Friday, July 30, 2010

AFT Survey for DC Teachers


 AFT Online Survey

Washington Teachers' Union Mayoral and DC City Council Chairman Race - SURVEY

The Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) Executive Board is conducting a brief survey of our members regarding the District of Columbia Mayoral and DC City Council Chairman Race. Your input will be used by the Board in its' upcoming formal endorsement of candidates for Mayor and DC City Council Chairman. Please complete the survey below to provide your input. This survey is restricted to DCPS teachers only; therefore, we request that you not forward it to any person who is not a WTU bargaining unit member.

Which of the two candidates listed below do you support for Mayor? (Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.)
 I support Adrian Fenty.
 I support Vincent Gray.
 I don't support either candidate.

Which of the two candidates listed below do your support for DC City Council Chairman? (Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.)
 I support Kwame Brown.
 I support Vincent Orange.
 I don't support either candidate.

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Karen Lewis Calls for End to Chi TFA Contract

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                   

Contact:  Liz Brown, Media Relations    

Wednesday, July 28, 2010                                    312/329-6250 (office)  


CTU President Karen Lewis Calls for Hiring Freeze on New Hires;
End Teach For America Contract

Chicago - CTU President Karen Lewis made the following statement earlier today at the Board of Education Meeting. 

More than ever, the Board needs to retain career teachers – professionals who devote their lives to perfecting their craft.  But sometimes your actions appear as if a lifetime devotion to our children holds no value.  That school instability and high teacher turnover is, in your eyes, “good enough” for our children and that our teachers deserve little respect.  That makes me want to say shame on you.
In June, the Board fired over 200 of our top teachers – the coaches who were chosen by CPS to teach other teachers and help them raise standards of instruction.  Had these coaches ignored CPS and said, “I’m closing my classroom door and focusing just on my kids.  To heck with the others,” they’d probably still be teaching today.  But they didn’t because they are career teachers and care deeply and passionately about education and all of Chicago’s children.  And then the Board fired them, callously and capriciously.  You fired them without notice, without benefits.  For many, you destroyed their lives.
But were these cuts calculated?  A few months before, in March, you signed a contract to hire up to 200 Teach for America novices with zero experience this year, 80% of whom will leave our classrooms in less than three years.  Four of five will leave their students behind. 
And last week you announced through the media that you are firing 600 more educators – 400 teachers and 200 support personnel – and threaten to fire even more.  You said you would not raise class sizes in our elementary schools, but you did.    
What is unfathomable is that, by its own admission, CPS did not even measure how raising class sizes and cutting teachers would impact our children’s education.  I have it in writing from your lawyers, Mr. Franczek’s offices, and I could not believe my eyes.  But there it was – no impact study.  You are making life-altering decisions without even bothering to assess the consequences of your actions.
It is time to redeem yourselves, in part, with a no new-hire hiring freeze today – and keep your word.  No new inexperienced teachers until each coach, each experienced teacher, is teaching again.  Because our students can’t wait for a teacher to “get good” -- that’s a direct quote from a student about her Teach for America novice.
# # #
The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools and, by extension, the students and families they serve. CTU, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, is the third largest union in the country and the largest local union in Illinois.   

CEC 3 Public Comments on the proposed new Harlem Success Academy charter school in District 3

Some of you might be interested in the letter below we sent from CEC3 to the SUNY Charter Institute against the proposed 2011 co-location of a 3rd Harlem Success Academy within D3.  Somewhat surprisingly, SUNY/HSA decided to pull their application sometime on 7/23, either hours before or hours after the 5 pm public comments deadline.  This is the second time within the last 12 months that HSA has at the last minute pulled a public application to expand in D3, perhaps because of the avalanche of anti-HSA letters sent last week to SUNY from every part of our District.   It could also be due, however, to Eva’s belief that she needn’t be bothered with HSA’s charter guidelines, public comments or the law, and instead can simply can expand by Klein/Moscowitz fiat as she is trying to do at PS 241.

