The Fallacies of Quick Fixes in School Reform . . . and Life

The Fallacies of Quick Fixes in School Reform . . . and Life

Recently I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. I knew my blood sugars were trending higher for years, and I had resolved to lose 50 pounds this year to prevent this outcome from occurring. 3 months into this year I had lost 25 pounds . . . and I learned I had uncontrolled fasting blood sugars in the 400s. 3 months ago I had my blood sugar levels checked and they were creeping up into the pre-diabetic range, but I was fine. I had a lot of warning signs that something was wrong, including blurring vision I attributed to getting old, a dramatic increase in being thirsty I attributed to giving up sodas and exercising more, and a dramatic increase in confusion and forgetfulness I chalked up to just being busy. If readers recall, I travelled to Austin in March but managed to leave my suitcase with all my belongings at home in my front yard. I also was supposed to appear on Frances and Friends a few weeks later but lost my phone, directions and mind. I’ve also managed to forget my daughter’s soccer ball and every practice I took her too, although thankfully I usually remember the kids. I’ve also been having trouble sitting down and composing blog entries and night from fatigue and an inability to focus. (To, those of you who have submitted information to me to create stories or research, I am moving slower but still making progress now.) Now that I am getting a handle on my condition things are starting to firm up and my confusion seems more obvious now in retrospect. I’ve been running labs, seeing doctors, dietitians and specialists and what seems to be the consensus is that taking steroid shots back to back to address my Pneumonia and Bronchitis in February and March overwhelmed my pancreas and triggered my condition. I went from just entering the warning zone to a serious case of uncontrolled diabetes over a few months. Fortunately, I was working with my doctor while I was trying to lose so much weight and get in shape and we caught it right away.  If  my condition had remained untreated until an annual physical I would have ended up in the hospital, if I was lucky.

So where am I going with this do you ask?

I did what many of us probably do without thinking. I went to the after-hours clinic, told them I was sick and needed to get well fast, and asked them to load me up with shots and whatever they could give me to get me back on my feet as fast as possible.  “I don’t have time to be sick,” I told them.  Getting an appointment with my primary care physician is always harder, but he has all my medical history and is more qualified, has more experience, and is more familiar with my case history and medications. I was trying to save up as much time as I can to go to meetings, to get blog posts done, to meet with parents, to attend and present at conferences and to still have time for my job and my family so I couldn’t afford to take time for more mundane matters like a common cold. Without considering the consequences, I chose the easiest path. As a result I made myself much sicker with what might be a permanently debilitating condition. (I do have a slim chance of reversing it if I take extra special care of myself over the next 6 months and lose some more weight. Things I should have done before so I would not have been put in the position I am now.) I did not know that getting steroid shots and oral steroids could trigger diabetes and I thought I was being proactive and taking care of myself.  As I’ve learned since, those treatments dramatically raise blood sugars and for those of us in Louisiana already a little overweight, this can rapidly accelerate a process that would normally take years. I’m writing this in part to warn folks about steroids and diabetes. Sometimes steroids may be necessary, when you have Pneumonia like I did for the first round, but maybe not if you just have a cold or Bronchitis and you’ve recently received them. It’s great that you want to do something quickly, but quick or unresearched actions can cause much more harm than good.

In case you were wondering, this is where the School Reform critique comes in. A lot of times we try to apply quick fixes that are nothing more than ineffective Band-Aids to our problems in our daily lives and in public policy.

That’ll fix it!

This type of fix gives us the satisfaction of saying we’ve quickly addressed a problem and a visible verification of the fix. However simple Band-Aids may not be ideal solutions for brown recluse spider bites, or structurally damaged vehicles in previous picture. The Band-Aid solution does not make the car pictured safer, doesn’t permit the doors to open, and applying that Band-Aid means the passenger side window has to remain open. . . but we can say we fixed it!  It didn’t cost us as much a door replacement, paint job and body repair, but it was quick and required little effort or long-term commitment on our part.

This is the way much of modern-day school reform works in the US.

Allow me to show you some examples.

