How the Plutocrats Undermine Democracy With Mega-“Charities”

Article in Dissent magazine explains how today’s billionaires are succeeding in corrupting public policy by setting up tax-exempt foundations that do what the 0.001% believes is best.

A century ago, when the first ‘charitable’ foundations were set up by Andrew Carnegie, Rockefeller, and others, there was a lot more scrutiny and distrust of the very rich. As a result, there were some very serious regulations that were enacted to keep them in line. Not all of the results of those foundations were good: one Carnegie branch advocated racist ideas like eugenics and sterilization of those deemed ‘inferior’, and racist immigration quotas.  (On the other hand, the Carnegie Institution of Washington funded a tremendous amount of basic scientific research — by getting out of the way of the scientists themselves.)

These days, foundations set up by people like the Koch brothers, Bill Gates, and the Walton family are doing their best to destroy public education, and the media — which is owned by the same class of people — fawns all over their ideas. The billionaires think they know how to solve everything, and they pay ‘experts’ to produce bogus studies that parrot the billionaire’s party line, and then they subsidize the media to promote what they believe.

Of course, in the field of education, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that any of the billionaire-led initiatives are producing any positive results at all, even using their own yardsticks. Unless the real purpose of those initiatives is to destroy the American public school system and resegregate it as it used to be prior to Brown v Board of Education, or worse.

An excerpt:

From the start, the mega-foundations provoked hostility across the political spectrum. To their many detractors, they looked like centers of plutocratic power that threatened democratic governance. Setting up do-good corporations, critics said, was merely a ploy to secure the wealth and clean up the reputations of business moguls who amassed fortunes during the Gilded Age. Consider the reaction to John D. Rockefeller’s initial request for a charter from the U.S. Senate (he eventually received one from New York State):

In spite of his close ties to big business, Progressive presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt opposed the effort, claiming that “no amount of charity in spending such fortunes [as Rockefeller’s] can compensate in any way for the misconduct in acquiring them.” The conservative Republican candidate, William Howard Taft denounced the effort as “a bill to incorporate Mr. Rockefeller.” Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, sneered that “the one thing that the world would gratefully accept from Mr. Rockefeller now would be the establishment of a great endowment of research and education to help other people see in time how they can keep from being like him.”*

Published in: on October 11, 2013 at 10:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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8th Grade TUDA NAEP Reading Results Also Show No Miracles Under Rhee, Henderson et al.

This post concerns the 8th grade NAEP TUDA reading scores for DC and other large cities.  As you may recall, according to Michelle Rhee’s authorized biographer and friend, here is how Rhee claims she could tell if an applicant for a principal position was good enough:

“What’s good to Rhee? If they arrived at their previous school with 20 percent of students reading on grade level and when they left, the number was 70 percent.” (page 132 of The Bee Eater)

Also recall what Rhee claimed to have done in Baltimore: “Over a two-year period, moved students scoring at the 13th percentile on national standardized tests to 90 percent of students scoring at the 90th percentile or higher.”

Keep that standard in mind when you see these graphs and tables.

First, where are DCPS students right now, after more than 4 years of Rhee/Henderson’s “radical reformist” regime? Way down near the bottom of the pack as measured by percentages of students “below basic”, according to NAEP:

But, you say, surely that pitiful figure of 54% of 8th graders reading on a “below basic” level has been getting better under Rhee and Henderson? Guess again, or else look at this graph for DCPS 8th grade reading results over time, and you will see that just the opposite is true, since it’s now worse than in 2002, 2003, 2007, or even 2009:

Now let’s look at those trends in DC again. As you can see, NAEP TUDA 8th grade reading scores are, in fact, slightly LOWER in 2011 than they have been AT ANY TIME while the TUDA study has been going on:

You can see also that while the scores for higher-income kids dropped in 2011, the gap between the richer and poorer students widened by quite a lot in 2009, and is unchanged in 2011 (in both years, it’s 31 points, as opposed to 15 to 21 points during the earlier years).

And let’s look at the gaps between scores of various ethnic groups in DC over time at the 8th grade reading level:

In the graph above, we lack a lot of scores for white students for many years, simply because there were not enough white DCPS students tested at those points in time to satisfy statistical reporting requirements. However, it is clear that the arrival of the protegees of Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg has NOT benefited any of the 8th grade groups shown: not Hispanic students, not Black students, and not White students.

