Nevada: Legislature Changes Rules for High School Graduation, Offers Chance to Those Without a Diploma

In too many states, legislators meddle in schools nonstop, mandating tests that most of the legislators couldn’t pass, changing the high-school graduation requirements without thinking of the consequences.

Nevada is a case in point.

But at least the legislators will give those who didn’t meet the last graduation requirement a new chance to earn a diploma.

Without a diploma, a young adult can’t get a decent job.

“Former Nevada students who failed to earn a high school diploma because they couldn’t pass the state’s proficiency exam now have a shot at redemption.

“In 2013, the state Legislature approved phasing out the proficiency exam graduation requirement in favor of four end-of-course tests. But before the end-of-course exam requirement went into effect, legislation removed that requirement in 2017.

“That created a situation where students who didn’t pass the proficiency exam were being held to a different standard than more recent students.

“That will change as the result of a guidance memo sent to district superintendents by the state on Oct. 13, as long as the student meets all other graduation requirements.

“The change levels the playing field for adult education learners who are still trying to earn a diploma, according to the state.

“If it wasn’t retroactive we’d have a situation where we’d say if you’re 22, here’s your diploma, if you’re 23, take the test,” said Henry King, an educational program professional in the state Department of Education. “It would have created an artificial age line in adult ed by which there would have been different graduation requirements based on how old they were.”

from sarah


Florida: School Vouchers Gone Wild: Brilliant Investigative Reporting

When the Orlando Sentinel published an in-depth expose of Florida’s unregulated, unaccountable, wasteful voucher programs, defenders of vouchers rushed to attack the series.

Remember, Betsy DeVos considers Florida the model that she wants for America.

Scott Maxwell of the Sentinel responds to the critics here.

The nation needs more journalistic scrutiny of the unscrupulous, fraudulent, and incompetent hucksters who are siphoning billions of dollars away from public schools with certified teachers. In Florida, it is $1 Billion a year, and that is only for vouchers, not charters, which has its own share of scams and frauds. In Michigan, the charter industry drains $1 Billion a year away from public schools, and the charters don’t get better outcomes than the public schools; many are far worse, and 80% are for-profit.

Congratulations to the Orlando Sentinel for scrutinizing Florida’s voucher schools.

For the first time ever, I add a newspaper to the honor roll of this Blog.

Here is an excerpt.

“The “Schools without Rules” series exposed scores of problems at these publicly funded schools — everything from forged safety reports to a school run by a pastor accused of lewd or lascivious molestation.

“Just as importantly, it exposed a wicked hypocrisy among politicians who scream for “accountability” for public schools but let anything go when your tax dollars are whisked away to private ones.

“This little-regulated system needs an overhaul. And the world needs more real journalists.

“Among the findings from reporters Beth Kassab, Leslie Postal and Annie Martin:

“Teachers without certification or even college degrees.

“Forged documents: Schools faked up clean bills of health from fire departments, which had found safety problems. Even after the schools were caught, state officials let them remain open.

“Shady hirings: Two teachers worked at voucher schools (the state calls them “scholarship” schools) after being fired from public schools for having porn on their school computers.

“Alleged crime: At one school for special-needs kids, suspicions of impropriety — among parents and even a teacher — continued until authorities arrested the school owner, accusing her of stealing more than $4 million in Medicaid funds.

“Troubling finances and learning environments: Two school were evicted from their locations for nonpayment of rent while the school year was still going on. Another shared office-suite space with a bail bondsman.”

If there were newspapers in every state willing to investigate the privatization of their public schools, the public would understand the scandal that is going on in the dark. In Ohio, local newspapers started paying attention to charter scandals, and it affected public opinion. In the past two years, charter enrollments have fallen in Ohio as the public understands the risks they are taking by enrolling their children in schools without roots and the damage they are doing to their public schools.

More coverage, please!

from sarah

Laura Chapman on Bill Gates’ Hubris, Ignorance, and Folly

A couple of days ago, Bill Gates said he has a new plan to reform education. As I pointed out in a post, Bill Gates is batting 0 for 3. He dropped $2 Billion into breaking up large high schools and turning them into small schools. He started in 2000, didn’t see a big jump in test scores, and backed out in 2008. Then, having decided that the answer to high test scores was to punish teachers whose student scores didn’t go up, he pushed value-added Assessment, partnering with Arne Duncan and Race to the Top. Thousands of educators were fired and many schools were closed based on Gates’s fancy. That lasted from 2008 until now, and it has been written into state law in many states, although it has distorted the purpose of education and created massive demoralization among teachers and a national teacher shortage. Then he funded the Common Core, in its entirety. It is his pedagogical Frankenstein, his personal belief that education should be completely standardized, from standards to curriculum to teacher education to teacher evaluation. Speaking to the National Board for Certified Teachers a few years ago, he praised standardization and talked about the beauty of standard electrical plugs. No matter where you live, you can plug in an appliance and it works! Clearly, that was his metaphor for education. What did he spend on the creation and promotion of the Common Core? No one knows for sure, but estimates range from $200 Million to $2 Billion.