Charter Schools

Charter schools were first marketed as a way to provide quality educations, to help underserved populations like the disabled or Limited English Proficient, and to differentiate emphasis on instruction (say charter schools for Engineering, Math, the Arts or Foreign Language immersion.) When it was discovered that these schools often performed worse, failed to provide certified teachers or staff for special education students, and that serving high needs populations was expensive and reflected poorly on charter school’s rankings compared to schools with average populations many charter schools opted instead to appeal to the wealthiest and least cumbersome students. What started as an easy fix, if the local school system is not working, slap a charter school or three on it, turned into a serious threat, a disease on public education. Charter school mania is a disease that now threatens to devour the host.

Larvae devouring host caterpillar

What started out as a quick fix to apply to ailing public education systems to provide a quality education for some of the students is actually making education worse for most of them by siphoning off financial resources, teachers, and students and leaving the hardest to educate students behind.

[I urge you all to support HB 703 currently pending a vote in the House Education committee. This bill restricts the spread of charter schools into A, B and C districts, like has recently happened to Iberville and Lafayette, by requiring these schools get approval of the local school boards. If you believe in local education, I urge you to contact the members of the House Education committee to support this Bill.]

Common Core

  • Colleges are claiming they face a problem of too many children requiring remediation.
  • Businesses are claiming High School graduates are not career ready when they graduate.
  • Testing and textbook companies are complaining about all the different version of textbooks and tests they have to prepare every year.

To them, the obvious solution was to create a universal standardized curriculum that everyone would have to take and pass to graduate. This, simple enough seeming solution, created many problems.

Not all education is testable. You cannot test the arts with bubbles. You cannot test a student’s drive or thirst for additional learning. You cannot test a child’s creativity (which Common Core stifles) on a standardized test.  These aspects of education are whittled away to nothing under Common Core. This will create a generation of education hating test bubble makers, not the creative class that is responsible for our place as the greatest inventors and artists with the greatest per capita renewable economy on the planet.

The Common Core curriculum that was created is not rigorous, just tedious. Tedium does not equate to rigor except of the “mortis” variety. Advanced Math and Calculus was not included in Common Core. Students will not be STEM ready without that exposure. Colleges will have to provide that instruction and remediation, just as they have been. However fewer students will want to pursue those types of careers because of how obnoxious the math has become.

Companies will not have more employees ready to complete upon graduation. This curriculum was never tested, it is being piloted on a massive scale without any supporting research that it works. Early indications are that Common Core math is producing lower test scores in all states that adopted compared to those state’s previous math scores, and compared to other states that did not implement the Common Core math.  Common Core does not work and will and will make our children worse off.

Now there is so much chaos as a result of pushing Common Core, sight unseen and untested, that states are having problems pulling out of it. Students and parents are getting frustrated and pulling their kids out of school to homeschool them, or enrolling them in non-public schools that have rejected Common Core. Experienced teachers are fleeing the profession in record numbers, and newer teachers are leaving in droves as well. The rushed and unresearched manner is which a universal curriculum was pushed upon the Nation through trickery, bribery and deception is ruining public education for millions of children and families.

 Closing “Failing” Schools

One of the favorite tactics of school reformers is closing the schools they have defined as “failing”.  Whether the school is actually “failing” the students is beside the point.  All a school has to do to be defined as failing is have a concentration of poor students, students with disabilities or English Language learners.  Schools are not judged based on whether they serve children well, simply based on demographics.  To become a successful school all one needs to do is attract wealthier students and dissuade poorer students from enrolling as was the disabled or students from recently emigrated families.  Reformers trot out the occasional High performing High poverty school to “show” us that poverty doesn’t matter, but when you look at these cases a little closer you find numerous mitigating factors including dramatically increased funding, a poorly defined “poverty” measure, cheating or high concentration of wraparound services and highly qualified teachers that reformers claim are unnecessary.  The believe simply moving these children to “successful” school will magically make them become overachievers, and negate the impacts of poverty, abuse, neglect and apathy. This is not true.  All this does is mask the problem while the schools poor children are evicted from are turned over to privatizers who often perform worse than the schools they replace and are successively shut down and rebranded year after year to disguise the massive, systemic failures of the charter movement.