Subject: CEC 3 Public Comments on the proposed new Harlem Success Academy charter school in District 3

To the SUNY Charter School Institute;

As District 3's elected public school parent representatives, we, the members of Community District Education Council 3, strongly oppose the proposed 2011 co-location of an additional Harlem Success Academy branch in District 3.

Firstly, elementary school overcrowding has become endemic to District 3 and there is no room for the co-location of Harlem Success without increasing this already dire situation. Overcrowding predominates in the Southern portion of the district and given the level of new development in Harlem, such overcrowding is moving uptown.  Unfortunately, SCA and DOE projections have continually underestimated this enrollment growth - and overestimated existing capacity - leading to increased overcrowding.  Witness the DOE/SCA suggestion to expand the size of the PS 87 zone which one year later has become the most overcrowded zone in New York City.  Additionally, after repeatedly saying that D3 was not overcrowded, the DOE was forced to backtrack and to admit that their numbers were flawed, leading them to create a new school, PS 452, at the last minute and at the expense of our middle school seats.

Yet even if we use the SCA's own projections for 2012 showing a capacity of 4,043 middle school and elementary school seats and projected enrollment of 3,745 students in Harlem, the 298 available seats the DOE show will not suffice for the proposed new school planned by Harlem Success.  And these numbers assume that all the students in the new HSA school would come from District 3, which - unlike the strict in-district policy being imposed by the DOE on all of our D3 elementary and middle schools - is not even the case for Harlem Success who will be drawing students from a number of districts.  Why the favoritism?  And why have they been promised a place within our district?

Additionally, the New York State Legislature has made it clear that any impact of co-locations must be assessed in advance and reviewed with the community including the CEC, as well as with the affected schools.  Yet SUNY and Harlem Success's application provides no specific information for location of the proposed new school.   Without a specific proposed location for Harlem Success, how are we supposed to assess its impact on the community and the schools with which it is co-locating?  Where is the transparency and accountability that the legislature demands, and that SUNY repeatedly has promised? 

Sadly, even without the ability to measure the probable impact of the new Harlem Success co-location, we in District 3 would likely reject a new HSA branch out of hand based on our previous negative experiences with Harlem Success co-locations within our District schools, PS 149 and PS 241.  In fact, unlike our experience with other charter schools co-located within District 3 buildings, relations between Harlem Success and their District 3 host schools are uniformly terrible with our District school children being made to feel as second class citizens within the own buildings.  This comes down to a lack of cooperation by Harlem Success's management team, who fail to share resources, segregate their classrooms and hallways from their District school neighbors, and routinely and falsely demonize those co-located district schools as "failures."   It is also due to the DOE favoring Harlem Success's growth at the expense of our District Schools - as they once again are proposing to do. 

Witness PS 241 where Harlem Success IV - which originally was authorized to grow by 125 students next year - now is slated to expand by 175 without any public discussion or review.  And to make room for this unauthorized expansion of HSA IV in an already overcrowded building, PS 241 students are being moved out of their three ground floor classrooms into the school’s basement, including an as yet to be converted food service room.  Additionally, Harlem Success is being authorized to provide Pre-K services in the new school, whereas over the past 24 months the DOE has summarily cut fully enrolled pre-k sections at District 3 schools PS 185 and PS 241. 

The sad message of Harlem Success's proposed expansion at the expense of District 3 schools is and has been that our D3 public school kids are less worthy than their charter counterparts.  It says that it's ok to cut district school programs and shove more and more of our kids - many of whom are English Language learners or have significant special needs which Harlem Success and most other charters don't even pretend to address - into our increasingly overcrowded public school buildings.  

Overcrowding, favoritism toward a small minority of kids, poor relations among schools, and a lack of responsibility to educate all of our District 3 students are only a few of the reasons why District 3's CEC urges you to reject the Harlem Success application.

