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Public Schools Part of “American Carnage”

January 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Washington Post eduction reporter Valerie Strauss noted in her blog that public education WAS mentioned in President Trump’s speech, citing this excerpt:

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

She followed it with this question:

Public schools deprive students of all knowledge?

My question is: “We have an education system flush with cash?” If we have so much cash floating around, why have over 40 states had lawsuits filed because of funding inequities?


We Should Learn from Success as Well as Failure: Coordinated Intervention and Mediation Programs WORK!

January 20, 2017 Leave a comment

I just wrote a post describing the abysmal failure of the SIG “reform” models, suggesting that the $3,500,000,000 used to “blow up” traditional schools might have been better spent on comprehensive wraparound services. This article in the NYTimes, describing the full court press approach used to eliminate gun deaths in a housing project, validates that recommendation.  I fear that our new administration will emphasize “stipend frisk” tactics over mediation and gut funding for the kinds of re-entry jobs that provide credible mediators into dangerous neighborhoods like the one described in this article. It is frustrating to be on the cusp of identifying solutions to seemingly intractable problems only to take a giant step backward.

Money for Nothing: $3,500,000,0000 in SIG Grants Yield No Change in Test Scores

January 20, 2017 Leave a comment

If the “reform” movement was interested in evidence based decision making, they have now learned that spending $3,500,000,000 on their key ideas yielded no changes in student performance based on test scores and survey results. Mathematica, a non-partisan research group, recently concluded“…multiyear evaluation of School Improvement Grants (SIG) for the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. It examine(d) the practices used by schools that received grants and schools that did not, examine(d) whether SIG had an impact on student achievement, and examine(d) whether student achievement improved more with some school intervention models than with others.” The four SIG interventions are illustrated below:


As you can see, these intervention models reflect the ideas of reformers, who see the school personnel as the primary cause of “failure” as measured by test results and who also see more-of-the-same (i.e. a longer school day) as a means of improving a school. After implementing these intervention models, though, Mathematic found that nothing happened. Here are the findings in summary form:

  • Schools implementing a SIG-funded model used more SIG-promoted practices than other schools (23 versus 20, out of the 35 practices examined), but there was no evidence that SIG caused schools to use more practices. 

  • Implementing a SIG-funded model had no impact on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment. 

  • Elementary schools had similar improvements in math and reading test scores regardless of which SIG model they implemented.

  • Secondary schools implementing the turnaround model had larger improvements in math test scores than those implementing the transformation model. In contrast, reading improvements were similar for all models. The differences in math improvements across models might be due to factors other than the model implemented, such as existing differences between schools before they received grants.

So… lots of money was spent and no improvements occurred. How might that $3,500,000,000 have been spent more effectively? It seems to me that using a RTTT model to establish wraparound services in “failing schools” would have been better than using the RTTT money to “blow up” traditional schools and replace them with ones using the existing model for schooling…. but that would require the “reform” crowd to acknowledge that exogenous factors (i.e. poverty, re-segregation, homelessness, absent or overworked single parents, etc.) play a role in the attainment of test scores that teachers cannot mitigate by themselves. By focussing everything on the school the RTTT grants overlooked the need for schools to link with parents, with the community, and with the array of social agencies designed to help children and families. It reinforced the silo mentality that separates agencies from each other instead of designing a means of having this agencies work together… and it also played into the notion that privatization would be superior to retaining the current governance model whereby school boards make decisions for children in their locale.

As much as I regret seeing President Obama leave office, I regret even more the opportunity squandered by RTTT. There was a moment in time when an injection of funds could have moved the needle toward interagency cooperation. Instead, we spent billions to show that “reform” doesn’t work… and now we have vouchers to reduce us.

Satire Comes True: Governor Sununu Picks DeVos Double to Head NH Education Department

January 19, 2017 Leave a comment

In early December I wrote and posted a satirical open letter to the Governors of VT and NH that began with this suggestion:

First, you need to replace your current chief education officers with business leaders or philanthropists. Anyone with a background in public education will be incapable of implementing the kind of market-based program needed to truly reform “government schools”. An educator will be reluctant to use technology to disrupt the traditional classroom instruction that requires human interaction and will be inclined to work with and listen to the unionized teachers. An entrepreneur or philanthropist will see the value of running schools like a business. If you really want to be bold, you might replace the entire State Board and state department with an education management company. They have worked effectively in Michigan and in several urban areas and there is no reason to think they couldn’t do an equally effective job managing a state department.

I doubt that either governor reads this blog, but, based on this excerpt from an article in today’s Concord Monitor it appears that Governor Sununu has taken my advice:

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has tapped a Common Core critic who home-schooled his seven children to lead the state’s education department.

Sununu officially nominated one-term state Rep. Frank Edelblut on Wednesday, a move that drew quick criticism from the left and praise from Republicans.

Edelblut is a businessman from Wilton who unsuccessfully challenged Sununu for the GOP gubernatorial nomination last year. Edelblut has never served on his local school board, but said his corporate background will help modernize the state’s public education system.

“Who better to bridge that gap between the workforce and education system than someone who knows the workforce really well?” said Edelblut, who sold his consulting business in 2009 for an undisclosed sum.

I’m beginning to this I CAN make this stuff up…. I only hope Mr. Edelblut doesn’t take the rest of the advice I offered in the open letter!

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Obama’s Failure to Write “Supplement versus Supplant” Guidelines Gives Trump and Republican Governors a Gift

January 19, 2017 Leave a comment

I just read in this brief Politico article that the Obama administration failed to write “…proposed regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act meant to ensure that poor and minority students get their fair share of state and local education funding.” 

I’m not ready to jump to too many conclusions… but… I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this opens the door for the possibility of ALL Federal dollars— including those for handicapped children— being lumped into a block grant that States could use as they wish. One thing is certain, it DOES open the door for States to dump Federal dollars formerly earmarked for schools serving children poverty into their general funds that can then be used to lower taxes for everyone… including those living in the most affluent communities. This is a sad ending to the Obama administration’s already flawed education legacy.

Trump’s Pick for Education Secretary Refuses to Disavow Teaching Intelligent Design in Public Schools @alternet

January 19, 2017 Leave a comment

Yet another show-stopper… How on earth can someone who advocates a science curriculum that includes Intelligent Design be a serious candidate for Secretary of Education… Oh, wait, I forgot, we have a whole host of nominees who deny the findings of climate science… Why shouldn’t we have a Secretary of Education who denies the existence of evolution?  

Billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos is a champion of the school privatization movement.

Source: Trump’s Pick for Education Secretary Refuses to Disavow Teaching Intelligent Design in Public Schools @alternet

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A Politico Story on the Senate DeVos Hearing that Requires No Narrative

January 18, 2017 Leave a comment

I’m just going to let this Politico story speak for itself.


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