Poverty vs Proficiency In DC Public and Charter Schools

You’ve all heard the slogan:

“A child’s course in life should be determined not by the zip code she’s born in.” Source

Reformers like Bush2, Barack Obama, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Arne Duncan, Adrian Fenty, Bill Gates, the Bradleys and the Waltons, all said they were going to bust the educational effects of poverty in DC and other places around the country. Their chosen methods were gutting the teachers’ unions, establishing lots of charter schools, firing or forcing into retirement thousands of teachers, establishing a revolving door of inexperienced teachers who almost all crash and burn out after a few years, and transforming schooling into all testing and test prep, all the time, especially on-line, so as to collect lots of data.

Have they been successful at solving the zip-code-and-destiny problem?

If we look at the only publicly-available data that we have for Washington, DC, namely PARCC scores and percentages of students who are designated as ‘At Risk’, the answer is:


Look at these two graphs, which I’ve prepared by matching the percentages of students scoring ‘Proficient’ or ‘Advanced’ in Washington, DC, at every single DC public school and charter school, versus OSSE’s official list of the percentages and numbers of students officially designated as being ‘At Risk’.

Unfortunately, the correlation is extremely strong, and negative. In other words, the fewer the kids who are officially ‘At Risk’ at any given school, the higher the percentage of kids scoring ‘Proficient’ or ‘Advanced’ on the PARCC – the Big Standardized test given in April of 2017. And obversely the greater the percentage of students at risk at any school, the lower the percentage of students ‘passing’ the PARCC.

The effect is particularly strong in the English and Reading part of the test.

(Note: I didn’t make up the ‘At Risk’ category. It’s relatively new, but combines statistics regarding homelessness, receiving food, living in poverty, divorces, family members being incarcerated, and so on.)

Here is the graph I made for the English Language Arts test. That R-squared correlation, 0.7016, is one of the strongest correlations you will find anywhere in the social sciences.

2017 ELA Parcc, proficient vs at risk, public and charter

Now here is the graph for the Math section of the PARCC:

2017 math PARCC proficiency vs at risk, public and charter

This is certainly not an indication that education ‘reform’ in DC has been a success. After more than a decade.

Next time I’ll break this down into charters and public schools. I think you will find that many of the charter schools have populations near the middle of these charts, while the regular DC public schools have populations near the extremes.

Many thanks to Ruth Wattenberg, Mary Levy and Matthew Frumin for showing me where these data files were kept – here and here. Any errors are my own.