There is one other massive Gates failure that I forgot to mention: inBloom. This was a $100million investment in data mining of students’ personally identifiable data. Several states and districts agreed to turn their data over to inBloom, which wipould use the data as its owners chose. Parents got wind of this and launched a campaign to stop in loom. Led by Leonie Haimson of New York and Rachel Stickland of Colorado, parents besieged their legislators, and one by one, the state’s and districts pulled out. InBloom collapsed.

We don’t know how much money Gates has poured into charter schools, but we imagine he must be disappointed that on average they don’t produce higher scores than the public schools he disdains. He bundled millions for a referendum in Washington State to allow charter schools, the fourth such referendum. Despite Gates’ swamping the election with money, the motion barely passed. Then the State’s highest court denied public funding to charter schools, declaring that they are not public schools because they are not governed by elected school boards. Gates and his friends tried to oust the Chief Judge when she ran for re-election, but she coasted to victory.

As you see, he is actually 0 for 5 in his determination to “reform” the nation’s public schools.

But he is not deterred by failure!

So what is the latest Gates’ idea?

Laura Chapman explains here:

“At the Meeting of the Council for Great City Schools October 19, 2017, Gates said:

“Today, I’d like to share what we have learned over the last 17 years and how those insights will change what we focus on over the next five years.”

“I think that Gates has learned very little about education in the last 17 years. He is still fixated on “the lagging performance” of our students on what he regards as “the key metrics of a quality education – math scores, English scores, international comparisons, and college completion.

“Gates wants his narrow definition of “quality education” to be accepted as if the proper doctrine for improving schools and also ensuring the “economic future and competitiveness of the United States.”

“Gates wants faster progress in raising test scores, and high school graduation rates. He seems to think that “constraints and other demands on state and local budget” actually justify his plans to “ increase high school graduation and college-readiness rates.”

“Gates takes credit for funding for the deeply flawed + Measures of Effective Teaching project (MET), claiming that it showed educators ”how to gather feedback from students on their engagement and classroom learning experiences . . . and about observing teachers at their craft, assessing their performance fairly, and providing actionable feedback.” The $64 million project in 2007 tried to make it legitimate for teachers to be judged by “multiple measures” including the discredited VAM, and dubious Danielson teacher observation protocol Gates learned nothing from that micromanaging effort.

“Gates funded and promoted the Common Core. He says: “Teachers need better curricula and professional development aligned with the Common Core.”He remains committed to the ideas that “teacher evaluations and ratings” are useful ways “to improve instruction,” He thinks “data-driven continuous learning and evidence-based interventions,” will improve student achievement. This jargon is meaningless.

“Gates said: Overall, we expect to invest close to $1.7 billion in US public education over the next five years.“…“We anticipate that about 60 percent of this will eventually support the development of new curricula and networks of schools that work together to identify local problems and solutions . . . and use data to drive continuous improvement.

“Don’t be deceived by the “public education” comment. Gates wants to control public schools by dismantling their governance by and for the public. By “networks of schools” Gates means “innovation districts” where persons employed by private interests can control educational policy under the banner of “collaboration” or “partnership.”

“Gates offers several examples of networks. One is CORE, a so-called “partnership” of eight large urban school districts in California: Fresno, Garden Grove, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and Santa Ana,

“CORE stands for “California Office for Reform in Education CORE a non-governmental organization, based in San Francisco, funded by the Stuart Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation (Stephen Bechtel Fund); and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Here are some other things you should know about CORE.

“CORE was created in order to bypass the California State Board of Education and Race to the Top accountability, by marketing its new “School Quality Improvement Index.” This index includes social-emotional learning and school climate indicators in addition to California requirements—test scores, graduation rates, and the like.
Participating CORE Districts are bound to the terms of a memorandum of understanding, signed only by each district superintendent. This MOU specifies that the district will use: CORE-approved school improvement ratings based on existing and new indicators, a CORE-approved teacher and principal evaluation process with professional development plans, CORE-specific teacher and principal hiring and retention policies with cross-district sharing data—including results from teacher/student/parent surveys of school climate and student self-assessments of their social-emotional skills.

“The final rating for each school in a CORE district is a complex web of weightings and transformations of scores into performance and growth measures: 40% of the overall rating for school climate/social emotional indicators and 60% for academics.

“An autonomous “School Quality Oversight Panel” nullifies oversight of these districts by the State Board of Education. This “oversight” panel has CORE supporters recruited from The Association of California School Administrators, and California School Boards Association, California State PTA. The main monitors/promoters of this scheme are actually two panel members: Ed Trust West and the Policy Analysis for California Education. Bot of these organizations are sustained in large measure by private funding.

“Ed Trust West is funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies, State Farm Companies, and these foundations: Bill & Melinda Gates, Joyce, Kresge, Lumina, Wallace Foundation, and the Walton Family. The Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) is based at Stanford University, with participation by the University of California – Berkeley, and the University of Southern California. PACE is a conduit for grants from USDE and from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation; Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund; S. D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation; Walter and Elise Haas Fund; and The Walter S. Johnson Foundation.

