phelps

Ten years ago, I worked as the Director of Assessments for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). For temporal context, I arrived after the first of the infamous test cheating scandals and left just before the incident that spawned a second. Indeed, I filled a new position created to both manage test security and design an expanded testing program. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray, who opposed an expanded testing program, defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary. My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as Chancellor. 

The recurring test cheating scandals of the Rhee-Henderson years may seem extraordinary but, in fairness, DCPS was more likely than the average US school district to be caught because it received a much higher degree of scrutiny. Given how tests are typically administered in this country, the incidence of cheating is likely far greater than news accounts suggest, for several reasons: 

·      in most cases, those who administer tests—schoolteachers and administrators—have an interest in their results;

·      test security protocols are numerous and complicated yet, nonetheless, the responsibility of non-expert ordinary school personnel, guaranteeing their inconsistent application across schools and over time; 

·      after-the-fact statistical analyses are not legal proof—the odds of a certain amount of wrong-to-right erasures in a single classroom on a paper-and-pencil test being coincidental may be a thousand to one, but one-in-a-thousand is still legally plausible; and

·      after-the-fact investigations based on interviews are time-consuming, scattershot, and uneven. 

Still, there were measures that the Rhee-Henderson administrations could have adopted to substantially reduce the incidence of cheating, but they chose none that might have been effective. Rather, they dug in their heels, insisted that only a few schools had issues, which they thoroughly resolved, and repeatedly denied any systematic problem.  

Cheating scandals

From 2007 to 2009 rumors percolated of an extraordinary level of wrong-to-right erasures on the test answer sheets at many DCPS schools. “Erasure analysis” is one among several “red flag” indicators that testing contractors calculate to monitor cheating. The testing companies take no responsibility for investigating suspected test cheating, however; that is the customer’s, the local or state education agency. 

In her autobiographical account of her time as DCPS Chancellor, Michelle Johnson (nee Rhee), wrote (p. 197)

“For the first time in the history of DCPS, we brought in an outside expert to examine and audit our system. Caveon Test Security – the leading expert in the field at the time – assessed our tests, results, and security measures. Their investigators interviewed teachers, principals, and administrators.

“Caveon found no evidence of systematic cheating. None.”

Caveon, however, had not looked for “systematic” cheating. All they did was interview a few people at several schools where the statistical anomalies were more extraordinary than at others. As none of those individuals would admit to knowingly cheating, Caveon branded all their excuses as “plausible” explanations. That’s it; that is all that Caveon did. But, Caveon’s statement that they found no evidence of “widespread” cheating—despite not having looked for it—would be frequently invoked by DCPS leaders over the next several years.[1]

Incidentally, prior to the revelation of its infamous decades-long, systematic test cheating, the Atlanta Public Schools had similarly retained Caveon Test Security and was, likewise, granted a clean bill of health. Only later did the Georgia state attorney general swoop in and reveal the truth. 

In its defense, Caveon would note that several cheating prevention measures it had recommended to DCPS were never adopted.[2] None of the cheating prevention measures that I recommended were adopted, either.

The single most effective means for reducing in-classroom cheating would have been to rotate teachers on test days so that no teacher administered a test to his or her own students. It would not have been that difficult to randomly assign teachers to different classrooms on test days.

The single most effective means for reducing school administratorcheating would have been to rotate test administrators on test days so that none managed the test materials for their own schools. The visiting test administrators would have been responsible for keeping test materials away from the school until test day, distributing sealed test booklets to the rotated teachers on test day, and for collecting re-sealed test booklets at the end of testing and immediately removing them from the school. 

Instead of implementing these, or a number of other feasible and effective test security measures, DCPS leaders increased the number of test proctors, assigning each of a few dozen or so central office staff a school to monitor. Those proctors could not reasonably manage the volume of oversight required. A single DC test administration could encompass a hundred schools and a thousand classrooms.

Investigations

So, what effort, if any, did DCPS make to counter test cheating? They hired me, but then rejected all my suggestions for increasing security. Also, they established a telephone tip line. Anyone who suspected cheating could report it, even anonymously, and, allegedly, their tip would be investigated. 

Some forms of cheating are best investigated through interviews. Probably the most frequent forms of cheating at DCPS—teachers helping students during test administrations and school administrators looking at test forms prior to administration—leave no statistical residue. Eyewitness testimony is the only type of legal evidence available in such cases, but it is not just inconsistent, it may be socially destructive. 

I remember two investigations best: one occurred in a relatively well-to-do neighborhood with well-educated parents active in school affairs; the other in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Superficially, the cases were similar—an individual teacher was accused of helping his or her own students with answers during test administrations. Making a case against either elementary school teacher required sworn testimony from eyewitnesses, that is, students—eight-to-ten-year olds. 

My investigations, then, consisted of calling children into the principal’s office one-by-one to be questioned about their teacher’s behavior. We couldn’t hide the reason we were asking the questions. And, even though each student agreed not to tell others what had occurred in their visit to the principal’s office, we knew we had only one shot at an uncorrupted jury pool. 

Though the accusations against the two teachers were similar and the cases against them equally strong, the outcomes could not have been more different. In the high-poverty neighborhood, the students seemed suspicious and said little; none would implicate the teacher, whom they all seemed to like. 

In the more prosperous neighborhood, students were more outgoing, freely divulging what they had witnessed. The students had discussed the alleged coaching with their parents who, in turn, urged them to tell investigators what they knew. During his turn in the principal’s office, the accused teacher denied any wrongdoing. I wrote up each interview, then requested that each student read and sign. 

Thankfully, that accused teacher made a deal and left the school system a few weeks later. Had he not, we would have required the presence in court of the eight-to-ten-year olds to testify under oath against their former teacher, who taught multi-grade classes. Had that prosecution not succeeded, the eyewitness students could have been routinely assigned to his classroom the following school year.

My conclusion? Only in certain schools is the successful prosecution of a cheating teacher through eyewitness testimony even possible. But, even where possible, it consumes inordinate amounts of time and, otherwise, comes at a high price, turning young innocents against authority figures they naturally trusted. 

Cheating blueprints

Arguably the most widespread and persistent testing malfeasance in DCPS received little attention from the press. Moreover, it was directly propagated by District leaders, who published test blueprints on the web. Put simply, test “blueprints” are lists of the curricular standards (e.g., “student shall correctly add two-digit numbers”) and the number of test items included in an upcoming test related to each standard. DC had been advance publishing its blueprints for years.

I argued that the way DC did it was unethical. The head of the Division of Data & Accountability, Erin McGoldrick, however, defended the practice, claimed it was common, and cited its existence in the state of California as precedent. The next time she and I met for a conference call with one of DCPS’s test providers, Discover Education, I asked their sales agent how many of their hundreds of other customers advance-published blueprints. His answer: none.

