What does Rick Hess say that “Common Core” is all about?

(Who’s he? you may ask. He’s one of Michelle Rhee’s friends, or so he writes; he’s also a well-paid shill for the American Enterprise Institute, which you can look up yourself.)

He wrote, regarding the real purpose of the Common Core “State” Standards, revealing exactly why many teachers and others oppose them:

In truth, the idea that the Common Core might be a “game-changer” has little to do with the Common Core standards themselves, and everything to do with stuff attached to them, especially the adoption of common tests that make it possible to readily compare schools, programs, districts, and states (of course, the announcement that one state after another is opting out of the two testing consortia is hollowing out this promise).

But the Common Core will only make a dramatic difference if those test results are used to evaluate schools or hire, pay, or fire teachers; or if the effort serves to alter teacher preparation, revamp instructional materials, or compel teachers to change what students read and do.  And, of course, advocates have made clear that this is exactly what they have in mind. When they refer to the “Common Core,” they don’t just mean the words on paper–what they really have in mind is this whole complex of changes. [Emphasis added by someone else.]

Another commenter wrote:

“Hess even broaches the major topic of federal involvement in CCSS. In this two part series written in June 2013, Hess opens Part One with the statement that he is “not on board” with CCSS:”

Hess again:

I’ve long said that the Common Core strikes me as an intriguing effort that could do much good. So, why am I not on board? Because I think the effort has a good chance of stalling out over the next four or five years. And, because standards and assessments are the backbone of pretty much everything else in K-12 schooling, that could tear down all manner of promising efforts on teacher quality, school improvement, and the rest. [Emphasis added.]

In other words, he wants the top-down, fascistic micro-managing control over teachers and the majority of the population that attends public schools, he just doesn’t think that CCSS will be successful in carrying it off. He wants to do it by other means.

Rick Hess’ classroom experience? A grand total of two years as a social studies teacher in Louisiana, about 21 years ago, according to his official website. It must have been pretty tough, if he quit teaching so soon. I’m sure he’s making much, much more money now as a spokesman for the billionaires who have taken over our educational system, and he doesn’t have to worry about teaching 150 students every single day and grading papers and filling out useless forms and memos until he can’t see straight at night, with no administrative support at all… Life’s pretty cool if you are a 40-something with a million-dollar portfolio schmoozing at conferences all over the place instead of actually teaching in the classroom any more…

All it takes is the ability to show those with deep pockets that you are on their side and are an effective mouthpiece for them. You can be very rich and very powerful, very soon in your career. Just ask Michelle Rhee how it’s done, but don’t expect any truthful answers out of her mouth…

So why do I object so much to this? Because it’s utterly false to say that SOMEBODY knows all the answers to the questions about how to educate our youth, our younger generation. Whenever I have a serious or even frivolous conversation in any forum whatsoever about education, I am struck by the degree to which perfectly serious, reasonable people, of all walks of life, disagree on the ultimate goals of education.

Heck, people can’t even agree on what are the most important questions!!

Of course, I have my own opinions, but as facts and situations change, my own opinions about education and many other aspects of society have been shifting a lot over my lifetime — and I’m willing to bet that this is also true of any of you who read this sentence, however old or young you might be.

So the idea that all lessons conducted in school need to follow a script that was written by somebody else, and that the teacher’s job is simply to follow that script — damn, that’s scary. Especially since the scripted stuff I see most of the time is clever but ultimately utterly dishonest advertising that is trying, for the most part, to get me to do things that are bad for me and my friends and former students but profitable for some small group of  very powerful people.

And guess who owns these companies who plan to sell, at very high prices, these all-encompassing, all-controlling educational UBER-bureaucracies that really would like to dictate — for a very hefty set of fees and costs and so on — every single lesson for every single kid in every single class in the United States of America, at every grade level, in every subject? Why, the same group of billionaires who run the country today – the Gateses, the Murdochs, the Koch brothers, Bloomberg, and a few hundred other people that comprise the 1% of 1% that are attempting to run the entire world.

