More Educational Miracles (Not!)

I have prepared charts and graphs for 8th grade NAEP average scale scores for black, hispanic, and white students in various jurisdictions: the entire nation; all large cities; Washington DC; Florida, Michigan; and Mississippi.

You will see that there was a general upwards trend in math from about 1992 to roughly 2007 or 2009, but the scores have mostly leveled off during the last decade. I included Michigan, since that is the state where current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has had the mo$t per$sonal influence, but that influence doesn’t look to be positive.

While it’s good that DC’s black students no longer score the lowest in the nation (that would be Michigan – see the first graph), there is another feature of my fair city: very high-performing white students (generally with affluent, well-educated parents) in its unfortunately rather segregated public schools, as you can see in the last graph. Naep 8th grade math, black students, various placesnaep math, hispanic, 8th grade, various places

naep 8th grade math, white students, various places

Can You See The Educational Miracles in DC, Florida, Michigan, and Mississippi?

No?

Even though the Common Core curriculum is now essentially the law of the land (though well disguised), and nearly every school system devotes an enormous amount of its time to testing, and many states and cities (such as DC, Florida, and Michigan) are hammering away at public schools and opening often-unregulated charter schools and subsidizing voucher schemes?

You don’t see the miracles that MUST have flowed from those ‘reforms’?

naep reading 8th grade, black, nation, fl, dc, mi, ms, large cities

Neither can I.

I present to you average scale scores for black students on the 8th grade NAEP reading tests, copied and pasted by from the NAEP website for the past 27 years, and graphed by me using Excel. You will notice that any changes have been small — after all, these scores can go up to 500 if a student gets everything right, and unlike on the SAT, the lowest possible score is zero.

DC’s black 8th graders are scoring slightly lower than in 2013 or 2015, even though a speaker assured us that DC was an outstanding performer. Black Florida students are scoring lower than they did 2, 4, 6, or 10 years ago, even though Betsy DeVos assured us that they were setting a wonderful example for the nation. Michigan is the state where DeVos and her family has had the most influence, and it consistently scores lower than the national average. Mississippi was held up for us as a wonderful example of growth, but their score is exactly one point higher than it was in 2003.

Some miracles.

 

EDIT: Here are the corresponding charts and graphs for hispanic and white students:

naep, 8th grade reading, hispanic, various places

 

naep 8th grade reading, white students, various places

Curmudgucation on the NAEP rollout

If you’ve noticed, I’m a great admirer of blogger and retired teacher Peter Greene and his column, Curmudgucation. He has a great column today (as he does nearly every day) on the foolishness of Betsy Devos’ statements about the NAEP results. I urge you to read it. He points out that if anything, the current year’s results, which aren’t good, are in great part the responsibility of DeVos herself and her policies!

A couple of excerpts:

“I wasn’t going to write about NAEP for any number of reasons, but then I happened to look at Betsy DeVos’s comments on this year’s results and, well, this whole blood pressure thing happened. So to get my numbers back down, I’m going to talk through the nonsense she issued forth, notable for its disconnection from reality, its devotion to public education bashing, and, most of all, its bizarre display of an amnesia-fueled dismissal of responsibility for any hand in the results of the Nation’s Report Card. …

“[then a quote from DeVos:]… For more than three decades, I—and many others—have said that America’s antiquated approach to education fails too many kids.

“No. For three decades you and many others have used aggressive chicken littling as leverage to remake education in your preferred image. You said, “Let us have our way and NAEP scores will shoot up like daisies in springtime.” Do not even pretend to suggest that you have somehow been hammering fruitlessly on the doors of education, wailing your warnings and being ignored. The current status quo in education is yours. You built it and you own it and you don’t get to pretend that’s not true as a way to avoid accountability for the results.

Failed Charter Schools in DC

I learned from the indefatigable Peter Greene just now that a group called CMD has done some serious data crunching and has come up with a list of about 2500 charter schools across the nation that have failed and closed. Some took millions of federal and state dollars and never served a single student.