In the state of California, the location of McGoldrick’s only prior professional experience, blueprints were, indeed, published in advance of test administrations. But their tests were longer than DC’s and all standards were tested. Publication of California’s blueprints served more to remind the populace what the standards were in advance of each test administration. Occasionally, a standard considered to be of unusual importance might be assigned a greater number of test items than the average, and the California blueprints signaled that emphasis. 

In Washington, DC, the tests used in judging teacher performance were shorter, covering only some of each year’s standards. So, DC’s blueprints showed everyone well in advance of the test dates exactly which standards would be tested and which would not. For each teacher, this posed an ethical dilemma: should they “narrow the curriculum” by teaching only that content they knew would be tested? Or, should they do the right thing and teach all the standards, as they were legally and ethically bound to, even though it meant spending less time on the to-be-tested content? It’s quite a conundrum when one risks punishment for behaving ethically.

Monthly meetings convened to discuss issues with the districtwide testing program, the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS)—administered to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. All public schools, both DCPS and charters, administered those tests. At one of these regular meetings, two representatives from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) announced plans to repair the broken blueprint process.[3]

The State Office employees argued thoughtfully and reasonably that it was professionally unethical to advance publish DC test blueprints. Moreover, they had surveyed other US jurisdictions in an effort to find others that followed DC’s practice and found none. I was the highest-ranking DCPS employee at the meeting and I expressed my support, congratulating them for doing the right thing. I assumed that their decision was final.

I mentioned the decision to McGoldrick, who expressed surprise and speculation that it might have not been made at the highest level in the organizational hierarchy. Wasting no time, she met with other DCPS senior managers and the proposed change was forthwith shelved. In that, and other ways, the DCPS tail wagged the OSSE dog. 

* * *

It may be too easy to finger ethical deficits for the recalcitrant attitude toward test security of the Rhee-Henderson era ed reformers. The columnist Peter Greene insists that knowledge deficits among self-appointed education reformers also matter: 

“… the reformistan bubble … has been built from Day One without any actual educators inside it. Instead, the bubble is populated by rich people, people who want rich people’s money, people who think they have great ideas about education, and even people who sincerely want to make education better. The bubble does not include people who can turn to an Arne Duncan or a Betsy DeVos or a Bill Gates and say, ‘Based on my years of experience in a classroom, I’d have to say that idea is ridiculous bullshit.’”

“There are a tiny handful of people within the bubble who will occasionally act as bullshit detectors, but they are not enough. The ed reform movement has gathered power and money and set up a parallel education system even as it has managed to capture leadership roles within public education, but the ed reform movement still lacks what it has always lacked–actual teachers and experienced educators who know what the hell they’re talking about.”

In my twenties, I worked for several years in the research department of a state education agency. My primary political lesson from that experience, consistently reinforced subsequently, is that most education bureaucrats tell the public that the system they manage works just fine, no matter what the reality. They can get away with this because they control most of the evidence and can suppress it or spin it to their advantage.

In this proclivity, the DCPS central office leaders of the Rhee-Henderson era proved themselves to be no different than the traditional public-school educators they so casually demonized. 

US school systems are structured to be opaque and, it seems, both educators and testing contractors like it that way. For their part, and contrary to their rhetoric, Rhee, Henderson, and McGoldrick passed on many opportunities to make their system more transparent and accountable.

Education policy will not improve until control of the evidence is ceded to genuinely independent third parties, hired neither by the public education establishment nor by the education reform club.

The author gratefully acknowledges the fact-checking assistance of Erich Martel and Mary Levy.

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Citation:  Phelps, R. P. (2020, September). Looking Back on DC Education Reform 10 Years After, Part 2: Test Cheats. Nonpartisan Education Review / Testimonials. https://nonpartisaneducation.org/Review/Testimonials/v16n3.htm


[1] A perusal of Caveon’s website clarifies that their mission is to help their clients–state and local education departments–not get caught. Sometimes this means not cheating in the first place; other times it might mean something else. One might argue that, ironically, Caveon could be helping its clients to cheat in more sophisticated ways and cover their tracks better.

[2] Among them: test booklets should be sealed until the students open them and resealed by the students immediately after; and students should be assigned seats on test day and a seating chart submitted to test coordinators (necessary for verifying cluster patterns in student responses that would suggest answer copying).

[3] Yes, for those new to the area, the District of Columbia has an Office of the “State” Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Its domain of relationships includes not just the regular public schools (i.e., DCPS), but also other public schools (i.e., charters) and private schools. Practically, it primarily serves as a conduit for funneling money from a menagerie of federal education-related grant and aid programs

What did Education Reform in DC Actually Mean?

Short answer: nothing that would actually help students or teachers. But it’s made for well-padded resumes for a handful of insiders.

This is an important review, by the then-director of assessment. His criticisms echo the points that I have been making along with Mary Levy, Erich Martel, Adell Cothorne, and many others.

Nonpartisan Education Review / Testimonials

Access this testimonial in .pdf format

Looking Back on DC Education Reform 10 Years After, 

Part 1: The Grand Tour

Richard P Phelps

Ten years ago, I worked as the Director of Assessments for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as Chancellor. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary

My primary task was to design an expansion of that testing program that served the IMPACT teacher evaluation system to include all core subjects and all grade levels. Despite its fame (or infamy), the test score aspect of the IMPACT program affected only 13% of teachers, those teaching either reading or math in grades four through eight. Only those subjects and grade levels included the requisite pre- and post-tests required for teacher “value added” measurements (VAM). Not included were most subjects (e.g., science, social studies, art, music, physical education), grades kindergarten to two, and high school.

Chancellor Rhee wanted many more teachers included. So, I designed a system that would cover more than half the DCPS teacher force, from kindergarten through high school. You haven’t heard about it because it never happened. The newly elected Vincent Gray had promised during his mayoral campaign to reduce the amount of testing; the proposed expansion would have increased it fourfold.

VAM affected teachers’ jobs. A low value-added score could lead to termination; a high score, to promotion and a cash bonus. VAM as it was then structured was obviously, glaringly flawed,[1] as anyone with a strong background in educational testing could have seen. Unfortunately, among the many new central office hires from the elite of ed reform circles, none had such a background.

Before posting a request for proposals from commercial test developers for the testing expansion plan, I was instructed to survey two groups of stakeholders—central office managers and school-level teachers and administrators.

Not surprisingly, some of the central office managers consulted requested additions or changes to the proposed testing program where they thought it would benefit their domain of responsibility. The net effect on school-level personnel would have been to add to their administrative burden. Nonetheless, all requests from central office managers would be honored. 