Rather than recognizing how often charters fail, States like Louisiana point to the numerous closures and claim success!  This is the free market in action, and we are holding these schools “accountable”.  Meanwhile no one seems to actually care what happens to the children and communities.  They take and claim for granted that these children have been “helped” by this displacement, but they are careful not to track them or allow anyone to report on their outcomes.

They know the truth, and they fear it.

Poverty matters

It is true that poverty can be overcome.  It’s not the sole determinate in whether a student is successful, but it is a major component and not one that can be overcome by simply opening up Rocketship Academies staffed with teachers trained for 5 weeks and implementing Common Core. Overcoming the reductive impacts of poverty on educational outcomes requires hard work, money, determination and a significant time commitment.  This is not something most education reformers want you to hear.  They want to inject the education system with magic steroid shots in the form of High Stakes Testing, VAM teacher evaluations, charter schools, virtual schools, Common Core, and a parade of poorly trained fresh-faced can do chanting recruits from TFA and the New Teacher Project.  They want to reduce funding to students and channel it educational entrepreneurs and data harvesters who will claim to have the latest and greatest data potions to improve educational outcomes without the hard work such endeavours have traditionally taken in the past.

Reformers want to be in charge.  They want to “believe” that their reforms will improve the outcomes of children, while they make a tidy profit on the side.  Louisiana’s John White is a typical reformer.  He is so invested in this philosophy that he even renamed the official Louisiana Department of Education website “Louisiana Believes”.  He has formed Louisiana Believes committees and recruits to support his message and preach his gospel of reform.  What he has also done is prevent anyone impartial form getting access to any data that unequivocally disproves his “beliefs”.  John White “believes” his reforms are working, or at least that is what he is trying to brainwash the state of Louisiana and the nation into believing.

The reality is much different.

If John White had any faith in his beliefs he wouldn’t need to hide his data, and contract with shill organizations like CREDO, Stand For Children, and the Cowen institute to produce poorly research propaganda to support his “beliefs”.

If reforms were working they could show us the proof and that would shut people like me up once and for all.

The truth is, there are no quick fixes for what ails Education and our society.

We are the wealthiest Nation on earth and yet have perhaps the largest income and wealth gap as well. Reformers have correctly identified that this poverty is impacting our children, and our nation’s competitiveness.  This poverty does pose a threat to our global position as a world leader and a lack of a proper education does impact future earnings for children as they become adults and makes it more likely these children and their families will end up on public assistance or perhaps incarcerated.  Those negative outcomes have a significant cost to our society and changing those to positive outcomes could result in a substantial net benefit.  The answer is not reducing our educational funding, closing schools with at-risk students, forcing children and teachers to Race To The Top or be the Children Left Behind.  The answer is not a quick shot in the butt, or crossing our fingers and “hoping” Common Core works (in a generation).

The answer is the same as it has always been. Hard work.  Focus.  Determination. Dedication.  Adequate Funding.  Squarely addressing our problems, not hiding from them or disguising them or saying “Screw it, if I can’t fix it at least we can make some money off this problem” as I see many of the latest education entrants doing.   Our public education system was not perfect, but now it is sick with all the quick-fix reform “treatments” we’ve heaped upon it.  We can reverse this illness before it becomes fatal.  But to do so, it will require we abandon the harmful quick-fix approaches and buckle down for some slow-going old-fashioned hard work.

I ask that you help me do this.

I will do the same.

Let’s check back in six months and see where we are.

The Curious Case of John McDonogh (part 1)

The Curious Case of John McDonogh (part 1)

There is a very complex case of craziness surrounding John McDonogh High School. The more I look into this school, the more examples of financial mismanagement, exploitation, theft and cheating I manage to run into. This school has been exploited for publicity by a bizarre but extensive cast of characters; everyone from Oprah Winfrey, Arne Duncan, Morning Joe, RSD, John White, Mitch Landrieu, Steve Barr, Green Dot Charter Schools, Future is Now Schools: New Orleans, and Digger Phelps. Despite reports of many millions of dollars being raised to support and rebuild John McDonogh, I’m told the building still reeks of mold and urine, and is covered with asbestos, mold damage, termite damage, boarded up windows that leak when it rains. It is rat infested and littered with droppings, and this was a school being touted as the home of a future culinary institute.