They actually say it’s a good thing that if you transfer from one state to the next because your family moves, that you will be using the same exact textbook and electronic apps and can turn in the exact same assignment for the previous day to your new teacher. But since you only have one adult for 50 kids supposedly getting “personalized” learning from some form of computer, it really won’t matter where you go to school. No need to learn to get along with your schoolmates in a band, on a team, in a dramatic production or in building a project — those have all been eliminated, since the only important thing is test scores.

Wait – isn’t that what we criticize North Korea for? Or South Korea, for that matter? Rigid uniformity where nobody ever gets out of line, and all the adults and kids are working in fear of results of tests?

Is that REALLY what we want for our teachers and students?

I didn’t think so. Unless you are some sort of fascist or control freak.

Of course, the people organizing the government to require and to tax us to pay to concoct and implement these plans wouldn’t possibly allow their own kids to grow up in schools like that. Billionaire and millionaire kids go to schools like Lakeside in Seattle, or Sidwell or St. Albans in DC, or Chicago Lab School or Andover or Choate or whatever, and each teacher challenges kids to think for themselves, and there are music lessons and glee clubs and handicrafts and outdoor activities and other sports and drama clubs and so on and so on.

I’m of the opinion that that sort of structure, where the working-class kids get a stultifying school regime and the children of the rich get a whole lot of indulgences and individual attention, is just plain wrong, and it’s sick.

All kids need individual attention. They need really small class sizes, and they need breaks. If a kid has serious mental or medical or physical or emotional or learning difficulties, he/she can require a lot of one-on-one time from a caring adult, and assurances that he/she is OK, and help with dealing with those problems so that he/she can go ahead with life.

As we know, some people don’t get that help, and they are indeed scarred for life. But you don’t help kids like that by increasing class sizes and pouring ridiculous workloads on their teachers and withdrawing any sort of support and creating so much of a ‘churn’ of teaching staffs that none of them stay longer than 3-5 years and get to know the community they teach in. You don’t help kids like that by requiring that every single kid in the entire country has to be on the same page, LITERALLY, and not having any sort of link to the community from the school itself – no PTA, but a distant celebrity CEO who is paid half a million dollars a year and who runs a for-profit foundation that does all its business with the school.

But you CAN help kids like that if you have adults in the building who know the family, who live in the area, and who come from all walks of life, who have time to take an interest and help talk to the kid, and if there are activities of all sorts (marching band, orchestra, debate club, science club, football team, basketball team, track team, wrestling team, hot-rod shop, welding classes, wood shop, computer club, and so on…) that kids can relate to each other with as well.

As I mentioned earlier, people do not exactly agree on what education is for. Is it just to prepare you for work (through more classes or direct job preparation)? Some people think so, and give reasons related to national security and income and such.

Or is the purpose of our school system to increase our national ranking in PISA and such?

Or is it to sort and rank people so that the “best” become the hedge fund managers and quants and bankers who gamble with the GNP and sometimes cheat and bring the entire world to the brink of financial disaster, and the rest of us fall into our proper places, be they burger-flippers or cab-drivers?

Or is it to lead us through the paths foretold for us by some religious group or other?

Or is it to let people make up their own minds about what they want to do, and to question why the rules are the way they are, so that they can contribute their own ideas?

Obviously I’m writing those choices in a biased manner because I think that the last choice I gave is the correct one. You may well object to the loaded wording I used in phrasing some of those choices, and you are right to do so. Feel free to write what you think the real purpose of education is. Maybe you’ll piss me off… That’s OK. There is no need for us all to agree. This is America, right?

You’re supposed to be free to disagree here.



In fact, in diversity there is also strength. Not just in unity.