Yours sincerely,

Community District Education Council 3

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Charter School Clips

From: "Marsnita Brew, Strategic Campaigns" <>
Date: July 27, 2010 8:20:16 PM EDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Charter School Clips - 7/27/10

In the News: Civil rights groups call for new education agenda; debating school reform
By Cassandra West
Chicago Catalyst
July 27, 2010
At Promise Academies, vacancies galore
By Paul Socolar
Philadelphia Notebook
July 23, 2010
New York
Find another way*
By News Editorial Board
Buffalo News
July 27, 2010
*Buffalo Public Schools
Other Locations
Charter school funding should be cut, legislative committee says
By Bryant Furlow
The New Mexico Independent
July 26, 2010
Education board OKs use of trust fund for charter schools
By Terrence Stutz
The Dallas Morning News
July 24, 2010
YouthBuild audit finds deficiencies
By Andrew Shaw
The York Dispatach
July 23, 2010
LAUSD lost almost $10 million due to inefficient inventory system, audit finds
The report says thousands of textbooks are not bar-coded or returned by students and poor communication between schools has led to unnecessary purchases.
 By Howard Blume
 Los Angeles Times
July 25, 2010
Pembroke Pines loses charter school suit
By Jennifer Gollan
July 26, 2010
Proposed N.J. legislation would change charter school guidelines
By Jen Wulf
Philadelphia Inquirer
July 26, 2010
State audit rips charter schools*
Defenders call report unfair, threatening
Reported by Jeff Todd
July 23, 2010
*Santa Fe, NM
Troubles Brewing for STARS Board*
By Hannah Sharpe
The Pilot 
July 23, 2010
*STARS Charter Schools – NC
Charter school board member ousted*
The former board member at St. Croix Preparatory Academy said she was pushed out after disagreeing with a curriculum decision.
By Gregory A. Patterson
Star Tribune
July 23, 2010
Board adopts charter facilities investment plan*
The Associated Press
July 23, 2010
*Austin, TX
National Operators
Learning to love Turkey*
Charter School Scandals
July 26, 2010
*Video Footage of performances/events of students attending ‘Turkish’ charter schools around the nation
KIPP charter school is sued in sexual-assault case*
Mother of girl claims negligent supervision on '07 trip
By Jon Murray
July 26, 2010
*Indianapolis College Preparatory 
Local school gets Newsweek honor*
One of America’s Best High Schools
By Jacqueline Hough
The Daily Herald
July 23, 2010
*Gaston, NC – KIPP Gaston College Prep
Marsnita "Nina" Brew
Administrative Assistant
Strategic Campaigns Department
T: 202/393-5696
F: 202/662-4848
American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
555 New Jersey Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20001

Monday, July 26, 2010

important new study about huge error rates in value-added teacher evaluation

New mathematica study for the US DOE’ Institute of Education Sciences, showing that if using value –added teacher test scores to evaluate teachers, the error rate is 35% (by using one year of test score data) and still as high as 25% for three years of test score data.:

“ This paper addresses likely error rates for measuring teacher and school performance in the upper elementary grades using value-added models applied to student test score gain data. Using realistic performance measurement system schemes based on hypothesis testing, we develop error rate formulas based on OLS and Empirical Bayes estimators. Simulation results suggest that value-added estimates are likely to be noisy using the amount of data that are typically used in practice.

Type I and II error rates for comparing a teacher’s performance to the average are likely to be about 25 percent with three years of data and 35 percent with one year of data. Corresponding error rates for overall false positive and negative errors are 10 and 20 percent, respectively. Lower error rates can be achieved if schools are the performance unit. The results suggest that policymakers must carefully consider likely system error rates when using value-added estimates to make high-stakes decisions regarding educators….

Using rigorous statistical methods and realistic performance measurement schemes, this report presents evidence that value-added estimates are likely to be quite noisy using the amount of data that are typically used in practice for estimation. ….