“School ratings developed by the CORE Districts flow directly to —a marketing site for schools and education products. is funded by the Gates, Walton, Robertson, and Arnold Foundations. Add the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Bradley Foundation, Goldman Sachs Gives, New Schools Venture Fund. and 15 other foundations.“ in a non-profit in name only. sells data from all states and districts. For a fee, it will push users of the website to particular schools. Buyers of the data include Zillow and Scholastic.

“I think that the CORE District model illustrates how the private takeover of education is happening. Policy formation and favored school practices are being determined by the wealth and the peculiar visions non governmental groups with deep pockets. In the CORE Districts, this work is aided and abetted by superintendents who are eager for the money and the illusion of prestige that comes from permitting private funders to determine educational policies and practices.

“Gates’ speech to members of the Council of the Great City Schools also includes the example of Tennessee’s LIFT Education as a “network” that is worth replicating.

“LIFT Education enlists educators from 12 rural and urban districts across the state to promote the Common Core agenda and Teach for America practices. Participants in LIFT Education are convened by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education —SCORE. The SCORE website says participants in LIFT have spent the last year and a half collaborating on high-quality early literacy instruction, focusing on building knowledge and vocabulary by piloting knowledge-rich read-alouds in early grades.

“The LIFT/SCORE alliance provides a governance structure for insisting that teachers follow the Gates-funded Common Core. Teachers are given an instructional practice guide that is also a teacher evaluation rubric from Student Achievement Partner, authors of the Common Core.

“This LIFT/SCORE non-governmental network is the result of private wealth channeled to superintendents who have outsourced the “coaching” and compliance monitoring for the Common Core literacy project to the Brooklyn-based The New Teachers Project (TNTP). In effect, TFA coaching and systems of data-gathering are present in all of the LIFT/SCORE districts.

“SCORE, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education has been funded since 2010 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, so far $10,623,497 including multiple years for operating support. Add a 2012 grant to SCORE as sponsor of a Chiefs for Change Policy Forum for district leaders so they would be “ambassadors for education reform.” The bait for the LIFT/SCORE network thus came from Chiefs for Change–Jeb Bush’s baby, unfriendly to public education.

“Gates says: “Over the next several years, we will support about 30 of these networks (e.g.., CORE, LIFT) and will start initially with high needs schools and districts in 6 to 8 states. Each network will be backed by a team of education experts skilled in continuous improvement, coaching, and data collection and analysis.””

“Our goal is to work with the field to ensure that five years from now, teachers at every grade level in secondary schools have access to high-quality, aligned curriculum choices in English and math, as well as science curricula based on the Next Generation Science Standards.”

“What else is in the works from the many who would be king of American education?

“We expect that about 25 percent of our funding in the next five years will focus on big bets – innovations with the potential to change the trajectory of public education over the next 10 to 15 years.” What does Gates means by “big bets?” He expects to command the expertise and R&D to change the “trajectory” of education. He will fund translations of “developments in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and behavioral economics” in addition to “technology-enabled” approaches in education.

“There is money left for more.

“We anticipate that the final 15 percent of our funding in the next five years will go to the charter sector. We will continue to help high-performing charters expand to serve more students. But our emphasis will be on efforts that improve outcomes for special needs students — especially kids with mild-to-moderate learning and behavioral disabilities.”

“This proposal sounds like Gates wants to cherry pick the students with “mild to moderate learning and behavioral disabilities,” send them to Gates-funded charter schools to bring their scores up, then claim success where everyone else has failed. This same strategy is being used in “pay-for performance” preschools. Gates sounds like he expects to have a free-hand in ignoring the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Evidently he wants the “flexibility” to ignore IDEA that he believes to be present in charter schools.

“Bill Gates is still fixated on the idea that his money and clout can and will attract other foundations and private investors. He still holds on to the mistaken idea that “what works” in one community or state can be “scaled up,” and REPLICATED, elsewhere. He is ignorant of the history of education and efforts to replicate programs. He is trapped in an industrial one-size-fits-all model of education.

“Gates ends with this: “Our role is to serve as a catalyst of good ideas, driven by the same guiding principle we started with: all students – but especially low-income students and students of color – must have equal access to a great public education that prepares them for adulthood. We will not stop until this has been achieved, and we look forward to continued partnership with you in this work in the years to come.”

“Beware of billionaires who want to partner with you.

“Gates still seems to think that students, especially low income students, can and will be successful if they have “ equal access to a great public education.” He remains ignorant of the abundant research that shows schools alone are not responsible for, or solutions to, institutionalized segregation and poverty–the main causes of serious disadvantage among low-income students and students of color.

“Gates has grandiose plans. All are focused on privatizing education and selling that snake oil as if it is authentic support for public education.“

from sarah

Marion Brady on Curricular Fragmentation

Marion Brady is a veteran educator who is now 90 years old. He does not give up hope that a better education is possible.

He shared these quotes with me, and he invites you to contact him to discuss his views about curricular fragmentation. He has written often for Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet.