In biology and in life, if a species has too much uniformity in its genes or even in its habits, that can be a recipe for disaster: some unknown plague or virus can wipe out the whole lot of them. Better that a species be very diverse. Like humans are. And boy, are we ever a diverse species, which helps. The worst plagues in the past couple of centuries, namely the 1919 Spanish Flu and smallpox, killed millions of people including at least one aunt of mine whom I never new, according to family tradition, but the rest of my family was resistant for whatever reason. My dad got polio and was in an Iron Lung instead of getting drafted for World War 2, but nobody else in his family or that he knew well got sick; they were resistant, for as-yet-unknown reasons that relate to our considerable genetic diversity as a species.

And that has consequences:

All schools and all teachers and all lessons DO NOT have to be on exactly the same page, saying the same thing, using the same TLF rubric and blueprint, the way they expect teachers to behave here in DC public schools. It’s nuts! Nobody knows for sure how the brain works, exactly! Our best scientists are working on it, but they disagree among themselves as to who of them is a fraud and who of them is actually pursuing the truth. Certainly the sporadic headlines that the public sees or hears on psychology and learning theory are about as united and synoptic as the advice we hear on diet and fitness: experts firmly disagree with each other on the best way to lose weight, or how fit is fit, or even on what foods to eat and how to prepare them.

Why do some people then proclaim that a particular list of books is the only set of books that should be read by young people? That a particular set of ideas in mathematics, or history, or science, or geography need to be learned by every child, at the same rate, at the same ages? That’s an utter crock!

Even in math, which some people think is cut and dried, there are enormous controversies about how to teach it in general and even on what subset of the ever-expanding set of mathematical knowledge needs to be imparted. Or whether ‘imparting’ mathematical knowledge really means, or whether mathematics itself was created or was discovered.

Sounds theological, doesn’t it? I swear I’m not making that up.

In biology: to my surprise, biologists don’t even agree what “life” is. Or what are its requirements. Every day, it seems that current orthodoxy on how life and death and reproduction proceed seems to be at least challenged, if not overturned.

And in physics and cosmology, the most widely-accepted theory right now is that we have no idea what constitutes over 90% of the universe, and we have no real idea how it got the way it is in the first place. Physicists are pretty sure, however, that it does exist, and they have figured out how to predict how some of the stuff in the universe behaves, most of the time. But they disagree on what happens when those predictions will break down, such as in a black hole, and nobody knows what happened before 14 Billion years ago…

So if the greatest experts can’t agree, on either subject matter content or pedagogy, then why on earth would we willingly give a TRILLION DOLLARS to a network of corporations to hire low-paid or high-paid temps to crank out scripts or computerized lessons that every kid is supposed to follow — except the children of the very wealthy?

Haven’t we seen the kind of corruption these sorts of top-down enterprises bring?

Remember those pallet-loads of shrink-wrapped $100 bills air-dropped into Iraq and Afghanistan? Wonderful governments, those. Remember those hundreds of billions in “bonuses” given to all those Wall Street gamblers executives, while millions of industrial workers lost their jobs and others lost their houses and entire cities were forced to close schools and go into bankruptcy? Do you seriously think that people like Joel Klein, Rupert Murdock, Bernie Madoff, and Bill Gates are better than you and need to run society?

I mean, Gates didn’t even write his own beginning operating system; he’s only rich because he was able to create a monopoly — on operating systems that crash all the time and whose good features he “stole” from others.

Let’s not go back to the bad old days.

Published in: on December 28, 2013 at 3:40 am  Comments (10)  
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Trends for DC & Charters & Nation in 8th grade NAEP reading scores, black students

Here we have yet another surprising graph showing how the scores for black 8th graders on the NAEP reading tests have been bouncing around for students in DC public schools, DC charter schools, DC as a whole, large US cities as a whole, and the nation’s public schools as a whole.

Tell me what you see:

dc, dcps, charters, national, black 8th grade reading, naep to 2013

What I see is that under the ‘leadership’ of Rhee and Henderson, African-american 8th graders enrolled in DC public schools (blue and purple line) are actually doing a bit worse than they did before mayoral control. However, the average scores for the their counterparts in DC’s charter schools (dotted orange line)  are rising quite rapidly and are now higher than the national averages for black 8th graders.