The Grand Tour

At about the same time, over several weeks of the late Spring and early Summer of 2010, along with a bright summer intern, I visited a dozen DCPS schools. The alleged purpose was to collect feedback on the design of the expanded testing program. I enjoyed these meetings. They were informative, animated, and very well attended. School staff appreciated the apparent opportunity to contribute to policy decisions and tried to make the most of it.

Each school greeted us with a full complement of faculty and staff on their days off, numbering a several dozen educators at some venues. They believed what we had told them: that we were in the process of redesigning the DCPS assessment program and were genuinely interested in their suggestions for how best to do it. 

At no venue did we encounter stand-pat knee-jerk rejection of education reform efforts. Some educators were avowed advocates for the Rhee administration’s reform policies, but most were basically dedicated educators determined to do what was best for their community within the current context. 

The Grand Tour was insightful, too. I learned for the first time of certain aspects of DCPS’s assessment system that were essential to consider in its proper design, aspects of which the higher-ups in the DCPS Central Office either were not aware or did not consider relevant. 

The group of visited schools represented DCPS as a whole in appropriate proportions geographically, ethnically, and by education level (i.e., primary, middle, and high). Within those parameters, however, only schools with “friendly” administrations were chosen. That is, we only visited schools with principals and staff openly supportive of the Rhee-Henderson agenda. 

But even they desired changes to the testing program, whether or not it was expanded. Their suggestions covered both the annual districtwide DC-CAS (or “comprehensive” assessment system), on which the teacher evaluation system was based, and the DC-BAS (or “benchmarking” assessment system), a series of four annual “no-stakes” interim tests unique to DCPS, ostensibly offered to help prepare students and teachers for the consequential-for-some-school-staff DC-CAS.[2]

At each staff meeting I asked for a show of hands on several issues of interest that I thought were actionable. Some suggestions for program changes received close to unanimous support. Allow me to describe several.

1. Move DC-CAS test administration later in the school year. Many citizens may have logically assumed that the IMPACT teacher evaluation numbers were calculated from a standard pre-post test schedule, testing a teacher’s students at the beginning of their academic year together and then again at the end. In 2010, however, the DC-CAS was administered in March, three months before school year end. Moreover, that single administration of the test served as both pre- and post-test, posttest for the current school year and pretest for the following school year. Thus, before a teacher even met their new students in late August or early September, almost half of the year for which teachers were judged had already transpired—the three months in the Spring spent with the previous year’s teacher and almost three months of summer vacation. 

School staff recommended pushing DC-CAS administration to later in the school year. Furthermore, they advocated a genuine pre-post-test administration schedule—pre-test the students in late August–early September and post-test them in late-May–early June—to cover a teacher’s actual span of time with the students.

This suggestion was rejected because the test development firm with the DC-CAS contract required three months to score some portions of the test in time for the IMPACT teacher ratings scheduled for early July delivery, before the start of the new school year. Some small number of teachers would be terminated based on their IMPACT scores, so management demanded those scores be available before preparations for the new school year began.[3] The tail wagged the dog.

2. Add some stakes to the DC-CAS in the upper grades. Because DC-CAS test scores portended consequences for teachers but none for students, some students expended little effort on the test. Indeed, extensive research on “no-stakes” (for students) tests reveal that motivation and effort vary by a range of factors including gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, the weather, and age. Generally, the older the student, the lower the test-taking effort. This disadvantaged some teachers in the IMPACT ratings for circumstances beyond their control: unlucky student demographics. 

Central office management rejected this suggestion to add even modest stakes to the upper grades’ DC-CAS; no reason given. 

3. Move one of the DC-BAS tests to year end. If management rejected the suggestion to move DC-CAS test administration to the end of the school year, school staff suggested scheduling one of the no-stakes DC-BAS benchmarking tests for late May–early June. As it was, the schedule squeezed all four benchmarking test administrations between early September and mid-February. Moving just one of them to the end of the year would give the following year’s teachers a more recent reading (by more than three months) of their new students’ academic levels and needs.

Central Office management rejected this suggestion probably because the real purpose of the DC-BAS was not to help teachers understand their students’ academic levels and needs, as the following will explain.

4. Change DC-BAS tests so they cover recently taught content. Many DC citizens probably assumed that, like most tests, the DC-BAS interim tests covered recently taught content, such as that covered since the previous test administration. Not so in 2010. The first annual DC-BAS was administered in early September, just after the year’s courses commenced. Moreover, it covered the same content domain—that for the entirety of the school year—as each of the next three DC-BAS tests. 

School staff proposed changing the full-year “comprehensive” content coverage of each DC-BAS test to partial-year “cumulative” coverage, so students would only be tested on what they had been taught prior to each test administration.

This suggestion, too, was rejected. Testing the same full-year comprehensive content domain produced a predictable, flattering score rise. With each DC-BAS test administration, students recognized more of the content, because they had just been exposed to more of it, so average scores predictably rose. With test scores always rising, it looked like student achievement improved steadily each year. Achieving this contrived score increase required testing students on some material to which they had not yet been exposed, both a violation of professional testing standards and a poor method for instilling student confidence. (Of course, it was also less expensive to administer essentially the same test four times a year than to develop four genuinely different tests.)

5. Synchronize the sequencing of curricular content across the District. DCPS management rhetoric circa 2010 attributed classroom-level benefits to the testing program. Teachers would know more about their students’ levels and needs and could also learn from each other. Yet, the only student test results teachers received at the beginning of each school year was half-a-year old, and most of the information they received over the course of four DC-BAS test administrations was based on not-yet-taught content.

As for cross-district teacher cooperation, unfortunately there was no cross-District coordination of common curricular sequences. Each teacher paced their subject matter however they wished and varied topical emphases according to their own personal preference.

It took DCPS’s Chief Academic Officer, Carey Wright, and her chief of staff, Dan Gordon, less than a minute to reject the suggestion to standardize topical sequencing across schools so that teachers could consult with one another in real time. Tallying up the votes: several hundred school-level District educators favored the proposal, two of Rhee’s trusted lieutenants opposed it. It lost.

6. Offer and require a keyboarding course in the early grades. DCPS was planning to convert all its testing from paper-and-pencil mode to computer delivery within a few years. Yet, keyboarding courses were rare in the early grades. Obviously, without systemwide keyboarding training in computer use some students would be at a disadvantage in computer testing.

Suggestion rejected.

In all, I had polled over 500 DCPS school staff. Not only were all of their suggestions reasonable, some were essential in order to comply with professional assessment standards and ethics. 