Almost 2 years ago John White, Digger Phelps and Arne Duncan revealed their vision of what the future would hold for John McDonogh, 2 years thence on the Morning Joe morning show. In their vision, 35 million dollars that had been allocated for repairs would transform the school into a culinary nirvana, and a sparkling gem of learning and pride for the community surrounding it.

http://youtu.be/giQWFVq1u70

Digger touted the new gymnasium he had built for the school and Morning Joe flashed pictures of what were led to believe were remodeled sections of the school. He and John White did some mutual backslapping and congratulating each other on all the commitments they were making, including bring a top notch culinary institute to John McDonogh. That sounded impressive, and I’m sure all these folks got a lot of kudos for talking a good game. Digger was a former nationally renowned basketball couch, so I’m sure talking a good game is ingrained his is psyche. But when you talk a good game, collect the kudos, and then the children you say you are helping still live surrounded by broken and leaky windows, walking through rat dropping covered floors, and breathing in asbestos and toxic mold, 2 years after you highlight a problem, 8 years after Katrina when funds were allocated to rebuild the school, that’s where your help turns to exploitation.

Since we’re on the topic of exploitation, I believe exploitation is when a Billionare produces a show touting a high school as the most dangerous in the United States.

Blackboard_Wars_Title_Card[1]

Take a look at this excerpt from an article produced by education reporter Kari Dequine Harden for the New Orleans bureau of the Advocate.

New Orleans — The John McDonogh Advisory Committee, a panel of community members that advises the charter operator for the high school, made its feelings about the reality show “Blackboard Wars” clear at Tuesday’s monthly meeting.

The committee passed around an open letter calling the show, produced [by] the Oprah Winfrey Network, “a source of negative, exploitative depictions of the students and the school.”

The advisory board’s letter was addressed to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Winfrey, the show’s producers and charter operator Steve Barr.

Three out of six episodes of the hourlong show have aired to date. The first begins with images from a 2003 shooting in the school’s gymnasium but never mentions that the incident, which left one student dead, occurred a decade ago.

Nearly every student featured in the first three episodes faces some sort of challenge—from teen pregnancy and homelessness to bipolar disorder and lack of parental acceptance because of homosexuality. Every episode aired thus far has shown scenes of out-of-control classrooms and students fighting inside the school.

The letter points to words like “most dangerous,” “most under-performing,” and “worst,” saying that such “blanket statements stereotype our school and our students,” and “reinforce low expectations.”

“Students who are repeatedly told that they are violent, troubled and beyond redemption will soon come to believe it . . . this rhetoric drives away families and students who believe the exaggerations and lies about John McDonogh,” the letter said.

For course even the Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu got in on the bashing of John McDonogh with this statement:

In an interview last month, Thompson blamed the contentious “most dangerous” label on Landrieu, who said in his 2012 State of the City Address that in 2011, a McDonogh student was more likely to killed than a soldier in Afghanistan.

Wow, that’s quite a statement. I’m sure that wasn’t an exaggeration? I’m not sure where he got his stats but according to what was sent to the Louisiana Department of Education in 2011, (when I worked there) that school was not labeled as dangerous or persistently dangerous.  (I prepared that data through 2011-2012 before I left) I’m pretty sure even by Louisiana’s absurd definition, a dozen or so students dying would have shown up the report, not to mention making national and international news. Speaking of reports and exploitation again, I found this statement by Principal Barr particularly disturbing, though not surprising.

In a January interview about the show in California, Barr stated that out of 261 students enrolled during the 2011-2012 school year, “Any given day you never saw more than 60 kids at the school.” According to the New Orleans Parents’ Guide to Public Schools, McDonogh’s attendance rate that year was 89 percent.