However, on the average, the scores for all 8th-grade black students in publicly-funded DC schools (black dashed line) on the NAEP since 2008 (when Rhee was installed – purple vertical line) seem to be following the trends that were in place before that date.

No wonder Henderson recently admitted that her administration had no real idea on how to make DCPS middle schools attractive to families. One might conclude that the DC African-American families and students who were motivated to do well in school have in many cases migrated to the charter schools, leaving the less-motivated ones behind.

As in my previous three posts, I had to do have my spreadsheet do some computation to calculate the scores for the charter schools. You can find the formula in my first two posts. I used the overall DCPS and charter school and DC total enrollments rather than the specific 8th-grade-level enrollments for each institution because the latter was too difficult to find and I suspected that it wouldn’t make a big difference. If anybody finds any errors, please let me know.

Trends on NAEP for 8th grade math, black students in DC, DCPS, DC charters, and nation

Yet another graph, this one showing how this year’s group of African-American 8th grade students did on the NAEP math tests in the regular DC public schools, in all DC publicly-funded schools, in the DC charter schools, in large cities across the nation, and in all US public school systems, going back to the early 1990s.

dc, dcps, charters, national - black 8th graders, math to 2013

As usual, I had to do a bit of algebra to calculate what the average charter school scores were in the post-Rhee era, since those are not explicitly given anywhere. I give the explanation in my previous two posts.

My previous results seem to disagree a bit with those produced by NCES (by a couple of points). Therefore I used their data instead of what I calculated; the graph above is new as of 1/6/2014.

I still make these conclusions:

(1) Since the establishment of mayoral control of the schools, as a whole, the overall average for DC students in publicly-supported schools is following just about the exact same trends that were established from 2000 through 2007.  As a result, math scores for DC’s African-American 8th graders are now equal to those in large cities across the nation, which is a positive development.

(2) The DC charter schools seemed to have siphoned off the more motivated black 8th grade students and their families; as a result, scores for students in the regular DC public schools at that level in math lag significantly behind those of their counterparts in the charter schools, whose scores now surpass those of black 8th graders n the nation’s public schools as a whole and also those in large urban school systems as well.

As usual, if anybody finds any errors in my work, please let me know by leaving a comment.

Trends in DC on the NAEP for 4th grade reading, black students only: regular DCPS, charter schools, and pre- and post-Rhee

Here is a graph showing how African-American 4th students have been doing over time in Washington DC public schools and charter schools. I have drawn a clear dividing line at year 2008, because the scores before that were under the influence of DC’s former school board and superintendents. After that time, DC has been under a chancellor answerable only to the mayor.

dc, dcps, dc charter, and national naep trends, 4th grade reading to 2013You may notice that the blue, black and purple lines separate after 2007. That’s because NAEP began reporting separate scores for DC’s regular public schools and for all publicly-supported schools, though not for the charter schools as a bloc. As a result, you have to do a little bit of linear algebra to calculate what the average scales were for the charter schools from 2009 onwards. (I used essentially the same equation that I did in the previous post. Please write me a note if you think I made an error.)

As usual, we can see that since the late 1990s and up until Rhee took over, the overall trend in all large cities, in the nation’s public schools, and in DC’s publicly-supported schools was upwards on this test. (Yes, I know, these are not scores that follow the same kids year after year, but for whatever reason, the group of kids answering these tests are in general getting more answers right every two years.) Before that, i.e. from 1992 to 1998, scores bounced around or went down.

After Rhee took over, those scores seem to have entered another bouncy period. In fact, in DCPS, the scores on this test in 2013 were only back up to the level of 2007. There is a clear demarcation between the scores in the charter schools (blue line) and the regular public schools. The line for the charter schools seems to follow the trend from 1998 to 2007.

If I knew nothing about the politics of EduDeform, I would wonder why the WaPo editorial board is claiming victory.



Fact-free Praises for “Rhee-form” in DC from a Dick

Richard Whitmire is at it again, claiming huge success for the eduDEformers without the slightest evidence.

I’ll explain.