Nonetheless, back at DCPS’ Central Office, each suggestion was rejected without, to my observation, any serious consideration. The rejecters included Chancellor Rhee, the head of the office of Data and Accountability—the self-titled “Data Lady,” Erin McGoldrick—and the head of the curriculum and instruction division, Carey Wright, and her chief deputy, Dan Gordon. 

Four central office staff outvoted several-hundred school staff (and my recommendations as assessment director). In each case, the changes recommended would have meant some additional work on their parts, but in return for substantial improvements in the testing program. Their rhetoric was all about helping teachers and students; but the facts were that the testing program wasn’t structured to help them.

What was the purpose of my several weeks of school visits and staff polling? To solicit “buy in” from school level staff, not feedback.

Ultimately, the new testing program proposal would incorporate all the new features requested by senior Central Office staff, no matter how burdensome, and not a single feature requested by several hundred supportive school-level staff, no matter how helpful. Like many others, I had hoped that the education reform intention of the Rhee-Henderson years was genuine. DCPS could certainly have benefitted from some genuine reform. 

Alas, much of the activity labelled “reform” was just for show, and for padding resumes. Numerous central office managers would later work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Numerous others would work for entities supported by the Gates or aligned foundations, or in jurisdictions such as Louisiana, where ed reformers held political power. Most would be well paid. 

Their genuine accomplishments, or lack thereof, while at DCPS seemed to matter little. What mattered was the appearance of accomplishment and, above all, loyalty to the group. That loyalty required going along to get along: complicity in maintaining the façade of success while withholding any public criticism of or disagreement with other in-group members.

Unfortunately, in the United States what is commonly showcased as education reform is neither a civic enterprise nor a popular movement. Neither parents, the public, nor school-level educators have any direct influence. Rather, at the national level, US education reform is an elite, private club—a small group of tightly-connected politicos and academicsa mutual admiration society dedicated to the career advancement, political influence, and financial benefit of its members, supported by a gaggle of wealthy foundations (e.g., Gates, Walton, Broad, Wallace, Hewlett, Smith-Richardson). 

For over a decade, The Ed Reform Club exploited DC for its own benefit. Local elite formed the DC Public Education Fund (DCPEF) to sponsor education projects, such as IMPACT, which they deemed worthy. In the negotiations between the Washington Teachers’ Union and DCPS concluded in 2010, DCPEF arranged a 3 year grant of $64.5M from the Arnold, Broad, Robertson and Walton Foundations to fund a 5-year retroactive teacher pay raise in return for contract language allowing teacher excessing tied to IMPACT, which Rhee promised would lead to annual student test score increases by 2012. Projected goals were not metfoundation support continued nonetheless.

Michelle Johnson (nee Rhee) now chairs the board of a charter school chain in California and occasionally collects $30,000+ in speaker fees but, otherwise, seems to have deliberately withdrawn from the limelight. Despite contributing her own additional scandalsafter she assumed the DCPS Chancellorship, Kaya Henderson ascended to great fame and glory with a “distinguished professorship” at Georgetown; honorary degrees from Georgetown and Catholic Universities; gigs with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Broad Leadership Academy, and Teach for All; and board memberships with The Aspen Institute, The College Board, Robin Hood NYC, and Teach For America. Carey Wright is now state superintendent in Mississippi. Dan Gordon runs a 30-person consulting firm, Education Counsel that strategically partners with major players in US education policy. The manager of the IMPACT teacher evaluation program, Jason Kamras, now works as Superintendent of the Richmond, VA public schools. 

Arguably the person most directly responsible for the recurring assessment system fiascos of the Rhee-Henderson years, then Chief of Data and Accountability Erin McGoldrick, now specializes in “data innovation” as partner and chief operating officer at an education management consulting firm. Her firm, Kitamba, strategically partners with its own panoply of major players in US education policy. Its list of recent clients includes the DC Public Charter School Board and DCPS.

If the ambitious DC central office folk who gaudily declared themselves leading education reformers were not really, who were the genuine education reformers during the Rhee-Henderson decade of massive upheaval and per-student expenditures three times those in the state of Utah? They were the school principals and staff whose practical suggestions were ignored by central office glitterati. They were whistleblowers like history teacher Erich Martel who had documented DCPS’ student records’ manipulation and phony graduation rates years before the Washington Post’s celebrated investigation of Ballou High School, and was demoted and then “excessed” by Henderson. Or, school principal Adell Cothorne, who spilled the beans on test answer sheet “erasure parties” at Noyes Education Campus and lost her job under Rhee. 

Real reformers with “skin in the game” can’t play it safe.

The author appreciates the helpful comments of Mary Levy and Erich Martel in researching this article. 

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On the malign influence of Eli Broad in education

This is a good summary by Wendy Lecker on the results of billionaire Eli Broad’s strenuous efforts to reshape American education. Even though Broad’s rhetoric is a lot more progressive than that of the Koch brothers, Broad’s results have not been good at all – not only in human terms, but even on his own terms and using his own benchmarks. I might add that in terms of Broad’s failures, Lecker could have included the Broad-financed reform effort under Michelle Rhee here in Washington DC had a 98% failure rate in reaching its own goals. (See here for a link to my analysis thereof.)

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Putting a price tag on public schools

By Wendy Lecker|January 5, 2020

When it comes to using one’s fortune to influence American policy, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch stand out.

The Kochs have spent a fortune pushing American politics and policy to the right. Their secretive organization, Americans for Prosperity, is a major player in anti-labor activities, such as Wisconsin’s slashing of union rights, and fighting minimum wage increases nationwide. The Kochs poured money into the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”) a stealth lobby organization that writes bills that advance Koch industries’ interests specifically and the Koch’s extreme free market ideology in general, and then gets legislators all over the country to introduce them.

They have also donated millions of dollars to establish research centers at universities to push their brand of unregulated capitalism. They impose conditions and performance obligations on the donations, interfere in hiring decisions, and make curriculum and programming decisions. The Kochs often demand pre-approval of any public statements and include anti-transparency provisions in donor agreements. This research is then cited as the scholarly basis for Congressional decisions favoring the Kochs’ interests. The Kochs are proud of their integrated strategy to build a pipeline of influence. The president of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation boasted that “(n)o one else has this infrastructure.”

Eli Broad, a billionaire who made his fortune through real estate and insurance, seeks to build a Koch-style infrastructure to push his education reform ideology. Broad recently announced that, with a $100 million donation, he is bringing his Broad Center to Yale’s School of Management (“SOM”).

The Broad Center trains school district leaders and those who seek to influence education policy. The center emphasizes applying business principles to running school districts and de-emphasizes education. In seeking candidates, the Broad Center prioritizes “a strong and direct alignment with specific (Broad Center) reform priorities” — which include school privatization and weakening labor protections. The Center openly aims to reshape American public education according to Broad’s ideology.

