Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Liz Brown, Media Relations
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 312/329-6250 (office)
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
“ 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.
Class Size Matters
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 policyhttp://voices.
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.
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....
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..
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.”
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.
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
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 (http://performanceassessment.org). 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 (www.joiningheartsandhands.org), which supports educational needs of African children.
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
Hard Data Won't Change Educational Beliefs
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
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.
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
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,
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.