Trump, Finance, and Outsourcing

I listened to Trump talking about the Chinese and Mexicans ‘stealing our jobs’. In fact, it’s American companies who shed American jobs either by automating the production (so that 1 worker today can do about the same amount of work as 10 workers back when I had summer jobs in factories making automobile parts and clamps and such, 40 or 50 years ago) or else by closing the entire American branch of the firm down and selling off all its assets and machines and renegotiating for suppliers of its raw materials and for customers, and generally stiffing the workers who had oftentimes accumulated a promise to some sort of a pension and life long health care plan after working a set number of years. So after working in a factory or mine for their entire able-bodied adult life, they end up with almost nothing.
(Trump would have a bit more credibility on this topic if he hadn’t for years had almost all of his branded products made in China, Vietnam, Mexico and so on. ‘Makes him smart’ to do an end-run around American wages, worker protections, and taxes. While he complains to American supporters about other corporations like Ford and Caterpillar doing exactly the same thing.)
When I went to school and worked for about 6-7 years in NH, MA, NY and VT during my ‘teens and 20’s, I knew older workers (like at my college) who lost had lost multiple fingers in the textile mills — which had already closed because the corporate heads were chasing cheaper labor in the American South. The janitor in my college dorm was a really nice older fellow. I think he still had a majority of his fingers, but I vividly remember that he was unable to go up a flight of stairs without immediately sitting down for 10 minutes at an oxygen tank, because he had contracted ‘white lung’ from years working around whirring machinery and breathing hot, moist air filled with cotton dust. [The hot, moist air and high levels of cotton dust made for better production levels and thus, higher profits for the company, workers’ long-term health be damned.] Despite his advanced age, he clearly still needed to work at the College because his Social Security and whatever pension he may or may not have had wasn’t enough.] He had an oxygen tank on the second and third floors of our dorm, IIRC.
Extremely highly-skilled tool and die workers in Springfield, VT, which was once the very center of precision machine manufacturing of the United States, have seen the entire industry in that so-called ‘precision valley’ get shipped overseas. All of those factories are now empty shells, it’s true.
I talked to coal miners in West Virginia in the 1970s and 1980s who were similarly scarred for life by black lung disease; they were upset 35 years ago that their lifetime health care plans would be taken away or dramatically reduced.
But it’s not immigrant workers who sneak across our borders with secret plans to remoove all those machines in the dead of night, with the open or hush-hush agreements of state and local and federal governments, banks & other financial institutions, lawyers, and other companies that supply them with spare parts, raw materials, and markets. It’s not illegal aliens doing this. It’s sleaze bag financiers and businessmen like Donald Trump, Goldman Sachs, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, the Walton family, and the Koch brothers who do this. Not desperate workers looking for a life but who can’t afford the fees, bribes, lawyers and connections needed to get official, legitimate, visas and green cards.
In fact, one can make the argument that it’s the Walton family itself that has nearly single-handedly made China the manufacturing center of the entire world. David Stockman among many others has shown that Walmart’s relentless pressure to reduce prices forced American companies to lay off almost all of their American workers and to outsource production to countries where workers are killed by goons and their bodies bnurned or fed to crocodiles if they try to organize unions (as opposed to simply being fired, bankrupted and disgraced, which is the American way) to try to get better than starvation wages, some personal privacy and respect, shorter hours, and safer working conditions. So that’s why if you visit places like Rochester, Phoenixville, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Springfield (VT), Detroit, or Indianapolis you won’t see the factories that gave employment to (and also maimed and wore out) millions of American workers. We also don’t have the smog or severe air and water pollution of yesteryear. The heavily-polluting coke mills of Gary or Weirton WV are (I think?) all closed too, thanks both to EPA rules and the impersonal dictates of the ‘invisible hand’ and the Walton family fortune.
But all is not so wonderful in China (or India, Thailand or Vietnam) for those peasants-turned-factory workers who are no longer spending their lives hoeing rice, millet, or sorghum but instead making toys, clothing, textiles, electronics, cars, and anything else for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, all $100/month (Vietnam) see this for US, Germany, China comparisons
For one thing, the air pollution in India and China reminds me of the similar and famous problems of London or Pittsburgh back in the 1950’s (see London 1953 and Beijing 60 years later, below)
London during the Great Smog  
In addition, China is itself in a completely unsustainable bubble, where the financiers and Party heads command enormous empty modern cities to be built in the middle of nowhere, in which nobody works or lives except for a few security guards and custodians, and there are no open businesses or shops – as a way of making jobs, but nobody appears to be able to afford to buy the apartments and condos there. I don’t pretend to understand how that makes any sense, nor do I comprehend, high finance, but some people say they do, and their predictions for the Chinese economy make for pretty alarming reading.
And of course, the fact that nearly all Trump products are made overseas is a pretty good indication that he’s just pandering to an easily-fooled section of the electorate. It’s divide-and-rule: make American workers (who have been screwed by the 1/10 of 1% who rule this country) hate and blame workers overseas, especially if them furriners come here looking to make a better life and don’t have the right papers or might have some funny ideas or aren’t Baptists or Methodists …
Published in: on September 29, 2016 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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Two more promises by Rhee et al: were they kept?

Part Four of Many

To get a grant of about $64 million dollars, ex-Chancellor of DC Public Schools Michelle Rhee promised that DCPS would be in the top half of all NAEP TUDA urban districts by 2013. So far, in math at the 4th and 8th grade, she and her successors have failed.

How did they do in reading?

See for yourself. This first chart is from the NAEP TUDA website concerning fourth grade math:

dcps vs all naep tuda 4th grade reading 2013

There were 21 school districts in the “Trial Urban District Assessment’ of the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2013, and it appears that number 11, the median school district, if you measure that by percentages of students at or above proficient, is Albuquerque, with 24% of its students in those categories. DCPS appears to have a small edge on Albuuerque, with 25% of its students proficient or advanced, so if you measure things that way, DCPS is technically in the top half.

However, if you compare average scores on the test, then Albuquerque actually beat DC, since the average scores were 207 and 205 — with DC getting the lower score. In that case, DCPS is technically in the bottom half.