Eli Broad is a major player in some of the most aggressive — and controversial- education reform policies in America. Like the Kochs, Broad employs an integrated strategy of influence. For example, he bankrolled the education reform slate in the Los Angeles 2018 school board election. His star beneficiary, charter operator Ref Rodriguez, later resigned from the board and pled guilty to felony election fraud conspiracy. Broad also poured millions into Broad alumnus and charter operator Marshall Tuck’s 2018 unsuccessful campaign for California State Superintendent.

Broad used his money and influence to push the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) to run Detroit’s public schools. He provided significant funding and even summoned Broad alumnus and then Kansas City superintendent, John Covington, to be its first chancellor. Covington had wreaked havoc on Kansas City, firing hundreds of teachers and replacing them with inexperienced Teach for America members, and imposing other disruptive reforms. After his chaotic departure, Kansas City’s school district lost its accreditation. It then abandoned Covington’s reforms to regain its footing.

Covington left the EAA abruptly after charges of questionable spending, and the Broad Center hired him. The EAA was a devastating failure, plagued by financial mismanagement and abysmal academic failures.

A succession of Broad alumni ran Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District, which was also plagued by financial mismanagement and poor student achievement — worse than in schools under local district control.

Broad alumni were forced out of Seattle and Los Angeles amid financial impropriety, and Barbara Byrd Bennett, a Broad executive coach, is in federal prison after pleading guilty to a bribery scandal in which she engaged while head of Chicago Public Schools.

These scandals reflect poorly on Broad’s emphasis on applying business practices to school districts.

Much like the Koch’s foray into higher education, Broad’s move to SOM seems like an effort to profit from Yale’s name and perhaps sanitize the questionable track record of Broad alumni. Since Yale has no school of education — unlike other universities in New Haven — Broad’s interest is not to bolster any knowledge of how children can learn successfully.

In an effort to discern how much of the Koch playbook Broad is employing at Yale, I asked SOM about Broad’s involvement in the governance, curriculum, programming and hiring at SOM’s new center. After first indicating they would run these questions by SOM’s dean, SOM now fails to respond, despite my request for follow-up. Apparently, SOM’s Broad Center is adopting the Koch’s lack of transparency.

It is disturbing that a major university is helping enlarge the Broad pipeline, which has funneled scandal and upheaval across American public schools.

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Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center

Yes, they really do want public education to fail!

A long quote from Peter Greene of Curmudgucation with some emphasis added by me.

…as the Obama administration rolled out policy, I began to realize that this was not going to be the guy to help us, that he was, in fact, going to take some of the worst parts of NCLB and keep them, boost them. Keep high stakes testing, but now judge individual teachers and not just schools. States were encouraged to fight for some additional funding, which they could do by handing over control of their state department of education to the feds. But then all states were encouraged to do the same for free to escape the penalties of NCLB, which Congress seemed completely incapable of fixing, as if– and this seemed to be a recurring theme in the early 10s– as if they actually wanted public schools to fail.

We said it over and over– when we peeked at test questions and saw how bad they were, when we asked for actionable results from last year’s tests, when we looked at the kind of crappy materials the state sent us, when we saw the unattainable goals– do they actually want us to fail??

And the more I dug into things, the more troubling they seemed. Most of what we had been told about the Common Core standards turned out to be a lie. Everywhere there were new groups with “student” and “education” in their names, important rich guys like Bill Gates, the guys in DC that we had voted for, all agreeing that we teachers in public schools, we who were devoting our lives to education and who, mostly, had far more training and experience than any of them– we were stinking up the joint. Public education was failing, and it was our fault.

“We don’t trust you. We don’t believe you or believe in you. We are trying to fix the system that you broke.” They said.

“Is this over that test? That crappy bad test?? Is that what this is about??” We asked incredulously.

“Never mind,” they said. “We’re not talking to you. You’ve done enough already. We think you’re going to need some motivation, like threats or maybe free market competition to get you to stop slacking and screwing up. Don’t like it? Big deal– we can get some of this teacher-proof curriculum in a box, or hire one of those five-week wonders from Teach for America. Your job, even though you suck at it, is not so hard.”

It began to sink in. The newly-required aligned texts. The computer-based practice testing. The test prep materials. The education-flavored businesses designed to make a buck from ed solutions, from charter schools to consulting groups. The data collection. All of those narratives were based on one premise– that public schools were failing and that some combination of solutions and alternatives were needed.

Added to that shock was the feeling of isolation. Who was on the side of public schools? Not politicians– not from either party. Not wealthy and powerful people. Not even our damned unions, which cheerfully endorsed Common Core and implicitly accepted the premise that public schools were failing.

It’s really scary.

Peter Greene on Raising Children, Not Meat Widgets

Peter Greene of Curmudgucation is the most down-to-earth and level-headed blogger I know of, and he writes wonderfully. One of his columns today has to do with the beauty and awe of being a parent, watching your children going up and moving out and raising their own kids someday, probably far away from you.

He recently retired from teaching at age 60 or so, and has two 20-month old kids. He is appalled at how billionaires and CEOs and engineers are trying to force kindergarteners to do things that used to be taught in 2nd or 3rd grade.

Read his column.

Where are all the 2016 Campaign Stickers and Signs?

Most 4-year election cycles, there are literally (and also figuratively) tons of presidential campaign stickers for the two main parties and also for others plastered on vehicles, walls, buttons, yard signs, and much more.

Not so far this year.

(Back in my day, when we actually DID sometimes (wellll, twice, both February 1958 iirc) walk to the store pulling a sled through snowdrifts taller than me, I actually recall playing with a spinning top labeled “Ike on Top” from either the 1952 or 1956 election. During the last two cycles that Obama was running, you would see stickers or signs for Obama-Biden; or Romney-Ryan; or McCain-Palin nearly everywhere you looked, walking or driving.

I just drove to South Carolina through NC, VA and DC and back over 4 days and found a grand total of THREE such election notices, only 6 weeks before election day, and all were in NC:

  • One red pickup truck with TRUMP-PENCE signs
  • One small TRUMP-PENCE road side sign
  • One CLINTON-KAINE illuminated bill board

That’s ALL. None others, at all, anywhere we went that I was looking.

Before this trip, here in DC I recall  seeing a grand total THREE bumper stickers. One  Johnston, one Stein, and one Hillary.

So that is a grand total of SIX stickers or signs that I’ve seen posted by actual people, so far, this election. Lots of emails (I still get some from Carson – remember him?)

And that’s after driving many hundreds of miles on interstates and local roads and in various towns in NC, VA, DC and a tiny bit in S, as well as walking a fair distance. Almost no open and visible signs from anybody supporting either candidate!