You might be thinking, “Well, perhaps these gaps are bad in DC, but they are worse elsewhere?”

Pretty much, NO. There are only two cities with larger 8th grade reading achievement gaps between the rich and the poor on the NAEP: Austin and Fresno.

Now let’s look at the gap between scores of white and black 8th graders in various cities, below. As you can see, DC’s gap (circled) is by far the widest such gap: 58 points.

And for Hispanics and whites?

(/sarcasm on) We beat Fresno and Austin! Yippee! DC has the biggest gap! (/sarcasm off)

Published in: on December 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm  Comments (9)  
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More on Gaps – This Time, 8th Grade Math NAEP TUDA

This year, the 8th grade math NAEP TUDA results are the only place where the scores in DCPS appear to be going up, but the gap between the top students and bottom students is getting significantly larger.

(Wait until we look at the reading results…)

If you need a little background information, take a look at yesterday’s post for a bit of explanation of what the percentiles mean.

I begin with a graph and table of the gaps in 8th grade math for all US public school students from 2003 to 2011.

As you can see, these scores, which are for all US 8th grade students in public schools, have been slowly but steadily rising since 2003. The gaps between the highest-achieving and lowest-achieving students have been fairly steady or else getting a bit smaller, if you look at the gap between those at the 75th percentile and those at the 25th percentile.

Now let’s look at a similar graph for students in large cities:

While these scores are also rising, I notice one thing that’s different from the previous graph: the kids at the 10th percentile in US large cities score extremely low. That’s the dark blue line at the bottom of the graph, separated from the other lines by a much larger gap than any I’ve noticed before. This phenomenon also shows up because the “90-10 gap” is much larger in this graph than in the previous one.

Now let’s look at the graph and table for Washington DC public schools. Recall that charter school students are excluded from this data starting in 2009.

Quite a different-looking graph, don’t you think? It’s almost like it’s beginning to open up to the right like a fan, because the top teal-colored line, which represents scores of the students at the top of the achievement scale (those at the 90th percentile), and the purple one just below it, are going up faster and faster, leaving the others behind. In 2009, after two years of Rhee, students at the 25th and 10th percentile dropped. To be fair, we don’t know if that drop is real, or is a result of the fact that so many students migrated to charter schools.

We do see that students at the 10th and 25th percentiles had their scores rise significantly in 2011 over 2009, so now they are a couple of points higher than they were in 2007, but that change is not statistically significant.

However, it is clear that overall, the gap in DCPS between the top scorers and the lowest scorers is widening. The 90-10 gap used to be 90 points back in 2003, but has risen to a new high of 107 points in 2011. The 75-25 gap has also reached a new high of 55 points, climbing from 48 points.

Now let’s look at the large city 200 miles to our northeast. I am referring to New York City, of course.

Unlike in DC, where we saw the lines getting farther apart as we move towards the present, in NYC the lines get closer together, which means that the gap between the high-achievers and low-achievers is getting smaller.

But not in a good way.

What is happening in New York’s public schools is that the scores of the students at the top and middle actually dropped over the past 2 years, while the scores of the students at the very bottom (10th percentile) continued to rise. That’s one way to narrow the gap, but it’s the wrong way.

So much for educational miracles happening under undemocratic control of the schools by Mayor Bloomberg! (Remember please that Bloomberg was the person who recommended Michelle Rhee to Adrian Fenty as another miracle-maker.)

Finally, let’s look at Atlanta.

Here we see a pattern that’s different from what we saw elsewhere. The various colored lines seem to be moving just about in lockstep with each other. The gap between the highest and lowest achievers hasn’t changed by much.


Now go back and look at all of those scores.

Have the students in DC miraculously overtaken students in other large cities, or the nation, as essentially promised by the education DEform crowd? No.

Are they on the road to doing so? Heck, no.

Have Rhee, Fenty, Henderson, Bloomberg, Joel Klein, and Vincent Gray delivered any educational miracles in DC or New York? Definitely not.

Published in: on December 9, 2011 at 11:02 am  Comments (1)  
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