And if you say that being in the ‘top half’ would mean beating the average score for all large cities, then DCPS definitely did NOT succeed.

Or if you go by the categories that the officials at NAEP actually used, namely ‘Percentage at or above proficient is significantly higher than large city’, and ‘Percentage at or above proficient is NOT significantly different than large city’, and ‘Percentage at or above proficient is lower than large city’, then DCPS is firmly in the middle group.

I think I will score this one as an ‘almost met’.


How about 8th grade reading?

Here things are a lot more cut-and-dried:

dcps vs all naep tuda 8th grade reading 2013

It is very clear that DCPS did NOT meet the goal of being in the top half of the Trial Urban District Assessment. The average score is well below that for Chicago, the median school district (245 vs 253), and even further behind all large cities (245 vs 258), and the percentages of students deemed proficient or advanced on this test in DCPS, namely 17%, also places DCPS in the bottom half, not the top half.


So out of four different categories measured so far (being in the top half of NAEP TUDA districts in reading and math at the 4th and 8th grade levels), DCPS got an “almost” in one category (fourth grade reading) and clearly failed in the other three.

Recall that if DCPS did not meet its goals, the Arnold, Broad, Roberts and Walton foundations were supposed to withhold the grant monies.

Did they?

And out of the other 74 goals, how many did DCPS actually meet?


The saga so far:

  1.  https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/did-any-of-michelle-rhees-promises-actually-work-in-dc/
  2. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/more-on-michelle-rhees-promises-concerning-dcps/
  3. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/what-rhee-promised-to-the-billionaires-walton-gates-et-al-but-didnt-deliver/
  4. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/two-more-promises-by-rhee-et-al-were-they-kept/ (this one)
  5. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/ten-more-promises-from-rhee-henderson-company-were-any-of-them-kept/
  6. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/33-6-for-nearly-all-values-of-3-not-5/
  7. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/5281/
  8. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/more-failures-to-deliver-on-promises-by-michelle-rhee-and-her-acolytes/
  9. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/another-day-another-bunch-of-failures-from-rhee-henderson/
  10. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/even-more-missed-targets-dc-cas-proficiency-in-2010-and-2011/
  11. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/rhees-failures-in-dc-the-continuing-saga-2012-dc-cas/
  12. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/the-long-list-of-failures-by-rhee-and-henderson-continued/


Once again, let me credit my colleague Erich Martel for coming up with the idea of going back to the original promises and seeing if they were kept or not, and sharing his findings with me. These calculations are generally my own, so if you find any mistakes, don’t blame him. Blame me.

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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Report from EdCORE to DC Auditor’s Office Gives More Evidence that the Emperor (the EduDeformers) wear no clothes

I began looking at the  EdCORE report {GWU, Mathematica, A.I.R. et al} to the DC Auditor’s Office on the DCPS system from 2006 up until 2011 on my iphone while I was riding the subway late last night, and found evidence that if a teacher is unfortunate enough to teach in a high-poverty school, they are much, much more likely to get low IMPACT and IVA scores, get fired, transfer out, and/or quit.

Couldn’t get much more than a peek, however.

I also noticed that brand-new teachers generally get lower IMPACT scores and so on, no matter where they teach.  And that huge numbers of DC teachers and administrators now have 3 years or less of actual teaching experience.

While scores are pretty much flat.

But remember the Educational Deformista’s own argument: after all, it’s not poverty or distressed family life or anything else that is causing record chronic unemployment and the de-industrialization of America along with those pesky record profits and wealth increases for the rich.

No, it was supposedly us veteran teachers who had all conspired to go into teaching precisely so we could be lazy, get cushy no-work jobs, get rich with our extravagant pension funds and health benefits, though in fact we supposedly do our best to hold poor kids back. {according to the Deformistas and their allies in the media}

{Actually, that’s what bank presidents and such do, innit? While they claim they are hard at work, they are sitting around in splendid offices either playing with a computer or schmoozing with others in their stratum or out having fabulously expensive vacations — which of course are written off as business expenses, because they continue to play around on their computers and schmooze with other wealthy types, planning on how to bend or make the rules so they become even richer… And when they quit one company to go to another one, they bget tens or hundreds of millions of dollars and stock options and so on as a ‘platinum parachute’…. The ratio of income and wealth in the world and in the US between the captains of finance and the common people is higher now than ever before — Third World standards.