If only three years of data are used for estimation (the amount of data typically used in practice), Type I and II errors for teacher-level analyses will be about 26 percent each. This means that in a typical performance measurement system, 1 in 4 teachers who are truly average in performance will be erroneously identified for special treatment, and 1 in 4 teachers who differ from average performance by 3 to 4 months of student learning will be overlooked. Corresponding error rates will be lower if the focus is on overall false positive and negative error rates for the full population of affected teachers. With three years of data, these misclassification rates will be about 10 percent.

These results strongly support the notion that policymakers must carefully consider system error rates in designing and implementing teacher performance measurement systems based on value-added models, especially when using these estimates to make high-stakes decisions regarding teachers (such as tenure and firing decisions)….

Studies have found only moderate year-to-year correlations—ranging from 0.2 to 0.6—in the value-added estimates of individual teachers (McCaffrey et al. 2009; Goldhaber and Hansen 2008) or small to medium-sized school grade-level teams (Kane and Staiger 2002b). As a result, there are significant annual changes in teacher rankings based on value-added estimates. Studies from a wide set of districts and states have found that one-half to two-thirds of teachers in the top quintile or quartile of performance from a particular year drop below that category in the subsequent year (Ballou 2005; Aaronson et al. 2008; Koedel and Betts 2007; Goldhaber and Hansen 2008; McCaffrey et al. 2009).
While previous work has documented instability in value-added estimates post hoc using several years of available data, the specific ways in which performance measurement systems should be designed ex ante to account for instability of the estimates have not been examined. This paper is the first to systematically examine this precision issue from a design perspective focused on the following question: “What are likely error rates in classifying teachers and schools in the upper elementary grades into performance categories using student test score gain data that are likely to be available in practice?” These error rates are critical for assessing appropriate sample sizes for a performance measurement system that aims to reliably identify low- and high-performing teachers and schools.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters

Valerie Strauss in WAPO: Civil rights groups skewer Obama education policy

Leaders of these groups were scheduled to hold a press conference Monday to release the framework but it was cancelled because, a spokesman said, there was a conflict in schedules.

Civil rights groups skewer Obama education policy

It is most politely written, but a 17-page framework for education reform being released Monday by a coalition of civil rights groups amounts to a thrashing of President Obama’s education policies and it offers a prescription for how to set things right.

You won’t see these sentences in the piece: “Dear President Obama, you say you believe in an equal education for all students, but you are embarking on education policies that will never achieve that goal and that can do harm to America’s school children, especially its neediest. Stop before it is too late.”

But that, in other nicer words, is exactly what it says. The courteous gloss on this framework can’t cover up its angry, challenging substance.

The “Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn” is a collaboration of these groups: Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Schott Foundation for Public Education, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Coalition for Educating Black Children, National Urban League, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc

Leaders of these groups were scheduled to hold a press conference Monday to release the framework but it was cancelled because, a spokesman said, there was a conflict in schedules. The delay was, presumably, not connected to public appearances this week by Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the convention marking the 100th anniversary of the Urban League in Washington D.C. Obama is making a speech on Thursday; Duncan on Wednesday. 

The framework’s authors start the framework seeming conciliatory, applauding Obama's goal for the United States to become a global leader in post-secondary education attainment by 2020.
But quickly their intent is clear. They take apart the thinking behind the administration’s education policies, and note a number of times the differences between what Obama and Duncan say about education and what they do.
To wit:

About Race to the Top,
the competitive grant program for states that is the administration’s central education initiative thus far, it says: 

“The Race to the Top Fund and similar strategies for awarding federal education funding will ultimately leave states competing with states, parents competing with parents, and students competing with other students..... By emphasizing competitive incentives in this economic climate, the majority of low-income and minority students will be left behind and, as a result, the United States will be left behind as a global leader.”

About an expansion of public charter schools, which the administration has advanced:
“There is no evidence that charter operators are systematically more effective in creating higher student outcomes nationwide....Thus, while some charter schools can and do work for some students, they are not a universal solution for systemic change for all students, especially those with the highest needs.” 