Curricular Fragmentation

John Goodlad: “The division into subjects and periods encourages a segmented rather than an integrated view of knowledge. Consequently, what students are asked to relate to in schooling becomes increasingly artificial, cut off from the human experiences subject matter is supposed to reflect.” A Place Called School, McGraw-Hill, 1984, p.266

Thomas Merton: “The world itself is no problem, but we are a problem to ourselves because we are alienated from ourselves, and this alienation is due precisely to an inveterate habit of division by which we break reality into pieces and then wonder why, after we have manipulated the pieces until they fall apart, we find ourselves out of touch with life, with reality, with the world, and most of all with ourselves.” Contemplation in a World of Action, Paulist Press, 1992, p.153)

Theodore Sizer: “The fact is that there is virtually no federal-level talk about intellectual coherence for [a student]. The curricular suggestions and mandates leave the traditional “subjects” in virtually total isolation, and both the old and most of the new assessment systems blindly continue to tolerate a profound separation of subject matters, accepting them as conventionally defined … The crucial, culminating task for [the student] of making sense of it all, at some rigorous standard, is left entirely to him alone.” School Reform and the Feds: The Perspective from Sam. Planning and Changing, v22 n3-4 p248-52 1991

Neil Postman: “There is no longer any principle that unifies the school curriculum and furnishes it with meaning.” Phi Delta Kappan, January 1983, p. 316

David W. Orr: [Formal schooling] “…imprints a disciplinary template onto impressionable minds and with it the belief that the world really is as disconnected as the divisions, disciplines, and subdivisions of the typical curriculum. Students come to believe that there is such a thing as politics separate from ecology or that economics has nothing to do with physics.” Earth in Mind, Island Press, 1994, p.23

Leon Botstein: “”We must fight the inappropriate fragmentation of the curriculum by disciplines . . .” The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 1, 1982, P. 28

Peter M. Senge: “From a very early age, we are taught to break apart problems, to fragment the world. This apparently makes complex tasks and subjects more manageable, but we pay a hidden, enormous price. We can no longer see the consequences of our actions; we lose our intrinsic sense of connection to a larger whole.” The Fifth Discipline, Currency Doubleday 1990, p.3

Harlan Cleveland: “It is a well-known scandal that our whole educational system is geared more to categorizing and analyzing patches of knowledge than to threading them together.” Change, July/August 1985, p. 20

Thomas Jefferson: “…every science is auxiliary to every other.” Extract from letter to Thomas Randolph, 27 August, 1786

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. “The things other people have put into my head, at any rate, do not fit together nicely, are often useless and ugly, are out of proportion with one another, and out of proportion with life as it really is outside my head.” Preface to Breakfast of Champions

Buckminster Fuller: “American education has evolved in such a way it will be the undoing of the society.” (Quoted in Officer Review, March 1989, p.5)
Rene Descartes: “If, therefore, anyone wishes to search out the truth of things in serious earnest, he ought not to select one special science; for all the sciences are conjoined with each other and interdependent…” Rule 1, Rules for the Direction of the Mind, 1628.

Alfred North Whitehead: “[We must] eradicate the fatal disconnection of subjects which kills the vitality of the modern curriculum.” Presidential Address to the Mathematical Association of England, 1916

Felix Frankfurter: “That our universities have grave shortcomings for the intellectual life of this nation is by now a commonplace. The chief source of their inadequacy is probably the curse of departmentalization.” Introduction to Alfred North Whitehead’s The Aims of Education, Mentor 1948
John Muir: “When we try to pick up anything by itself we find it is attached to everything in the universe.”

Ernest Boyer: “All of our experience should have made it clear by now that faculty and students will not derive from a list of disjointed courses a coherent curriculum revealing the necessary interdependence of knowledge.” (Paraphrased by Daniel Tanner in his review of Boyer’s book High School. Phi Delta Kappan, March 1984, p. 10)

Robert Stevens: “We have lost sight of our responsibility for synthesizing knowledge.” (Liberal Education, Vol. 71, No. 2, 1985, p.163)

Jonathan Smith: “To dump on students the task of finding coherence in their education is indefensible.” Quoted in Time, April 20, 1981, p. 50

John Kemeny: “The problems now faced by our society transcend the bounds of the disciplines.” Quoted by William Newell in Liberal Education, Association of American Colleges, 1983, Vol. 69, No. 3

Arnold Thackeray: “The world of our experience does not come to us in the pieces we have been carving out.” Quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 1987, p. A 14

David Cohen: “Testing companies, textbook publishers, teacher specialists, associations representing specific content areas, and other agencies all speak in different and often inconsistent voices…The U.S. does not have a coherent system for deciding on and articulating curriculum and instruction.” (Phi Delta Kappan, March 1990, p. 522

Frank Betts: “Learning begins as an integrated experience as a newborn child experiences the world in its totality.” ASCD 1993, 13.7

Greg Stefanich and Charles Dedrick: “Learning is best when all of a student’s educational experiences merge to form an integrated whole, thereby transforming information into a larger network of personal knowledge.” Science and Mathematics, 1985, Vol.58, p.275