Here is a map of just the ones in Washington, DC. Looking at the map, I count about forty failed charter schools in my fair city; however the spreadsheet has 49. If you are a veteran Washingtonian, how many of them can you name just by looking at the map? If you go to the actual web page you can get names and so on. I see that the state of Arizona alone has over 340 such failed ventures into edupreneurship; Florida 305, and Michigan has 120, and Ohio may be the leader with 425 failed and closed charter scams schools.

failed charter schools in dc

(BTW, the teachers in those failed charter schools were generally very hard-working, passionate people who are not trying to make a million bucks. Charter school operators? That’s a different story.)

Here is the DC list:

Name / Year founded / Year failed / Enrollment during last year / Address

failed charter schools dc list

Charter Schools In Florida: A Very Profitable Business for Investors, Less So For Students

Interesting article in the Miami Herald, entitled “Florida Charter Schools: Big Money, Little Oversight”

It describes some of the many capitalist business scams that are going on in Florida’s very wide-spread charter school system. Click here to read it.

A few excerpts:

“During the past 15 years, Florida has embarked on a dramatic shift in public education, steering billions in taxpayer dollars from traditional school districts to independently run charter schools. What started as an educational movement has turned into one of the region’s fastest-growing industries, backed by real-estate developers and promoted by politicians.

“But while charter schools have grown into a $400-million-a-year business in South Florida, receiving about $6,000 in taxpayer dollars for every student enrolled, they continue to operate with little public oversight. Even when charter schools have been caught violating state laws, school districts have few tools to demand compliance.

“Charter schools have become a parallel school system unto themselves, a system controlled largely by for-profit management companies and private landlords—one and the same, in many cases—and rife with insider deals and potential conflicts of interest.

…….

“Many management companies also control the land and buildings used by the schools—sometimes collecting more than 25 percent of a school’s revenue in lease payments, in addition to management fees. The owners of Academica, the state’s largest charter school operator, collect almost $19 million a year in lease payments on school properties they control in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, audit and property records show.

“Charter schools often rely on loans from management companies or other insiders to stay afloat, making charter school governing boards beholden to the managers they oversee. Loans to two Pompano Beach schools were disguised as gifts in financial documents to avoid scrutiny from the school district and make struggling schools appear solvent, the schools’ former managers said in court papers.

“At some financially weak schools, tight budgets have forced administrators to cut corners. The cash-strapped Balere Language Academy in South Miami Heights taught its seventh-grade students in a toolshed, records show. The Academy of Arts and Minds in Coconut Grove went weeks without textbooks. Schools have also been accused of using illegal tactics to bring in more money—charging students illegal fees for standard classes, or faking attendance records to earn more tax dollars, court records show.”

Published in: on December 12, 2011 at 7:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Why is the moon so high in the sky in winter?

And was it in fact directly overhead last night, near the beginning of the eclipse?

It sure looked like it was to me – though I didn’t take any measurements because I was only wearing my pajamas, my coat, and my slippers as I stood in the freezing cold on the snow-free but still-frozen concrete walk in front of our south-facing, Northeast DC  house.

[Yeah, I was being wimpy, only going out twice all night to look at the eclipse, but I was really tired, and I had to get up in the morning to give a full day’s guest lesson on astronomy to four, 70-minute middle school classes for a fellow teacher, so it was kind of  out of the question to stay up all night. (There is no way I could have followed through with the lessons if I had!)]

Maybe I’m just weird, but I have from time to time noticed, and marveled at, the fact that during the winter, the moon at times appears like it’s almost directly overhead. Let me emphasize that: to my unaided, subjective vision, without taking the trouble to measure it, during the winter, the moon sometimes appears to me to be directly overhead (at zenith).

However, everything I know about astronomy of the solar system tells me that this is probably impossible, simply because we do not live in the Tropics (with a capital T: the zone between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn). That’s the only part of our planet where the sun is ever directly overhead. (Don’t believe me? Use your internet resource skills and look it up. I’m not going to tell you just how to do that, because since you are reading this blog, you already know how.)

If you live in Washington,  the Sun will never appear directly over your house, no matter where you live in Washington, DC, and no matter how hot it may feel in the middle of summer.