I think I have showed pretty clearly in my last several posts that the current trends (that is, slow but fairly steady progress as measured by the NAEP) in DCPS have been going on for the past decade or so: There has been no perceptible change in trends post-Rhee as opposed to pre-Rhee that we can see in any of the officially-produced data from the NCES on the NAEP and the TUDA. (Write something like NAEP TUDA DC in the little ‘search’ box on this page, perhaps to the right, and you’ll see a lot of my recent posts that have graphs and so on; you can see for yourself. )

From 2002 through the taking of the 2007 NAEP, DCPS used to have superintendents, an elected school board, and a veteran teaching staff, mostly black, that often had deep roots in the local community. DCPS also had a union that had to be listened to and reckoned with, because it actually was something that the members had themselves helped to build. (As in many other areas, we certainly had our share of crooks. It’s my contention that the crooks have had a very bad effect, by allowing themselves to be an example of black, inner-city corruption at all levels, so, as Richard Whitmire has argued, the African-American teachers and principals were precisely the ones who were holding their black DC students back. (I’m not making up this accusation – read The Bee Eater)). DCPS certainly had its share of very serious problems, about which I and many other teachers and parents spoke up and tried to fix in one way or another, not always successfully…

But for the last five years, Washington now has a completely powerless school board, a mayor who appoints chancellors based on wishful thinking, and a loss of about 80% of the former teaching staff (retired, resigned, or fired) and their replacement by overwhelmingly young, white recent college grads who find it a VERY difficult job and seldom last more than 2-3 years in the classroom, because the work load has become so overwhelming and crisis-like, with no support from any administration member at any level…

And over the last 5 years of Rhee-form, in a time when enrollment in K-12 was booming again in DC after many decades of free-fall, regular DC public schools have managed steadily to lose market share to charter schools, to such a degree that today, it’s nearly 50% charter, 50% regular public. And teaching staff are judged by a pseudo-scientific formula couched in impenetrably complex and ENORMOUS AMOUNTS of mathematical processing that literally no one can do by hand: a prominent mathematician calls this “Intimidation by Mathematics” is used to judge teachers’ and administrators’ worth. The pressure on teachers is unrelenting.

Nowadays, all of the principals and all of the downtown staff is new, too. Many of the higher-ups seem to be connected through Teach for America and various other foundations funded by a relative handful of billionaires (some very public, such as Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg or the Koch brothers or the Walton family) but they often jump from city to city, too, seeking higher pay and better perks wherever they go…

The curriculum has now become preparation for standardized tests; art, music, gym, recess, projects, libraries, and anything else not tested is disappearing from the curriculum.

On the charter-school side, it’s fairly easy for someone to open up a few charter schools and pay him/herself high salaries, set up a separate for-profit corporation that the “public” charter school does all its business with, and it’s often perfectly legal. But it’s very common for charter school operators to earn half-a-million dollars a year, or more. (Options PCS, anybody? Many charter heads report that they earn large six figures, and I wonder what they don’t report…)

So, to repeat, there has been an almost complete changeover of teaching and administrative staff in the District of Columbia’s public education sector.  And the ‘system’ appears to have totally changed, to the point that every administrator and every teachers knows full well that he/she has absolutely no right to any due process: they can be fired or forced to resign at almost any time, even in the middle of the school year, while they waste untold amounts of time that could be used actively engaging kids in real thought-provoking activities, they are expected to follow scripted lessons to the letter, and spend almost the entire year preparing a test that many of the students don’t care about all and means nothing at all to their future.

And what has changed regarding these all-important test scores? Nothing..

The trends before Rhee in the NAEP tests are almost exactly the same as after Rhee, on all levels that NAEP reports on, for DCPS.

All those changes – for NOTHING?

(I have not yet teased out the charter schools data for DC, so I won’t say anything about how they compare with the regular public schools.)

In any case, this same Dick Whitmire has, as usual, been given yet another opportunity in the Washington Post to pour his accolades on his  personal friends, Michelle Rhee, Kaya Henderson, and the rest of the new millionaire class of edupreneurs who made good via TFA, and their billionaire backers.