James Coomer: “Our educational systems . . . are now primarily designed to teach people specialized knowledge — to enable students to divide and dissect knowledge. At the heart of this pattern of teaching is . . . a view of the world that is quite simply false.” (Texas Tech Journal of Education, 1982, p.166)

Thích Nhất Hạnh: “People normally cut reality into compartments, and so are unable to see the interdependence of all phenomena. To see one in all and all in one is to break through the great barrier which narrows one’s perception of reality.” The Miracle of Mindfulness, Beacon Press, 1975, 6

David Bohm: “I think the difficulty is this fragmentation. All thought is broken up into bits. Like this nation, this country, this industry, this profession and so on… And they can’t meet. That comes about because thought has developed traditionally in a way such that it claims not to be effecting anything but just telling you the way things are. Therefore, people cannot see that they are creating a problem and then apparently trying to solve it… Wholeness is a kind of attitude or approach to the whole of life. If we can have a coherent approach to reality then reality will respond coherently to us.” Wholeness: A Coherent Approach to Reality (Presentation in Amsterdam, in 1990, documentary Art Meets Science & Spirituality in a Changing Economy.

Leonardo Da Vinci: “Learn how to see—realize that everything connects to everything else.”

Paul DeHart Hurd: “There are neither philosophical nor psychological grounds for compartmentalizing knowledge into islands of information as school subjects are currently conceived.” Middle School Journal, Vol. 20, No.5, p.22

James Moffett: “[It is essential to integrate] learning across subjects, media, and kinds of discourse so that individuals may continuously synthesize their own thought structures.” Phi Delta Kappan, September 1985, p. 55.

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi: “Through their studies, children must be brought to that point of awareness wherein . . . [they] get some sort of total picture of it all . . . In advancing level by level through the curriculum, students should be internalizing an overall idea structure of means and ends.” Education for Creative Living, 1989, p. 196

Stephanie Pace Marshall: “The natural world is now understood as an interdependent, relational, and living web of connections.” (The Power to Transform, Jossey-Bass, 2006, p. xii)

Richard A. Gibboney, “The atomized chop-chop of the high school curriculum has filtered up to higher education.” The Stone Trumpet, State University of New York Press, 1994. p. 9

Roger Schank: “Academics designed the school system. To them, it seemed natural that subjects that they were experts on should be taught in high school. Such a simple thought has created a major problem. Education ought not to be subject-based but, in a sense, we can’t help but think of it that way because we all went to schools that were subject-based.” (Teaching Minds, How cognitive science can save our schools). Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 2011

Arthur Koestler: “…all decisive events in the history of scientific thought can be described in terms of mental cross-fertilization between different disciplines.” The Act of Creation, Penguin, London 1964

Albert Einstein: “I like to experience the universe as one harmonious whole.” Einstein and the Poet: In Search of the Cosmic Man (1983)

Association of American Colleges: “We do not believe that the road to a coherent education can be constructed from a set of required subjects or academic disciplines.” (“Integrity In the College Curriculum, A Report to the Academic Community,” Project On Redefining the Meaning and Purpose of Baccalaureate Degrees, 1985)

Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching: “The disciplines have fragmented themselves into smaller and smaller pieces, and undergraduates find it difficult to see patterns in their courses and relate what they learn to life.” Prologue to “College: The Undergraduate Experience in America,” November 1986

Marion Brady’s homepage:
His email:

from sarah

How to Decipher and Detect Fake News

Jack Hassard wrote about the use of social media to spread fake news. Facebook, Twitter, and Google have become facilitators of fake news.

We know it is there. What can we do about it?

This is a very good analysis by a group of scholars at the Stanford History Education Group about civic reasoning, which explains how to avoid being hoaxed by fake news.

The questions that must always be present in any discussion is: How do you know? Who said so? What is the source? How reliable is the source? Can you confirm this information elsewhere? What counts as reliable evidence?

Many people use Wikipedia as a reliable source, but Wikipedia is crowdsourced and is not authoritative. I recall some years back when I gave a lecture in North Carolina that was named in honor of a distinguished senator of the state. The Wikipedia entry said he was a Communist, as were members of his staff. This was obviously the work of a troll. But it might not be obvious to a student researching a paper.

They write:

“Fake news is certainly a problem. Sadly, however, it’s not our biggest. Fact-checking organizations like Snopes and PolitiFact can help us detect canards invented by enterprising Macedonian teenagers,3 but the Internet is filled with content that defies labels like “fake” or “real.” Determining who’s behind information and whether it’s worthy of our trust is more complex than a true/false dichotomy.

“For every social issue, there are websites that blast half-true headlines, manipulate data, and advance partisan agendas. Some of these sites are transparent about who runs them and whom they represent. Others conceal their backing, portraying themselves as grassroots efforts when, in reality, they’re front groups for commercial or political interests. This doesn’t necessarily mean their information is false. But citizens trying to make decisions about, say, genetically modified foods should know whether a biotechnology company is behind the information they’re reading. Understanding where information comes from and who’s responsible for it are essential in making judgments of credibility.