This is the former principal, a leading charter school advocate, telling on himself. If what he is saying is true, the attendance rate should have been closer to 22%, not the 89 % this school reported to the state. That’s really quite an admission, but I actually believe him. . . the second time. Charters and RSD schools, especially in New Orleans, are free to report whatever data they want to report. No one verifies their reporting, and in fact, the Louisiana Department of Education would rather charter operators like Barr report completely fabricated attendance rates like 89% rather than the 22% Barr publicly asserted he witnessed. It also allows charter operators to get more money for students that stopped attending. These are state and federal dollars being spent.

We should have audits of these schools and their data quality as it directly translates to funding at a time when our state is cutting back on services to the poor, universities, and healthcare, we are letting private charter operators openly admit to sending in fabricated data which is almost certain to have resulted in overpayments from our coffers. If this were all the problems, this would be a headache, but this is only the beginning of the indictments of I can make about how this school, and how the entire RSD circus is being run.

I have at least two more pieces to go into. There is really too much going on to be covered in single post. In my next installments I will show you current photos of John McDonogh today to show you where the money isn’t going, and the nonsensical reasons being offered. I will also reveal what may very well be a RSD and charter wide scandal. Each of these topics deserves own attention and post, but consider my intro a teaser for what’s to come. . .

The Crawfish Bump!

The Crawfish Bump!

Congratulations Crawfish patriots!

In the last 48 hours after making this post we helped Shannon Puckett increase her funding for her Kickstarter Documentary Defies Measurement by more than 23% and contributors by almost 40%!

Since this is my first endorsement, and since I can plausibly say I had something to do with it (ok maybe Shannon’s excellent pitch had more to do with it, but still. . .) I’ve decided to call this effect the “Crawfish Bump”.

But we have much more bumping to do. If you haven’t contributed or bugged your dying rich and senile uncle that nobody likes into contributing, now’s your chance! Shannon needs your money and we need her film and story. If you donate, we can both win! If you were listening to NPR last week in Baton Rouge you heard a very extensive pledge drive. If you’re like me it probably drove you crazy! If you procrastinated and missed out, now is your chance to mend your conscience! Donate to this equally good cause and I will forgive you for your tardiness.

Note: You might still get a phone call from Ira Glass for not contributing, I can’t help you there, but at least I can tell Ira your dollars did not go to waste on all those cups of coffee he asks you to do without! I won’t even ask you to do without your morning coffee, espresso, or even your sissy mocha latte cappuccino spritzer with extra whip. That can be our little secret. All you have to do is donate, or cajole someone else into giving. Simple right!?!?!

So what are you waiting for?

Here’s the link to Shannon’s Kickstarter page: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/937247555/defies-measurement

Here’s the link to her youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16lnlJqh_WY

Now let’s get that bump growing!

P.S.

Did I mention the largest crawfish contributor gets an autographed crawfish? To win, just post your amount as a comment. I will notify the winner by the e-mail linked to the comment…

P.P.S.

This goes for previous Crazy Crawfish directed contributors.

Please Join My Anti-CREDO Crusade

After posting my critique of CREDO’s funding sources and shoddy statistical work and unfounded conclusions I was contacted by a few folks who had published critiques of these CREDO frauds earlier. At first I was chagrined that I had not found my fellow bloggers posts and reports earlier – I consider myself relatively up-to-date on most of the shenanigans and reform players, but I’ll admit CREDO snuck by me. My momentary embarrassment quickly turned into a resolution to ensure CREDO becomes synonymous with the Reform movement and fraudulent studies. If I didn’t know about them (as obsessed as some might say I am about fighting reformers), it’s a good bet not very many people in the mainstream have a clue. I tried to analyze why I never questioned them as a possible imposter and I came up with a few possibilities as to why they fit so nicely in my reformer blindspot.