But supposedly, Gates and Jobs were worth every penny, right? We must certainly agree that none of the rest of us have any creativity. Only a handful of people had the smarts to build successful bandwagons by guessing which way they could steer public opinion towards their inventions… (sarcasm implied) While there are lots and lots of people inventing stuff and trying to keep poor kids and widows and orphans out of misery by either educating them or making sure they get social services or medical services — we don’t count. If we have poor clients, it’s because we made them poor. Right? (sarcasm again)}

And according to that brave billionaire’s saga, if we veteran teachers and social workers were all were replaced by Teach For America and its clones (dc teaching fellows, NTP, “Broad jump academy” etc) with absolutely no training or experience, and if sufficiently many DC and other urban public schools are closed down, denigrated, starved, and disorganized rapidly enough to force most of the kids into the [almost-equally-unsuccessful-by-their-own-measuring-srick charter schools [remember, the ones that are supposedly successful have absolutely astronomical pushout or dropout or attrition rates, as has been abundantly documented)] …. well, if the Deformistas like Henderson, Rhee, Kopp, the Koch Brothers, various hedge fund managers like DFER, the Waltons, and Bill Gates got their way like that, the prediction by Erik Hanushek and others was that all of the scores for poor urban kids of color would go up like crazy. Why, don’t you know, since they had at least three years in a row of brand-new, inexperienced but ‘excellent’ teachers (since their previous veteran, un-excellent teachers generally retired, quit, or got fired based on a random-number-generating scheme, then poor black and hispanic kids would completely crush that achievement gap between then and the kids attending St. Albans or Sidwell or Maret or Groton or Phillips Exeter or TJ Science Academy in Arlington or the Bronx HS of Science, and we would see enormous numbers of poor urban HS grads would now entering the Ivy Leagues on full scholarships in record numbers.

Isn’t that right?


It ain’t happening?

Yes, but scores for black and hispanic kids are increasing, in general!!

— True, they’ve been generally going up since the mid-1970s, when the government first started measuring this. The gaps have grown a LOT smaller in that time, especially right up to the year when “A Nation At Risk” was published — 1983. At that point, the gaps between poor kids and the non-poor stopped narrowing, pretty much. At some grade levels and subjects, black and hispanic kids are now scoring higher than non-poor white kids back in the 1970 or 80s, which is a signicant amount of progress.

BUT all the good trends happened WAY before the billionaires started trying to control public education in an utterly undemocratic manner, completely bypassing any public input.

These days, as the report noted, the only way for the public to change education policy is to vote out a mayor or a president.

Unfortunately for that argument, both parties, once they get into power, follow almost exactly the same policies on education. Show me how Gray and Henderson have differed in anything except abrasive rhetoric from Fenty and Rhee when it comes to education. Hated NCLB under Bush and that education fraud from Texas? Vote them out, and you get even morer of the same, four times as badly, under Obama and Duncan!

Percentages of poor urban kids at first-tier universities continues to slide, you say? It’s more of the kids of the wealthy there, partly because of certain financial changes …. while college loan debt is actually now LARGER than ordinary credit card debt? And it can essentially NEVER be written off, even if you file for bankruptcy? (said in a fake-naive voice)

Say it ain’t so, Joe! (fake-naive, sarcasm)

But none of those rosy predictions by the Deformista that has come true. Scores are flat. And profits and wealth for the 1% of 1% are way, way up. And so are futures in EduBusiness shares and funds in general…

When the DCAuditor site comes back up I’ll have more to say.

Not Waiting for Superman

A couple of excellent articles on how we should NOT be waiting for Superman, and how the Broads, Gateses, Waltons, and so on really do NOT have our interests at heart, and also about the whole ‘Superman’ garbage.

Here is one of them: http://www.notwaitingforsuperman.org/Articles/MinerUltimateSuperpower?action=download&upname=TheUltimateSuperpower_Miner.pdf or click here.

Here is another one:  http://www.notwaitingforsuperman.org/Articles/20101101-FineLoisLaneMemo?action=download&upname=LoisLaneMemo_Fine.pdf or click here.

Published in: on November 4, 2010 at 1:40 am  Comments (1)  
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