“The Internet dominates young people’s lives. According to one study, teenagers spend nearly nine hours a day online.4 With optimism, trepidation, and, at times, annoyance, we’ve witnessed young people’s digital dexterity and astonishing screen stamina. Today’s students are more likely to learn about the world through social media than through traditional sources like print newspapers.5 It’s critical that students know how to evaluate the content that flashes on their screens.

“Unfortunately, our research at the Stanford History Education Group demonstrates they don’t.* Between January 2015 and June 2016, we administered 56 tasks to students across 12 states. (To see sample items, go to (link is external).) We collected and analyzed 7,804 student responses. Our sites for field-testing included middle and high schools in inner-city Los Angeles and suburban schools outside of Minneapolis. We also administered tasks to college-level students at six different universities that ranged from Stanford University, a school that rejects 94 percent of its applicants, to large state universities that admit the majority of students who apply.

“When thousands of students respond to dozens of tasks, we can expect many variations. That was certainly the case in our experience. However, at each level—middle school, high school, and college—these variations paled in comparison to a stunning and dismaying consistency. Overall, young people’s ability to reason about information on the Internet can be summed up in two words: needs improvement.

“Our “digital natives”† may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they’re easily duped. Our exercises were not designed to assign letter grades or make hairsplitting distinctions between “good” and “better.” Rather, at each level, we sought to establish a reasonable bar that was within reach of middle school, high school, or college students. At each level, students fell far below the bar.”

They offer specific examples of hoaxes to show how easily people are duped.

They conclude:

“The senior fact checker at a national publication told us what she tells her staff: “The greatest enemy of fact checking is hubris”—that is, having excessive trust in one’s ability to accurately pass judgment on an unfamiliar website. Even on seemingly innocuous topics, the fact checker says to herself, “This seems official; it may be or may not be. I’d better check.”

“The strategies we recommend here are ways to fend off hubris. They remind us that our eyes deceive, and that we, too, can fall prey to professional-looking graphics, strings of academic references, and the allure of “.org” domains. Our approach does not turn students into cynics. It does the opposite: it provides them with a dose of humility. It helps them understand that they are fallible.

“The web is a sophisticated place, and all of us are susceptible to being taken in. Like hikers using a compass to make their way through the wilderness, we need a few powerful and flexible strategies for getting our bearings, gaining a sense of where we’ve landed, and deciding how to move forward through treacherous online terrain. Rather than having students slog through strings of questions about easily manipulated features, we should be teaching them that the World Wide Web is, in the words of web-literacy expert Mike Caulfield, “a web, and the way to establish authority and truth on the web is to use the web-like properties of it.”13 This is what professional fact checkers do.

“It’s what we should be teaching our students to do as well.”

from sarah

Susan Ochshorn Sends a Message to Billionaires: Little Children Are Not Investment Vehicles

Susan Ochshorn founded ECE PolicyWorks to advocate for high-quality education for young children.

In this post, she analyzes the pernicious influence of financiers and hedge fund managers on decisions about the fate of young children, as they figure out how to make a profit with “Social impact bonds.”

Everyone loves the idea of early childhoood education. But unfortunately the financiers have figured out how to make it pay—for them.

Ochshorn shows how Goldman Sachs and other investors saw a path to profit and how public officials fell in love with metrics. The children? Not so much.

She gives the background of the social impact bond.

And she concludes that commodifying children is a very bad idea:

“By last summer, the U.S. Department of Education had gotten on board. Under the aegis of John King, former education commissioner of New York, they launched a Pay for Success grant competition, $2.8 million available for state, local, and tribal governments interested in exploring the investment vehicle’s feasibility. Early this year, as Betsy DeVos replaced King in the top job, the department distributed funding ranging from $300 to $400 million to 8 recipients. Rigorous evaluation, as the Urban Institute’s “Pay for Success Early Childhood Education Toolkit,” makes clear, is the sine qua non of the transaction, precise metrics and data collection essential for determining the venture’s outcome.

“To quantify is to have the illusion of mastery over all that defies our control, yet the metrics fall short, the ends perverted: they cannot capture children’s unique capacities, or the uneven trajectory of their development—as messy and challenging as it gets.

“Three- and four-year-olds are not commodities. They have had the grave misfortune of entering the academic arena in a period of measurement gone berserk. What young children need most is time, and sustained support for experiences that nourish their bodies, minds, and spirits—their due, according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the U.S has not yet ratified more than 25 years after the resolution was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly.

“The benchmarks and assessments of the Common Core violate this right—especially for our youngest students. So do social impact bonds. If the payback is contingent upon a particular timetable, and the desired outcomes are not forthcoming, where does that leave the kids?

“Those who have made their millions and billions in private equity, investment banking, and hedge funds see themselves as the saviors of our most vulnerable children. Yet their fancy models are putting our youngest learners at greater risk—along with democracy and the public good.”

from sarah

Ann P. Cronin: How to Prepare Students for the Future

Many years back, I wrote an essay about the poor track record of those who purport to know the jobs of the future. I looked back at predictions made by great minds over the 20th century, and they were all wrong. We don’t seem to have a magic crystal ball.Just the other day, a neighbor asked me to advise his daughter, a high school student, about how to prepare for the future. We haven’t met yet, but when we do, I will urge her to get a solid liberal arts education, to immerse herself in literature, history, and delve deeply into her interests.