These must be truly the most unpopular American presidential candidates in my lifetime and perhaps ever.  I suspect that on both sides, a lot of people will be voting while holding their noses, and that will include me, and will mostly voting AGAINST someone. (If you didn’t know already, I’m mostly voting AGAINST Trump but not in favor of either of the 3rd-party candidates. So that means I’m voting for Clinton, because I can’t abide the idea that somebody as foolish and as dishonest as Trump would be the American president.

Clearly there are some Trump supporters who don’t care how many times he’s lied, or whom he has demeaned, or how much money he’s swindled out of the rest of us, or how absolutely unfit he is for any position of trust and leadership. All of those unimipeachable facts make him completely unacceptable to the vast majority of people, but there is a core group of Trump cult members who have been conned. Believe me, he is the very best con-man out there. The very best. A bigly con-man. I’ll tell you, he is a world-class shyster. the very best. So those who have been conned pick and choose whichever side of his self-contradictory programs he sort-of articulates, and ignore all the contradictory evidence.

And of course, he and his Breitbart-Fox Fake news media friends have been promoting the Big Lie that Hillary Clinton is the worst liar in the world and a heartless murderer to boot.

Concerning Secy Clinton, I’m not crazy about how the policies of Obama and the Clintons in foreign policy and on education appear to be almost indistinguishable from those of GWBush, even though GWB justified those interventionist and frankly essentially imperialist policies on much more know-nothing, knee-jerk, right-wing, grounds that simply aggravated tensions abroad, alienated enormous numbers of Moslems and others in the Middle East, and dissipated all the support Americans got when the US was attacked on 9-11-2001. The policies of GWB — which have to a great extent continued under Obama  — supported totally corrupt, ruthless, violent regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan (Al-Maliki and Karzai) and in reaction caused groups like the Taliban and ISIS/ISIL and its predecessors, the Sunni Uprising in Iraq, to seem like legitimate resistance fighters to millions of people there. Destabilizing Libya and Syria hasn’t exactly brought about progress, either, and now the US has its ostensibly strongest allies (Kurds and Turkey) fighting each other. Bringing about an enormous refugee problem that seems to have no solution. So Trump is correct that the policies of the last two presidential administrations in the Middle East have been failures on their own terms — but his would be even worse!

Just think: he advocates stealing ALL THE OIL from Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, and doing torture even worse than the illegal stuff that the CIA and US military did all along, and IIRC has even proposed using nuclear weapons over there! That would make the US into one of the worst perpetrators of brazen war crimes of all time, and would prompt millions or billions of people into rising up against the American presence everywhere in the world.

Starting wars and uprisings can sound like a good idea sometimes if you aren’t the ones in the middle of it as a combatant or civilian. Armed conflict is not fun, but if people feel that they really have no choice, they will do it.

The stuff about Clinton’s emails and Benghazi, to me, seem to be utterly bogus issues — but since they have been repeated over and over again by the rabid anti-Clintonites, they have achieved their goal of making Clinton looking more duplicitous than the average politician. I think she is considerably less so. While far from perfect, her record is WAAAYY cleaner than Trump — who sets world-class records for lying. Like the Meghan Trainor song,  “His lips are moving, so he’s lying, lying, lying” as well as cheating others out of their money and avoiding taxes.

Can anybody think of a good NO TRUMP sticker? I’ve tried, but unfortunately, almost nobody plays Contract Bridge any more, and in fact regular 52-cards-to-the-deck playing cards are virtually unknown to many children, so the phrase “No Trump” won’t mean much to many people. (If you play Spades instead of Bridge, then any Spade *always* trumps any other card, which is a different sort of joke…) In any case, it would be pretty easy to make a phrase about spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts, trumps, no-trumps, dummies, and jokers that many folks would see as merely insulting and offensive, or else would be simply incomprehensible.

I haven’t been able to think of anything clever and funny and carries a good message. If anybody can think of one, I’d love to hear it or see it, publicize it to my dozens of readers, and give you credit! Here’s what I’ve seen so far:

TWO HEARTS BEAT ONE NO TRUMP

one no trump

But they are pretty lame…

 

Will Washington DC Elect a Paid Shill for a Charter School Chain to its Mostly Powerless School Board?

You may not be aware that one Jacque Patterson is running for an At-Large position on the nearly-powerless District of Columbia State Board of Education, and has already managed to con quite a few people into donating money to him. He may unfortunately even win, even though he is a paid flack for the Rocketship chain of charter schools.

(That’s the chain that is infamous for putting little kids in cubicles on computers and headphones with totally untrained, $15/hour assistants taking the place of most teachers…)

He’s running against Mary Lord, who actually has real expertise in education. One commenter on an article in the DC City Paper wrote,

“So this race features, on the one hand, one of the few incumbents on this board or any other elected office in this city that’s unquestionably qualified for her job. Someone who has actually been recognized by her colleagues across the country for her expertise, as the immediate past president of the National Association of State Boards of Education. Someone who can speak in intricate detail about the policies that this board is supposed to be weighing [ …]

“And on the other side we have a political hack who takes a crack at seemingly every open elected office in this city and has no apparent qualifications for the role other than having some cush[y] job at an unaccountable charter school. But hey, he raised a lot of money, so he must be qualified for the position!”

It would be bad policy in general for citizens anywhere to elect a paid operative of a powerful chain of charter schools to any city school board. (You know, conflict of interest…?) However, the Gates, Broad, Walton and Arnold foundations are spending lots and lots of money trying to take over local school boards by buying candidates and elections all over the country, because they really don’t like democracy. Local voices get in their way.

I think it’s worthwhile look into the background of the board of directors of the supposedly non-profit Rocketship, as reported on their own website. In reverse alphabetical order, we have:

  • Arra Yerganian: an executive in marketing, sales, and management for firms like Procter & Gamble and the University of Phoenix (which of course has been shown to be an enormous fraud)
  • Ralph Weber: a top commercial litigator (ie trial lawyer) for large corporations
  • Alex Terman:  went through the Broad Foundation’s two-year fake ‘residency’ to prepare people for senior management in public education; he specializes in financing charter schools
  • Greg Stanger: formerly financial officer or on the boards of Expedia, Netflix, and Kayak
  • Joey Sloter: has an MBA, did ‘strategic planning’ at Corning Glass; and with her apparently wealthy husband established a family foundation; is a big promoter of charter schools
  • Raymond Raven: orthopedic surgeon
  • Deborah McGriff: the  only actual veteran public school teacher and administrator in the bunch (NYC); went over to the dark side and joined the for-profit Edison Schools company in 1993; later, President of the Education Industry Association
  • Louis Jordan: former finance officer at Starbucks, Gap, Citibank, Dupont, etc; now owns a vineyard
  • Alex Hernandez: venture capitalist profiting from charter schools
  • Fred Ferrer: president of the Rocketship board; CEO of The Health Trust
  • Alex Criter: Retired CEO of an “enterprise software business” and a “venture capital partner”.