And there’s this carefully worded reproach to the administration:
“To the extent that the federal government continues to encourage states to expand the number of charters and reconstitute existing schools as charters, it is even more critical to ensure that every state has a rigorous accountability system to ensure that all charters are operating at a high level.” 

Double ouch.
But there’s more.

The framework says that the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, “should seek buy-in from community advocates.” But it notes that Obama’s Blueprint for Education reform makes "only cursory mention of parent and community engagement in local school development.”

It blasts the administration’s approach to dealing with persistently low-performing schools, saying that closing them in the way now being advanced is wrong, and it says that the administration is not doing enough to close gaps in resources, alleviate poverty and end racial segregation in schools.

And it says that the government should stop using low-income neighbors as laboratories for education experiments:

“For far too long, communities of color have been testing grounds for unproven methods of educational change while all levels of government have resisted the tough decisions required to expand access to effective educational methods. The federal government currently requires school districts to use evidence-based approaches to receive federal funds in DOE’s Investing in Innovation grant process. So, too, in all reforms impacting low-income and high-minority communities, federal and state governments should meet the same evidence-based requirement as they prescribe specific approaches to school reform and distribute billions of dollars to implement them.
“Rather than addressing inequitable access to research-proven methodologies like high-quality early childhood education and a stable supply of experienced, highly effective teachers, recent education reform proposals have favored “stop gap” quick fixes that may look new on the surface but offer no real long-term strategy for effective systemic change. The absence of these “stop gap” programs in affluent communities speaks to the marginal nature of this approach. We therefore urge an end to the federal push to encourage states to adopt federally prescribed methodologies that have little or no evidentiary support – for primary implementation only in low-income and high-minority communities.

This is really tough talk, and it is about time that America’s civil rights leaders are speaking up.
The only question is whether anybody in the Obama administration is actually listening.

Civil Rights Groups Call for New Federal Education Agenda

Michele McNeil| No Comments | No TrackBacks Seven leading civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the National Urban League, called on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today to dismantle core pieces of his education agenda, arguing that his emphases on expanding charter schools, closing low-performing schools, and using competitive rather than formula funding are detrimental to low-income and minority children.

The groups, which today released their own education policy framework and created the National Opportunity to Learn campaign, want Duncan to make big changes to his draft proposal for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. 

What's even more interesting is that a big event planned to release the framework this morning in conjunction with the National Urban League's annual conference was mysteriously cancelled (or postponed, depending on whom you ask) after a lot of press releases went out last week trying to drum up interest. The official explanation is that there was a "conflict in schedules." However, I can't help but wonder if the facts that President Obama has agreed to deliver a major education reform speech at the conference on Thursday, and that Duncan is scheduled to address the conference on Wednesday, had something to do with it. Surely the Obama administration was none too pleased to see that these groups planned to criticize his education reform agenda.

In addition, the National Action Network, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, was listed on the press releases that went out late last week announcing the event as a supporter of the new framework, but in the framework released today, the group is conspicuously missing.

The groups that signed on to the framework want Duncan to dial back his enthusiasm for and "extensive reliance" on charter schools as a solution for turning around persistently struggling schools in urban areas. They also object to core components of his four models for turning around the nation's worst schools, saying that school closure and wholesale changes in school staff should only be used as a last resort. And they take sharp issue with the Race to the Top program, declaring that a reliance on competitive funding and hand-picking winners means the majority of low-income and minority kids, who may reside in the losing states, will not benefit from additional federal funds. 

The supporting groups are: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; National Urban League; The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; National Council on Educating Black Children; Rainbow PUSH Coalition; and The Schott Foundation for Public Education.

If you think back to the 2008 campaign season, and the split that emerged on education issues within the Democratic Party, this tends to lean more towards a Broader, Bolder agenda—and group of folks—although there are elements of the Education Equality approach embedded in this document as well.
In addition to wanting Duncan to reverse course, the groups want the Department of Education to add or strengthen a few things in the ESEA blueprint, including universal access to early education for all children in all states. They want to strengthen the ability of students in low-performing schools to transfer to higher performing ones, although Duncan has been backing away from current choice provisions already embedded in the No Child Left Behind Act. And they want, among other things, for the feds to hold states and districts more accountable in how they spend and distribute money from school to school. 