Ann Cronin, who has been a teacher, administrator, and all-round accomplished educator in Connecticut, uses this post to offer advice about how to prepare for an unknown future. She calls it “a toolkit for the future.”

The most important preparation is to develop as thinkers and learners.

Here are three practical ways that teachers can do that:

“Teach students to question.
“Teach students to write essays that explore questions of importance to them.
“Teach students to write essays about how they came to know what they know.”

She observes:

“The Common Core State Standards do not ask students to think in these ways. They are falsely marketed as being about critical thinking; those standards do not give students the learning and thinking skills needed for the future. Also, no standardized test in the United States assesses questioning, collaborating, creative thinking, or learning to learn skills. Every minute of class time given to preparing students for those tests takes students away from what they really need to learn.

“The future is almost upon us; it is just about here. It’s time to give students what they need. Invite them to question, to explore possibilities, to imagine solutions, to grow and change as thinkers, and to fall in love with learning. Then sit back and watch where they take us. It will be better than we now know.”

from sarah

Ohio: Fordham Knocks Stephen Dyer for His Criticism of Charters; Dyer Strikes Back

Stephen Dyer is a Senior Fellow at Innovation Ohio and a former legislator. He has scrutinized state data exhaustively and reported that district schools outperform charter schools by every measure: test scores, graduation rates, achievement gaps. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute didn’t agree with his conclusions. Although it claims to be a think tank, it is in fact an advocacy group for school choice.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which is technically based in Dayton (where the late Mr. Fordham lived) is actually based in D.C., is an authorizer of charter schools in Ohio. Authorizers are paid a commission on every student who enrol in charter schools so it is a lucrative role. I was a board member at TBF and an original founder. I opposed the decision to become an authorizer because I thought that it conflicted with the role of a think tank, which should be free to critique or praise anyone without fear or favor. I was outvoted.

In this post, Stephen Dyer responds to TBF criticism.

He explains that every public school in Ohio receives less money so charters can be funded.

“According to the final state payment made to school districts from June, there were 1.7 million students in Ohio set to receive $7.95 billion in total state aid. That’s works out to $4,657 (I’m rounding here) for every student in local public school districts.

“Then come charter schools.

“According to the report, $898 million left school districts last year for charters (a district-by-district breakdown I received from the Ohio Department of Education puts that tally at $935 million, so there’s that). Leaving with that funding were 113,613 students.

“So, after losing the funding and students to charter schools, the remaining 1.59 million children in Ohio school districts were set to receive $7.05 billion in state revenue, or $4,425 each.

“That means that the charter deduction costs every kid in Ohio school districts, on average, $231.51.

“This is why I compare charter school performance with school district performance. Because charter schools affect every kid in a school district. Profoundly. How profoundly? Let’s look at Columbus.

“Prior to the charter school deduction, every kid in Columbus City Schools is set to receive $4,559 in state funding. However, once the $145.65 million and 18,541 students are transferred to charter schools, the remaining 53,532 students who attend Columbus City School buildings receive $3,418 per pupil. That is a difference of $1,141.62. So charter schools cost students who are in Columbus City Schools about 1/4 of their state revenue. That’s every student in Columbus, regardless of wealth, race, or disability, Jamie.




“So if this profound a change in state funding is going to happen for the 75 percent of children who remain in Columbus City Schools, or the 93 percent of children who remain in Ohio’s local public school districts, we’d better be damn sure it’s worth it. Is it worth removing $1,141.62 from kids in the best performing school in Columbus so thousands of kids can go to ECOT, for example (ECOT is the largest recipient of charter school transfer funding from Columbus)?

“I would say that’s a big, “No.”

“Now my friends at Fordham often complain that charters don’t get local revenue. And while that’s true, I fail to see how that justifies removing millions of state dollars from kids in local school districts. If the legislature believes in school choice so strongly, then set aside $260 million or so to make up for the lack of local revenue.

“Stop taking it from the 1.59 million kids who aren’t in charters.“

from sarah

Teacher: I Opted Out All My English Classes from Taking SBAC!

A daily reader and commenter who calls him/herself LeftCoastTeacher left the following comment:

I’m off topic, sorry, but I am excited.

Congratulate my students! I have just been able to Opt Out all my English classes from taking the SBAC Interim Assessments. I work in a district with criminals on the board and their deform appointees in administration, so the entire district is being forced to take the computer-based interim assessments made by the Smarter (dumber) (un)Balanced Assessment (not) Consortium (conspiracy), or SBAC. You know those interim tests are just a stepping stone toward Competency Based data collection taking over instruction time completely.