And I figured that if the Sun and the Earth and the Moon were all aligned with each other, as in last night’s lunar eclipse, then the Moon would appear in our sky here in Washington as if it had simply traded places with the Sun for a while, and was at the same elevation. And that elevation just ain’t all that high.

Or so I thought.

Was I suffering from a version of the famous ‘moon effect’? (Which is a poorly-understood but almost-universal optical illusion about the apparent size of the moon,  a visual hallucination of sorts, caused by some internal human visual processing “bug” inside the various centers responsible for actually interpreting the photons and light waves that enter one’s eyes.)

Or is everybody else normal and it’s just me?

Or was the moon, in fact, at the zenith?

Or just very close to it, but within the theoretical and experimental range of error for this sort of thing?

I am going to try to settle this in two ways.

First of all, theoretically.

I used a rather widely-used piece of instructional geometry software called “Geometer’s Sketchpad” (version 5 in this case) and a couple of drawing and painting programs. I also used Google Earth to find out where on Earth are the places that are directly south of Washington and are on the Tropic of Cancer or on the Equator, as well as the spot on our planet that is diametrically opposite in position to Washington, DC.

I was rather surprised to find out where those places were. They weren’t really where I expected, and I of all people should have known better.

For example, I thought I remembered that Havana, Cuba, was just inside the Tropics, but Miami, Florida, was just north of the Cancerous Tropic. Or was that the Topic of Cancer? (Ha, ha, that was two intentional puns. If you don’t get them, or don’t think they are funny, that’s fine with me.) And I also remembered having been to some places in Florida that it was south of DC.  So I kinda figgered that the Tropic of Cancer would intersect our DC line of of longitude (about 77 degrees west) somewhere in the water between Havana and Miami.

Surprise: not very close. Just for fun, try guessing or figuring out the answer yourself. I’ll hide the answer at the end of this column, at (1).

And directly south of DC, on the equator? I always kinda figgered it would be somewhere in Brazil.

No surprise this time, I was wrong again. When I looked carefully, I discovered that 77 W and 0 degrees N or S is located… (2).

How about the point diametrically opposite to Washington, on the exact other side of the globe? Well, on this one I was fairly close. But calculating where this is, is a bit tricky. The latitude is OK. Any point at X degrees north is directly opposite some point that is X degrees south. So wherever it is, it’s at 39 degrees south. But the longitude is harder, because for most locations, Y degrees west is not opposite Y degrees east. What you have to do is change your latitude by exactly 180 degrees. Now here, you can either add or subtract. I would prefer to subtract, here. So 180 minus 77 gives us 103. (Of, if you prefer, 77 minus 180 gives -103.) And the way I interpret that 103, or -103, is to consider that as being 103 degrees east longitude.

Now knowing that DC’s literal antipode is roughly located at 39 degrees south and 103 degrees west, can you guess, or find, where that is? (3)

Here is the diagram that I made.

Bottom Line: if my diagram is correct, the full moon last night, at its greatest elevation or altitude last night, should have been about 15.5 degrees from the vertical (or 74.5 degrees from the horizontal). And that angular distance from the zenith should have been clearly and plainly obvious.

But it wasn’t. To me.

Now that’s just last night. Is it possible for the moon to be inclined a bit to the apparent orbit of the sun – that is – when the moon is not undergoing an eclipse? And can that cause the moon to be even higher in the sky than it was during last night’s eclipse?

Answer: YES. The moon ‘s orbit around the Earth is inclined by just about 5 degrees from the Sun’s apparent orbit. Thus, in different years and months, the details of which I will ignore right now ’cause it’s way too complicated for this here blog today, the moon might be as high as 10.5 from the vertical (79.5 degrees from the horizontal).

Next time: actual measurement

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

Spoiler

answers below

or you could interpret my diagram..

(1) 77W and 23.5N turns out to be right next to Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas!

(2) it was about 100 or so miles east of Quito, Ecuador, along the banks of some huge jungle river that probably flows into the Amazon River, but doesn’t even seem to have a name. Nor any towns. Or roads.

(3) It’s located several hundred km, mi, or nm west-south-west of Perth, Australia, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. No land for hundreds of leagues in any direction, as the pirates or sailors or yarntellers of yore might say.

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