One thing Duncan already has agreed to do: require parental engagement as part of the school turnaround process. That's another recommendation in the civil rights groups' proposal.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bill Cala: High-stakes testing is failing

As New York state geared up for the first administration of the fourth-grade English Language Arts tests in 1998, along with a group of national researchers, I warned that ubiquitous implementation of high-stakes standardized tests would result in a watered-down curriculum and a lack of attention to social studies, science, music and the arts.

Additionally, we could expect a significant increase in dropouts (especially among the poor and children of color) and a massive disenfranchisement of English Language Learners and special education students.

There was not then nor today one study that demonstrates that standardized tests measure anything other than a student's potential score on the next standardized test.

Throwing all caution and common sense to the wind, policymakers ignored all evidence and adopted standardized tests for grades 3 through 8, and in New York five Regents exams became the gatekeeper to a high school diploma.

None of the tests given in New York is vetted by validity studies. In other words, there is no proof whatsoever that the tests assess what children learn in the classroom.
As we fast-forward to 2010, what do we have to show for more than a decade-long obsession with tests?

In New York, English Language Learners went from the highest diploma-earning sub-group to the lowest. Less than 20 percent of special education students earn a Regents diploma while IEP diplomas (certificates of completion, not a high school diploma) skyrocketed. GED diplomas have dramatically increased (a recent study shows that GED graduates earn no more than dropouts).
Graduation rates have not increased in over a decade, and less than one-third of African-American and Latino males earn a New York state diploma.

Charter schools are burgeoning, siphoning money and resources from regular public schools. This phenomenon has become a national directive (the federal Race to the Top educational reform initiative) under the Obama administration that is not supported by research. In a national study of charter schools (CREDO, Stanford University 2009) 83 percent of charter schools performed no better or worse than their regular public counterparts. Race to the Top has states adopting laws to lift charter caps and tie teacher evaluation to standardized test scores. The reward for lifting the charter cap and merit pay is the possibility of up to $700 million for state coffers ($122 per child in New York). Given the lack of evidence to support the efficacy of merit pay and the proliferation of charters, the requirements needed to win federal funds are tantamount to extortion.

The keystone of this entire movement is the use of flawed standardized tests. Performance-based instruction and assessment is well-documented on the national, state and local level with a 40-year track record of success yet ignored on a wholesale basis ( The time is long overdue for policymakers to pay attention to the research and provide an educational framework that inspires and motivates children rather than beat them with the club of unsound practices.

Cala, a former Rochester schools interim superintendent, is co-founder, Joining Hearts and Hands (, which supports educational needs of African children.

The Newest Scum

The Newest Scum

He had his schooling private and
Dropped out of Harvard, just like that.
His drive, we all now understand.
His competition, he laid flat.

He stole, he bullied, played his game,
And added mightily to stash.
In doing this, he felt no shame,
For what we worship here is cash.

And so, each wannabe has Bill
To emulate. Though flat out broke,
They think, by using smarts and will,
They'll still get rich, with mirror, smoke.

Klein tried to take Gates down a peg,
But that was long ago, you see.
Now teachers must, for mercy, beg,
And Klein, to Gates, beholden be.

How strangely Fortune twisted, turned,
How blind we are to what's ahead.
So some did fiddle, as schools burned,
And others slaved, as sky grew red.

The capitalist has become
Philanthropist, yet more admired.
"Deprived of oxygen", we'll come     \1
To end, like Netscape (now retired).

But Phoenix rises, and is named
Not Firebird, but Firefox.
Raise up your heads, oh ye, ashamed
Of own profession. Erigo vox!

From these ashes, what will rise?
In the darkness, is there light?
Who will Klein and Gates surprise
By discerning wrong from right?