In California, schools and districts are required to inform parents of their right to Opt Out of state tests. So, I went to admin and asked for the form letter to parents before Back to School Night so I could ‘make sure parents are informed of their rights’. Admin said, Gulp. There was some back and forth about whether state law was in play for tests required by the district versus by the federal government. I insisted that California parents always have the right to have their children receive instruction instead of standardized testing, and always have the right to refuse having their children forced to sign in to a website that collects testing data.

I am being granted a waiver Out of the SBAC IAB’s. I get to instead design and implement my own formative assessments. We are going to read — together — some great, whole fiction and poetry (on paper), and write some essays about what we read. On paper. With pens. We will discuss the results — together — and learn from the experience. I won. My students won.

from sarah

Nonprofit Quarterly: Corruption Scandal Rocks Los Angeles School Board and Charter Movement

Most of the time, scandals come and go and no one remembers them after a day or two. But sometimes scandals cause a seismic reaction. Think Harvey Weinstein. Powerful men have sexually assaulted women in their employ and hoping to be in their employ or just in their proximity for as long as anyone can remember. Despite a number of high profile scandals, the larger phenomenon is ignored. Many people assumed Trump’s gloating about his sexual assaults would doom his campaign but it didn’t. Bill O’Reilly had to leave FOX news, but that passed. The Harvey story has gotten more attention and more outrage than any of the others.

Could the Ref Rodriguez corruption scandal awaken the public to the systemic problem of giving public money to private corporations and individuals without regular oversight and accountability? Could this be the Big One that tarnishes the privatization movement?

Nonprofit Quarterly writes:
“Something is rotten in the world of Los Angeles school board politics.

“Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC) charter school network founder and L.A. Unified School District Board member (and, until recently, board president) Refugio Rodriguez faces three felony charges, 25 misdemeanor charges, and conflict-of-interest allegations for laundering money in his school board campaigns in 2014 and 2015. Charges were filed last month by the city’s ethics commission.

“It might seem unusual that a charter school founder (and recent employee) would head the school board for a major city’s public K-12 system, but this was no accident. Rodriguez was part of a slate, “one of four board members who came into power with the strong backing of charter school supporters and who now make up a majority of the seven-member body.” As Rachel Cohen writes for The Intercept, Rodriguez “was backed by the well-heeled charter school movement, which spent more than $2 million to help elect him. This past spring, education reform advocates won three more seats, giving the board a slim pro-charter majority for the first time ever. Rodriguez was then elected board president in July.” After the ethics charges were filed, Rodriguez stepped down as board president, but remains a school board member.

“Then this past Monday, the other shoe dropped and a second investigation was launched. As another Los Angeles Times article explains, “Officials at PUC Schools, a local charter school network, have filed a complaint with the state Fair Political Practices Commission.”

The filing alleges that Rodriguez, who co-founded PUC, ordered the transfer of about $265,000 from PUC to a nonprofit that appeared to be under his control. An additional $20,000 went to a private company in which he might have owned a stake.

““PUC”, according to the Los Angeles Times, “operates 17 schools in Los Angeles and one in Rochester, N.Y. It is a nonprofit that operates under its own board, with L.A. Unified authorizing its local schools individually.”

“Last Friday, PUC accepted the resignation of Rodriguez’s cousin “senior manager Elizabeth Tinajero Melendrez. In PUC records reviewed by the Times, Melendrez is listed as the person who requested eight of the checks Rodriguez authorized, adding up to nearly $188,000.”

“As NPQ has reported previously, conflicts of interest, or even the appearances of them, put the entire organization at risk of losing its credibility. Jacqueline Elliott, the cofounder of PUC, has distanced herself from the scandal in the media, perhaps hoping to maintain the reputation of the charter network with funders. (Elliott is not under any investigation.)

“A large and complicated web of money and influence has been woven under the feet of Los Angeles’ education leaders. Untangling it will certainly cost the district time and credibility, especially since, as noted above, the balance of the school board recently shifted toward charter school supporters, who strongly supported Rodriguez and who now occupy four of the seven board seats.“

NPQ ends hopefully on the note that “Big money and scandal are not, obviously, necessary or even frequent companions to large charter networks.“

As we have seen time and again, “big money” is indeed a necessary and frequent companion of large charter networks. Whether scandal follows depends on the extent to which there is public oversight of public money.

Given the fact that the charter industry controls the school board in Los Angeles, don’t expect LAUSD to clean its own house. Expect it to join the coverup, even if Ref is thrown off the island as a necessary sacrifice.

Will the public wake up to the waste of their tax dollars? Will this scandal be the one that ignites outrage? Should the public pay $1 Million a year for visas for Turkish teachers? Should the public pay charter CEOs over half s Million a year? Should the public pay for executives at virtual charters who collect millions a year in compensation? Should the public turn a blind eye to the millions from hedge fund managers and other financiers and rightwing foundations that want to privatize public education?

When the editorial boards of the nation’s most powerful newspapers—the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times— consistently defend private and unaccountable charters and support privatization, it makes you wonder how big a scandal is necessary before they wake up and defend the public interest? Do they know they are supporting the agenda of ALEC and Betsy DeVos? Do they care?

from sarah