Here’s a quote from that Dick:

“The education momentum has shifted so dramatically in the past few years that most Washingtonians have no idea why D.C. students suddenly are being singled out for making remarkable progress.”

Has Educational Rhee-form succeeded or failed in Washington DC Public Schools?

Bottom line conclusion from my last bunch of posts (see #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6)

Mayoral control of schools in DC, aka Educational Deform à la Rhee, has been an expensive failure, and it was foisted on us under false pretenses.

How can I make that conclusion?

Very simple.

This Rhee-form has fulfilled none of its promises, even on its own terms.

Its backers (Gray, Rhee, Henderson, Duncan, Bloomberg et al) claim that it’s been a great success.

But if you look at the graphs, it is clear that if the regime of Rhee and Henderson is going in the right direction, then so was the previous DCPS regime under superintendents Janey and his predecessors.

Any good trends have continued mostly unchanged.

Remember that we were promised incredible gains in test scores? Compared with the ‘bad old days’ when teachers actually had the right to due process before being fired? And back when poor DC students still had recess and PE and art and music libraries? And compared to the evil era when their teachers weren’t required to waste nearly the entire year on scripted test-prep lessons?

None of those incredible gains show up in the data, any more than they did when Michelle Rhee wrote all those lies in her resume. (I mean, why does ANYBODY listen to a liar like that, or to Rob Ford, or to Michael Millken or Bernie Madoff or the CIA/EPA liar?)

Anybody claiming that the last six sets of NAEP  TUDA scores show brilliant success for educational Rhee-form is engaging in wishful thinking or lobbying.

What’s more, my previous posts (and those of several other researchers and commentators) have shown that there is essentially no correlation between Value-Added scores and anything else. So that’s a failure, even on its own terms: it predicts nothing, it doesn’t help teachers teach better, and is essentially a random-number generator that clearly has done nothing to improve educational outcomes in DCPS, even though it costs taxpayers many, many millions of dollars and consumes a tremendous amount of time – something teachers and other staff have far too little of.

Mayoral control  has lived up to exactly NONE of its promises of closing the achievement gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, or of improved testing outcomes for the students of the District of Columbia any better than did the pre-Rhee superintendent-and-school-board system.

Trends are almost exactly the same now as they were before Mayor Fenty got control of the schools and appointed that serial self-promoter, liar and distorter of facts, Michelle Rhee, as chancellor of DC public schools, where she led an assault on the system which has fired or forced out many thousands of teachers, producing a revolving door of constantly churning teachers who are in turn forced out or fired. What’s more, Rhee-form has turned over half the public school system to private operators with no accountability (some of them brazen criminals) and track record of success except by exclusion and undemocratic practices. Rhee-form has also subjected all students in DCPS to a stultifying test-prep regime where arts, music, social studies and recess are banned and principals themselves can be canned at any time and are under incredible pressure to cheat and get rid of teachers.

From everything I have seen, it is not at all difficult to be doing your job as a teacher just fine, and end up with a mysterious numerical score known as IVA based on some unexplained formula that gets them fired. People have confessed to me that they were wholly unable to teach at all because kids were figuratively running wild in their classrooms, yet they got great “Value-Added” scores anyway. Teachers who became National Board Certified, a tremendous accomplishment, told me of some years (but not others) getting IVA scores so low that it would put their job at risk.

Anybody claiming that the data trends before 2008 look different from the ones after 2008 is engaging in wishful thinking.

So, if Kaya Henderson and Vincent Gray and Arne Duncan claim that the current policies are causing recent gains, then they logically must conclude that the previous policies were producing the same results, and should have been continued as well.

It’s a big, expensive lie that has had real consequences.