Profession that's corrupted, torn,
Invites invaders.  And they come!
Only when we are reborn
Can we repel the newest scum.

Arjun, 2010 July 10th Sat., Brooklyn

1. Microsoft's strategy to defeat Netscape included "depriving them of oxygen" by including
Internet Explorer with Windows (using, 
by the way, code derived from Netscape's originators,
from when they were working for the government) just as Netscape began to offer a commercial
version of its browser software.

Klein was the government's prosecutor in an antitrust case against Microsoft.  In the U.S.,
Microsoft basically prevailed, though Gates was taken down a peg. But in Europe, where a parallel
suit was launched, it had to make more substantial concessions.

Those seeking free (and better) alternatives to MS Office and Internet Explorer may find Sun's Open
Office suit and the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox to be excellent choices. Unfortunately, Sun, which
believed in giving away software (like Java) for free (making most of their money from hardware) has
now been acquired by Oracle, a rapacious software company that doesn't. But so far, Oracle has not
interfered with Sun's Open Office distribution.

(One can't, of course, object to software companies charging for software -- but one should be wary
of those, like Microsoft and Oracle, that use every possible underhand tactic to establish monopolies
or near-monopolies and also charge exorbitantly.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bill Gates does not like to be confused by evidence

Hard Data Won't Change Educational Beliefs

Walt Gardner| 4 Comments | No TrackBacks
The debate over how to improve educational quality for all students in this country is predicated on the assumption that empiricism rather than ideology will eventually prevail. But a recent op-ed in the Boston Globe by Joe Keohane calls that belief into question ("How facts backfire," July 11). "Facts don't necessarily have the power to change our mind," he wrote. "In fact, quite the opposite." Keohane goes on to cite a series of studies in 2005 and 2006 by researchers at the University of Michigan showing that facts can actually make misinformation stronger.

The reasons for this counterintuitive finding range from simple defensiveness to avoidance of cognitive dissonance. But whatever the cause, they have direct relevance to efforts now underway to turn around failing schools. The best example is the campaign being waged by the 10-year-old Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek has a cover story detailing the thinking behind the foundation's distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars toward this goal since its inception and for its plans to spend $3 billion more in the next five to seven years on educational reform ("Bill Gates' School Crusade," July 15).

What emerges from the reportage is that Bill Gates does not like to be confused by evidence. In 2000, for example, he doled out hundreds of millions to make high schools smaller in the stubborn belief that student body size is crucial to student achievement. Gates subsequently discovered to his chagrin that students at small high schools, for example, were more likely to graduate than their peers at big high schools, but they did no better on standardized tests. Never one to let the facts get in the way of his personal convictions, he is now betting that teacher quality is the solution. The foundation is investing $290 million over the next seven years in the Tampa, Memphis and Pittsburgh school districts in the mistaken belief that measuring student gains on standardized tests is the key to educational quality.

It apparently makes no difference to Gates that this strategy is not nearly as straightforward as he thinks. Cheating by educators and narrowing of the curriculum, for example, have already been well documented in connection with high-stakes tests. Nevertheless, Gates wants to replace underperforming teachers (based on progress on student test scores) with effective teachers (based on the same metric). He is convinced that teachers ranked in the top 25 percent for four consecutive years will be enough to close the black-white achievement gap. He offers no credible evidence to support his assertion, but that doesn't undermine his influence.

That's because big money has a way of making itself heard over hard data. In today's recession, school districts are so desperate to avoid layoffs and make other cuts to their programs that when the Gates Foundation or other financial powerhouses come calling it's hard to resist doing their bidding. Adding to their enormous clout are their friends in the Obama administration. Together, they are a formidable team. 