  • CREDO makes a big point of listing their affiliation with Stanford whenever they mention their name or introduce themselves (which conjures up very liberal leaning feelings and images.) However CREDO is actually the bastard offspring of the Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank and corporate toady, both of which are funded by Pearson and the Walton [Walmart] Family Foundation – two of the biggest corporate reformers on earth. The Hoover fellows, two of which are affiliated with CREDO are some of the most pro-charter, pro-reform, anti-child folks you will ever find, Margaret E. Raymond, Director and supreme CREDO commander, and her husband, public education guerrilla terrorist
    Eric Alan Hanushek.
  • CREDO attacks virtual schools in their “studies.” Virtual schools are easy sacrificial lambs. No one expects those students to do better. Virtual schools market their services based on flexibility and occasionally lower cost, not quality of instruction, so such findings do little to impede their expansions. Because CREDO appears critical of other reformer initiatives it lends them an air of legitimacy in the eyes of many. I wonder if CREDO would be as critical of virtual charters if they started funding CREDO, as charter schools and charter associations currently do?
  • CREDO is the only entity outside of state DOEs even able to get access to the data. Certainly as much data from as many states as they have. They get vast quantities of data, and I falesly assumed they would use everything they got, and I knew if they did they would discover many significant caveats to charter “success.” It did not occur to me that they would suck up such great quantities of data, but use (or report) such a relatively small portion of it. My own experience working with them and talking to them blinded me to the real possibility that they would take all that data in the hopes of finding any possible ray of charter sunshine, but when failing to find one they would mask the true results by summarizing very broad sets of data and show charters in the most positive light they could manage.
  • CREDO touts their affiliation with a university and professors. Most people would assume (or like to assume) professors and universities are immune to political pressures and the whims and wishes of corporate donors. I realize now that is very naïve, but it was a comforting thought to have while it lasted. CREDO has violated that informal compact between citizens and universities by producing poorly reasoned, fallaciously propagandized, rubbish. They have intentionally ignored mitigating factors, like charters with selective admission standards, differences in degree of poverty, massive funding disparities, differences in degree of disability, and mischaracterized RSD (Recovery School District) schools as TPS (Traditional Public Schools) in order to show a positive separation between charters and TPS schools.

CREDO has intentionally abused our preconceptions about independent researchers, Stanford, and university independence to insert their agenda into a national education narrative. They did not disclose their affiliations, they did not disclose the limitations of their study, they did not disclose very very obvious mitigating factors like charter schools with admission standards based on test scores and past performance in declaring charter school students do better than TPS students. They did not examine the disparity in funding for charter schools versus TPS schools which can be 30% or more in states like New Jersey and New York where those numbers are published in this critique by Bruce Baker on CREDO. In Louisiana They intentionally conflated RSD, collectively the lowest or second lowest performing school district in one of the lowest performing states with TPS schools. They allowed and encouraged their research to be used an endorsement of charter schools which even their scanty and intentionally vague and misleading “research” fails to back up. They translated their results into an intentionally misleading meaningless number, number of extra school days of learning, when placed in the proper context of less than .5% of that impact being attributed to a charter school.

I would ask that you refer to these great posts by mother crusader.

This post details where CREDO gets its money and the affiliations of the key CREDO staff. Bet you didn’t know this about the head researcher on the latest CREDO report, Devora Davis:

Devora Davis, Research Manager 

Devora was at the State Board of Ed Meeting talking about the study, and has been in the press quite a bit too.  Guess what Devora did before she came to CREDO?  She was a research analyst for KIPP.  

You can follow this link to listen to Davis on KALW in San Francisco talking about charters with the KIPP Chief Academic Officer for the Bay Area, and Jill Wynns President of the California School Boards Association.  Wynns does an amazing job defending public ed, and Davis sounds a lot more like a charter cheerleader than a researcher.

This post details how the head of CREDO, Margaret Raymond is one of the key charter pushers and key reformers. Great person to head an “independent” study on charter effectiveness, eh? Here is my favorite section from Darcie’s post but please read the whole thing for a clearer more disturbing picture.

2005 Chartering 2.0 Leadership Summit


The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools website still has a report posted about the event.

Last summer, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools gathered some of the nation’s leading charter school advocates and other education experts to plan for the next generation of charter schooling.

The event, “CHARTERING 2.0,” was inspiring and thought-provoking and provided valuable guidance on how to improve charter quality as the movement grows to scale.

This next excerpt is Raymond’s points to her charter school audience on how to wage their coming “war” against traditional schools, back in 2006. Is there any doubt she is using CREDO to wage the PR part of the campaign of attrition and battle plan she is describing?