I should point out that in 1993, Jennifer Niles, the current DC Deputy Mayor for Education, was also a member of the Rocketship board of directors, according to their Form 990.

 

 

What if we gave all American kids the type of education that was given to the Clinton, Obama and Trump children?

This is an excellent question, one that begs being asked every time I pass by places like Sidwell Friends, The Bullis School, or Saint Albans School in and around DC, and mentally compare those wonderful facilities with the DC public schools that I and my children attended, and in which I taught and continue to volunteer.

Bottom line: tuition and fees at those tony private schools is about three or four times what we as citizens spend on kids attending DC public or charter schools. For example, the middle school nearest my house (Brookland MS) has no playground…

I took this article from Education Week. It’s behind a paywall.

=================

What if America Spent Per Student What Clinton, Trump Paid for Private Schools?

By Andrew Ujifusa on July 27, 2016 7:22 AM

Philadelphia

In his speech last week at the Republican National Convention, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. noted that he and his siblings were fortunate to have options for their schooling: “We want all Americans to have those same opportunities.”

Fair enough. But Donald Trump Jr., along with his siblings and Hillary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea, went to private schools that weren’t cheap. And so have several other presidential hopefuls’ children, for that matter.

So we thought about the educational opportunity in monetary terms: How much would it cost to spend the same amount per public school student what it costs to send children to the same private schools attended by the offspring of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton? And what if we tried to match the basic outlines of their children’s private school experience when it comes to teachers?

Fortunately, Michael Griffith, an independent school finance consultant, did his own analysis to try to answer those questions.

Outliers Out of Reach

First, Griffith compared the candidates’ private school tuition costs for the schools from which their children graduated to average per-student expenditures in public schools in the children’s home state: New York in three of the four Trump children’s case; California, in Tiffany Trump’s case; and the District of Columbia, in Chelsea Clinton’s case.

Average per-student spending at those schools attended by the five presidential candidates’ kids is $38,464. Nationwide, public school funding is $12,251 per student.

For the purposes of Griffith’s calculations, he used tuition costs at the Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., for Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.; Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn. for Ivanka Trump; Viewpoint School for Tiffany Trump; and the Sidwell Friends School in the District of Columbia for Chelsea Clinton. (More on that somewhat tricky issue below.) Correction: We originally misidentified where Choate Rosemary Hall is located, although the error didn’t impact our description of Griffith’s analysis.

But let’s think long term about how that plays out over a child’s time at the elementary and secondary levels. The costs below would cover students’ entire educational careers at their respective schools.

private school tuition

The figures above are based on current annual costs, and not what Clinton and Trump actually paid themselves in tuition costs. And Griffith’s work requires some extrapolation: The private schools’ grade spans don’t necessarily match up with those in public schools. The Hill School, for example, where Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. went, enrolls grades 9-12. But Sidwell Friends enrolls pre-K-12.

We should also point out that Chelsea Clinton attended public school in Arkansas before Bill Clinton was elected president and she moved to Washington, where she enrolled in the Sidwell Friends private school. Given security and logistical concerns, it might make sense for a president to send his or her school-age child to private school. President Barack Obama’s daughters also enrolled in Sidwell Friends.

Even when it comes to tony private schools, the ones attended by Clinton and Trump’s children are up in the financial stratosphere. As of 2011, less than a fifth of all U.S. private schools charged more than $15,000 annually per student in tuition, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

private schools 2

Here’s some more context for that $38,464 figure: In 2014, the U.S. Census reported, the median income of a family with two or more school-age children (like Trump’s family) was $53,989. That’s the same as $54,970 in inflation-adjusted 2016 dollars. So the average private school tuition for the five children of the candidates would eat up 70 percent of such a median family’s budget.

Here are a couple of other statistics to consider:

  • Combined costs at the private schools attended by all four Trump children and Chelsea Clinton for some or all of their lives, in Griffith’s analysis, clocks in at $2.5 million over the course of their educational careers.
  • Combined costs for three New York state public school children (to match their Empire State counterparts Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka Trump), a California public school student (to match Tiffany Trump), and a District of Columbia public school student (to match Chelsea Clinton) clocks in at $1 million over their educational careers.

You can call that a gulf instead of a gap if you want.

Bring On the Teachers?

OK, but let’s think really big. What if we spent $38,464 on each public school student in the nation? What would be the total annual cost, and how much of a change would it be from current per-student spending levels?

Griffith has answers for that, too.

He has America spending $595 billion on K-12 from federal, state, and local sources. How much more would it be if we spent $38,464 on each student, instead of $12,251?

per student public vs private

e of $1.2 trillion. Does that dollar amount sound familiar? It might. That’s because in 2014, the entire student-loan debt of 40 million Americans was also estimated at $1.2 trillion. We’re not talking a few lint-covered quarters here.

Finally, Griffith looked at the average student-to-teacher ratio in the four private schools attended by Clinton and Trump’s children. It came out to about 7.4 students per teacher on average.

By contrast, the national ratio of students to teachers is about 16:1—there are 48.5 million public school students, and 3.1 million public school teachers. The sources for these figures are given below.

However, those ratios are not the same thing as average class size.

So how many more teachers would the nation have to hire to achieve that 7.4 students-per-teacher ratio like the one the Trump siblings and Chelsea Clinton enjoyed?

private vs public student teacher ratio

The nation would have to increase its teacher workforce by 120 percent, or add nearly 3.8 million new teachers, to match what the Trump children and Chelsea Clinton experienced, on average, in their schools. (Each figure in the graphic above represents about 48,420 teachers.)

Money and Opportunity

Griffith’s analysis is quantitative and not ultimately qualitative. And as you might expect, Griffith doesn’t say how that additional $1.2 trillion would be redirected to schools and added to their budgets. It’s pure theory.

For fiscal 2016, the Department of Defense’s budget is $573 billion. A President Clinton or Trump could zero out the Pentagon’s budget, redirect that entire pot of money to schools, and it would stillcover slightly less than half of the total new money needed to match the average per-student spending figure in the private schools we’ve discussed. That’s assuming, of course, that state and locals don’t pitch in at all.

There are a lot of other questions.

  • Many might want parents to have direct control over that new flood of money through vouchers or education savings accounts. How would redirecting some or all of those dollars straight to parents shake up the educational landscape?