Whether they will ever be open to other views about turning around failing schools is doubtful. Ideology is notoriously resistant to alteration even in the face of overwhelming evidence. This observation is true whether it applies to the richest man in America, the man in the White House or the man in the street.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Girls Prep Principal/CEO Miriam Lewis Raccah resigns

Check out the NY1 story below, and even more telling the GS article and comments here:

As we have been saying for years, the phony inflated grades and "accountability" systems cooked up by DoE and the self interest built into the crazy ( and getting crazier) "school support organizations" with built-in COI are making the local incompetence and small time corruption by some community school boards look like small potatoes.

Look out as more and more "networks," fueled by self interest (the need to survive, grow market share, gain power, etc) place "their" people in principal, AP and other bureaucratic and administrative positions.

Empowerment School Czar Nadlestern and his posse have modeled this move to power, after all.

This is not about the kids- this is business, baby.

What’s not clear from the report is how Pena-Herrera lasted as long as she did. According to the report, her supervisors saw red flags almost immediately, and in February 2007, two years before Pena-Herrera was removed, city officials convened a meeting to discuss her out-of-control financial practices.

One clue comes from the shifting lines of authority at the Department of Education in recent years. Figuring prominently into the report is Julia Bove, who was the superintendent of PS 114’s district in the 2005-2006 school year. Bove told investigators that she immediately recognized that Pena-Herrera was in over her head. But the following year Bove no longer supervised Pena-Herrera. The year after that, Bove once again worked with PS 114, but she did not have any real authority over Pena-Herrera because she was employed by one of the organizations within the department that competed for contracts with schools. PS 114 paid Bove’s group, the Integrated Learning and Instruction Learning Support Organization, $38,000 for its support, according to the report.

Another clue comes from Bove’s comment to investigators about the city’s priorities for its principals:

Bove reported that the Chancellor’s Office had been ready to remove Penaherrera [sic] during the 2007-2008 school year, but as a result of the massive amount of support provided to Penaherrera, the school’s rating went from an “F” to a “B,” so the Chancellor’s Office left Penaherrera in place.

Investigator: Brooklyn Principal Mismanaged Funds For Years

By: Lindsey Christ

Mayor Bloomberg and his schools chancellor say the key to reforming the schools is empowering principals, and holding them accountable. But a case in Brooklyn raises the question of whether that policy has always been followed as an investigation shows one principal remained in charge for years, even though officials knew she was seriously mismanaging her budget. Now investigators say she was also engaged in fraud. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

It began with a tip about misused money and faked financial documents at PS 114 in Canarsie. Investigators say they found plenty of evidence against principal Maria Penaherrera -- but there was much more. They say while she was in charge, PS 114 racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

"Everyone we spoke to mentioned how badly she was running the school, including one of the two consultants she had hired with the falsified bids. He said he had never seen more incompetence in the running of a school," said special schools investigator Richard Condon.

Penaherrera continued running the school for five years, even though the Department of Education admits it was no secret that she couldn't manage her budget. Her direct supervisor said she had known from day one that Penaherrera needed massive support to even function and "went crazy with the budget, spending money that she did not have."

Investigators say Penaherrera violated other rules, like rehiring a teacher who had been fired and paying for it with money meant for substitutes. They found check stubs showing school funds used for "glasses repair," "lost cell phone," tickets to a benefit dinner and a traffic ticket.

"This was really a lot of different issues," Condon said.

In 2006 she forgot to schedule the school graduation. In 2007, she kept a student out after his family filed a lawsuit saying he had been bound, gagged and locked in a closet by classmates. Teachers even chartered buses to their union headquarters to stage protests about her.

"Everyone was aware of her incompetence," Condon said.

In February 2009, Penaherrera was late to school when a carbon monoxide alarm went off. There was no safety plan, and she had left nobody in charge, so the school wasn't evacuated. Only then, did the DOE remove her as principal. She's still on the DOE payroll, although a spokesperson says they will try to fire her, now that they've learned of the fraud charges.

When the principal who replaced Penaherrara arrived, she realized the after-school program didn't have a permit. Investigators say the man running the program left a suitcase full of knock-off handbags on her desk, leading to more evidence of how business was done at PS 114.