Students are wasting nearly an entire school year under stultifying, scripted lessons preparing for an ever-lengthening regime of utterly stupid and poorly-prepared but highly secret standardized tests whose manufacturers are responsible to no-one except their billionaire CEOs. In fact, for the high-stakes tests, it’s considered cheating for the teachers even to analyze the tests after they are given, and results aren’t available until the end of summer, even though it’s a machine-scoreable test which in theory could have a good part of it be graded and fully tabulated in mere seconds… that is if the publishers actually knew what they were doing and weren’t busy lobbying among themselves as to what mathematical and sleight of hand tricks they would play with the data to make it come out the way that the politicians they want…

Latest NAEP Results

The NAEP is our only nation-wide, systematic, long-term test of what students in elementary, middle, and high school know how to do. The 2013 NAEP results were released yesterday. I have begun to do a bit of number-crunching and would like to share what I’ve found.

First of all, the increases in some of the scores in DC (my home town) are a continuation of a trend that has been going on since about 2000. As a result of those increases, DC’s fourth grade math students, while still dead last in the nation, have nearly caught up with MISSISSIPPI, the lowest-scoring state in the US.

You will have to strain your imagination to see any huge differences between the trends pre-Rhee and post-Rhee. (She was installed after testing was over in 2007.)

average scores in NAEP math 4th grade national by jurisdictions 1992-2013

Another important point is that we don’t know how much of these increases are due to improvements in regular public schools, in the charter schools, or in the private schools — data from all three groups of students are included.

And Gary Rubenstein does his usual excellent job, which you can see here

He looked at 4th grade AND 8th grade math and reading for DC and elsewhere. DC is still dead last in just about every respect, and has BY FAR the largest gap between the poor and the non-poor.

So, the Educational DEforms instituted by Rhee, Henderson, and their corporate masters have not produced the promised miracles.

Published in: on November 8, 2013 at 7:04 am  Comments (7)  
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What it was like at the Super Rhee Go Love Fest in Los Angeles

Gary Rubenstein has an excellent analysis of the heavily-orchestrated love-fest for Michelle Rhee and her friends in Los Angeles. Lot to read, but it’s better than wasting your time suffering through their propaganda.

Published in: on October 11, 2013 at 10:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ravitch Critiques the Current Education Privatization Movement and Offers Suggestions for a Different Way

For a clear summary of the evidence showing that not a single one of the currently fashionable methods of ‘reforming’ public education has worked, then read the first twenty chapters of the latest book by Diane Ravitch, “Reign of Error”, published today by A.A. Knopf.

This book gratifies me because it lays out in a concise and organized manner much of what I and a number of other education bloggers have been trying to point out for the last four or five years. Ravitch’s clear prose is a masterful summary of the evidence that the bipartisan “reforms” being committed against public education are not only ineffective by the yardsticks held up by these ‘reformers’, but are also resegregating our schools and foisting an inferior education onto our poorest kids.

On the other hand, if you prefer to see a clearly-laid out set of suggestions for a more sensible way to fix our school system, then this is still the right book to read! In chapters 21 through 33, she lays out a logical and sensible way to really fix our schools.

Keep in mind, as you read the book, that the “reformers” of public education have been in charge in some of our largest cities for about 20 years now. For example, Paul Vallas ran Chicago Public Schools from 1995-2001, and Arne Duncan ran them from 2001-2009; since then they are under the control of mayor Rahm Emanuel. They did such a WONDERFUL job that Chicago just found it necessary to close down dozens of schools and fire thousands of teachers and other employees. Joel Klein ran New York City’s public schools from 2002 to his departure to head Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp. Michelle Rhee and her crony Kaya Henderson have run DC Public Schools since 2007.

Those school systems remain in crisis, despite the claims of our wealthiest citizens (Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, the Walton family and a bevy of hedge fund managers) that those leaders were producing piles of ‘excellence’ while having almost no teaching experience or school leadership credentials.

If you doubt my claims, all you need to do is look at the graphs and tables in Ravitch’s appendices.

It stokes by own vanity to find a couple of my own blog columns cited on pages 150-151, wherein I had delved into the data on Michelle Rhee’s mythical successes in Baltimore from 1992-1995.