Voucher programs and ESAs mostly, if not universally, aren’t large enough to cover tuition at the Hill School or Sidwell Friends—if many parents could use the $38,000 for a local and (likely) much cheaper private school, what could and would they do with the leftover cash?

School choice is certainly an issue Donald Trump has emphasized, on the few occasions when he’s spoken about education:

  • Where would the money go? Would much or most of it go towards hiring new teachers and drive down those student-to-teacher ratios we’ve discussed? Or there’s educational
    technology—would millions of students suddenly get handed a laptop, smartphone, tablet, and (what the heck) Google Glasses courtesy of his or her public school?
  • And as one would expect, the facilities at those private schools attended by the Clinton and Trump children are different than what studentsexperience in Detroit public schools. Per-student spending figures often don’t include school construction costs, but what if some districts wanted to create leafy, spacious campuses with swimming pools and amphitheaters?

Look at the campus map of the Hill School to the right. There’s a building for squash courts, an arts and crafts center, and a music house. The campus covers 200 acres.

hill school campus

  • Here’s a related issue: the enrollment size of the private schools in question. Sidwell Friends, for example, enrolls 1,149 students in pre-K-12. You can easily find public high schools alone where the enrollment matches or exceeds that figure. In 2010-11, the average enrollment of an American high school was 847 students, NCES reported, but California’s average high school enrollment was 1,463 students.
  • And some of the most straightforward yet crucial questions we can ask about this issue are: Would spending over $38,000 per student in public schools create a lot of progress, some, or not at all? And would that be an efficient use of taxpayer dollars?

That kind of per-student spending amount would truly test the arguments about whether inadequate school funding is what’s preventing better experiences and outcomes for students.

Of course, many in the K-12 field argue that creating strong educational opportunities for children is not solely, or even largely, about the financial resources provided to those children from their parents or government. But others say, particularly after the Great Recession, many districts and states don’t provide what their schools need, particularly for schools with large shares of students of color and those from relatively poor households. How would this kind of influx of money impact debates about socioeconomic and racial integration in schools?

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s pick for vice president, addressed school integration in his own experience during a speech last Saturday:

Additional Facts and Figures

A few more notes about Griffith’s data:

  • The private schools’ cost information comes from their websites. Per-student spending figures on public schools come from the National Education Association’s cost rankings and estimates for2015 and 2016.
  • He didn’t include private school tuition information for Barron Trump, Donald Trump’s youngest child—Griffith said this is because Barron is a minor.
  • Griffith used tuition information from the schools which the Clinton and Trump children graduated from, but as we noted above regarding Chelsea Clinton, the candidates’ children did not necessarily attend those schools all through their elementary and secondary careers. For example, Griffith used costs for Choate Rosemary Hall for Ivanka Trump, but noted that she switched to Choate from the Chapin School when she was 15. And Eric Trump also attended the Trinity School in New York City.
  • The tuition amounts in Griffith’s calculations are based on the cost for day students, not boarders.
  • Tuition for Viewpoint Schools, which Tiffany Trump attended, varies from student to student. Griffith calculated an average of the various tuition costs, assuming a student attended from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Assistant Editor Sarah D. Sparks contributed to this post.

 

Hearings address surplus of STEM workers in USA

There are official Senate hearings going on right now on the ways that large multinational corporations like Disney are firing relatively well-paid American tech workers and replacing them with workers overseas at much lower rates of compensation. In some cases they use a special visa program designed to hire foreign tech workers if there are no American workers available.

But anybody who claims – as do the heads of Microsoft and ALCOA – that there is a lack of highly-skilled American workers is simply lying. There are lots of highly-trained US STEM grads who cannot find jobs in the fields they were trained in.

Partly that’s because such American STEM grads expect to get paid a living American wage, with benefits and that’s not something that large multinational corporations are fond of paying for any more, except for a privileged few at the very top (like CEOs who make tens or hundreds of millions of dollars per year…).

Here is a quote from the Science magazine article:

At the hearing, titled “The Impact of High-Skilled Immigration on U.S. Workers,” subcommittee chair Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) kept the discussion focused on the moves by a number of U.S. companies to replace long-serving American workers with workers on H-1B skilled guest worker visas and to force the laid-off Americans to train their replacements. As Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) explained, “Congress intended the H-1B program to allow an employer to hire a skilled foreign worker in a specialized occupation when the employer could not find an American worker with needed skills and abilities,” and for many years the debate has focused on employers’ claims of a STEM skills shortage. But, Sessions said, “the sad reality is that not only is there not a shortage of exceptionally qualified U.S. workers, but across the country thousands of U.S. workers are being replaced by foreign labor.” As H-1B expert Ron Hira of Howard University in Washington, D.C., testified, “over the past year, in addition to the Southern California Edison case, a number of other cases—including Disney, Northeast Utilities, the Fossil Group, Catalina Marketing, New York Life, Hertz, Toys R Us, and I could keep going on—were highlighted by the press. But these were only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There are many more cases out there.” Testimony by labor force expert Hal Salzman of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in New Jersey added that “all evidence and events suggest [that] the substitution of guest workers for U.S. workers is accelerating.”

Bill Gates’ Billions Haven’t Panned Out in Third World Health Care Either

(From about a year ago – somehow this never made it into the blogosphere)

I just read that much of Bill Gates’ international health initiative has been about as much of a high-tech boondoggle and waste of effort as his education initiatives here in the US.

For example, in trying to solve the problem of human waste disposal (ie human poop and pee) in poor nations where people make $1-$5 per day, his researchers came up with high-tech commodes costing thousands of dollars and probably requiring lots of maintenance. Excuse me for stating the obvious, but nobody is going to pay five to twenty years’ annual income for an outhouse or toilet!

I’m not making this up. See http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/11/19/opinion/bill-gates-cant-build-a-toilet.html?_r=1

By the way, my humorous profile picture is of a composting toilet I built up at the Hopewell observatory out of two plastic cat-litter containers (free), a toilet seat ($10?), a piece of wood and a few screws. You put in some wood chips or dead leaves after you are done. When it gets full, you dump it in a designated place. It doesn’t stink. I personally wouldn’t use the resulting compost to grow food, but there are parts of the world where such “night soul” is highly valued. (My solution is not original: here is one writeup http://weblife.org/humanure/chapter8_2.html )

Gates recently held a meeting in Seattle where he admitted most of his high tech initiatives on third world health had failed.

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2025279289_grandchallengesxml.html

One of the initiatives involved cholera. Were they completely unaware that for at least 20 years a very cheap and simple way to rehydrate cholera victims and restore their electrolytes has been in use in many third world countries?

Published in: on February 16, 2016 at 12:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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