(Rhee has since admitted making the numbers up, but chuckled that they didn’t matter. She has no shame! I also discovered that a possible reason for the increases that were noted at her school and grade level may have been due to two facts: (1) Her school and her grade had one of the greatest attrition rates over those two years of any of the schools in the study; and (2) her grade at her school also had one of the largest percentages of students who scored so low on the CTBS that their scores weren’t even counted!)

Here are the headings and summaries for chapters 5 – 20 of Reign of Error:

5: The Facts About Test Scores

Claim: Test scores are falling, and the educational system is broken and obsolete.

Reality: Test scores are a their highest point ever recorded.

6: The Facts About the Achievement Gap

Claim: The achievement gaps are large and getting worse.

Reality: We have made genuine progress in narrowing the achievement gap, but they will remain large if we do nothing about the causes of the gaps.

7. The Facts About the International Test Scores

Claim: We are falling behind other nations, putting our economy and our national economy at risk.

Reality: An old lament, not true then, not true now.

8. The Facts About High School Graduation Rates

Claim: The nation has a dropout crisis, and high school graduation rates are falling.

Reality: High school dropouts are at an all-time low, and high school graduation rates are at an all-time high.

9. The Facts About College Graduation Rates

Claim: Our economy will suffer unless we have the highest college graduation rates in the world.

Reality: There is no basis for this claim.

10. How Poverty Affects Academic Achievement

Claim: Poverty is an excuse for ineffective teaching and failing schools.

Reality: Poverty is highly correlated with low academic achievement.

11. The Facts About Teachers and Test Scores

Claim: Teachers determine student test scores, and test scores may be used to identify and reward effective teachers and to fire those who are not effective.

Reality: Test scores are not the best way to identify the best teachers.

12. Why Merit Pay Fails

Claim: Merit pay will improve achievement.

Reality: Merit pay has never improved achievement.

13. Do Teachers Need Tenure and Seniority?

Claim: Schools will improve if tenure and seniority are abolished.

Reality: There is no basis for this claim.

14. The Problem with Teach for America

Claim: Teach for America recruits teachers and leaders whose high expectations will one day ensure that every child has an excellent education.

Reality: Teach for America sends bright young people into tough classrooms where they get about the same results as other bright young people in similar classrooms but leave the profession sooner.

15. The Mystery of Michelle Rhee

(no sub-headings for this chapter)

16. The Contradictions of Charters

Claim: Charter schools will revolutionize American education by thei freedom to innovate and produce dramatically better results.

Reality: Charter schools run the gamut from excellent to awful and are, on average, no more innovative or successful than public schools.

17. Trouble in E-Land

Claim: Virtual schools will the promise of personalized, customized learning to every student and usher in an age of educational excellence for all.

Reality: Virtual schools are cash cows for their owners but poor substitutes for real teachers and real schools.

18. Parent Trigger, Parent Tricker

Claim: If parents seize control of their school, they can make it better.

Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.

19. The Failure of Vouchers

Claim: Students who receive vouchers for private and religious schools will experience dramatic success.

Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.

20. Schools Don’t Improve if They Are Closed

Claim: Schools can be dramatically improved by firing the principal, firing half or all of the teaches, or closing the school and starting fresh.

Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.

Next, I’ll give the headings of the chapters laying out solutions.

You had to pay to be part of Michelle Rhee’s Philadelphia Book Tour, not her “Conversation”

I messed up big time. The ad I cited was from a book tour in January.

Your Pre-written question had to make it past the moderators in which case you get 60 seconds.

I see no provision for actual classroom teachers (current union officers or not) to share the stage and to have an equal voice. From what i understand from a report by the student in LA who did manage to sneak in a sign denouncing Rhee and her deforms, Rhee and her pundit friends spoke about 95% of the time as it was all tightly scripted to give the appearance of openness and no real dialog at all.

Am I missing something?

It will happen again in Philly on 9-16.

The following link was from an event in January. Mea culpa.

Published in: on September 14, 2013 at 10:26 am  Comments (19)  
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