I have three points.  First, change is the last thing districts will do.  Second, there are predictable indicators of where districts are on the change curve.
Third, the charter movement isn’t yet making a strong case for competitive response from districts. 

I study the emergence of markets in industries dominated by monopolies. Certain lessons can be learned from these instances that can be applied to the charter world.  Monopolies have enormous power and do not change happily or easily; they can expend resources to avoid change.  When threatened, they launch a series of wars.  First is the war of entry: prohibiting new entrants into the market.  They try to set high barriers through law and regulation.  In general, the monopolist is dismissive of potential entrants. 

The second war is of survival—they launch games of irritation.  These include delaying tactics, non-responsiveness, and nonpayment.  They try to limit the discretion of the new entrants.  The public relations strategy is to smear the new opponents, often personally. 

Third is the war of containment.  They will heap on as many costs as possible to wear you down, such as more reporting requirements and cost studies. The public relations battle becomes more aggressive and organized. 

Fourth is the war of elimination; the biggest indicator is the legal challenge. The opposition forms into coalitions designed to destroy the new entrants. 

After all of these wars, you will see change.  But you have to survive first.

A final point: if chartering is to win the political and policy battle, it must demonstrate that it can either produce much better results or much greater efficiency (same results with lower costs).  Charter schools haven’t done either yet.

This last CREDO critique describes how CREDO is advocating a policy that benefits it largest clients, by encouraging large charter chains to replace all public schools, and shutting out smaller, unproven, (and no doubt less generous to CREDO) charter operators. This is the endgame, the plot revealed. Today’s “reform” has never been about providing quality education to children, not about innovation, it’s about profitability and wrestling a public good, the public education system, into the coffers of the larger wealthier charter chains. It’s about holding children and taxpayers upside down and shaking every last penny out of their pockets.

This report’s findings challenge the conventional wisdom that a young underperforming school will improve if given time. Our research shows that if you start wobbly, chances are you’ll stay wobbly,” said Dr. Margaret Raymond, CREDO’s director and the study’s lead author. “Similarly, if a school is successful in producing strong academic progress from the start, our analysis shows it will remain a strong and successful school.” 

“We have solid evidence that high quality is possible from the outset,” Dr. Raymond said. “Since the study also shows that the majority of charter management organizations produce consistent quality through their portfolios – regardless of the actual level of quality – policy makers will want to assure that charter schools that replicate have proven models of success.”   

CREDO is the Benedict Arnold of researchers, a traitorous abomination that is waging this secret war on our school systems and students to enrich itself, its donors and its clientele. Now CREDO has even turned on its own, newer charter operators, to solidify a new status quo of corruption and profiteering over even the ephemeral promise of innovation charters once were thought to offer as their primary selling point. In the end, all that we will have accomplished is socializing the loss of our nation’s children, while privatizing the profit of our education centers in the hands of a few.

Who said our politicians learned nothing from the banking crisis? They learned to replicate it, with CREDO leading the way. Well done, CREDO.

I encourage all of my blogger brethren to out this imposter with their own analyses, or to consider leaving their previous CREDO critiques as a comment to reference.

Thank you

CCF

CREDO is not credible, and never has been

Recently the CREDO institute based in Stanford has published national and state by state comparisons of charter schools that indicated charter schools may perform slightly better than traditional public schools in certain circumstances. Despite the lukewarm conclusions, privatizers and education reform advocates immediately touted these findings as proof positive that their draconian agenda was working. Following closely upon the national release was a local release evaluating charter schools in the New Orleans area. After Katrina, most of the city of New Orleans’ schools were turned into charter schools of one flavor or another. Anecdotal success stories have abounded in the wake of this charter subversion an invasion, and the New Orleans model/miracle has been touted far and wide as cure-all that should be adopted by anyone wishing to remake their education system to one that can ignore the systemic and generation impacts of poverty and instead focus pure “education choices.” Despite substantial evidence to the contrary, “school choice” has erroneously become synonymous with “school quality” and advocated as the elixir that has made dramatic improvement in New Orleans possible.

This is where CREDO comes in. Anecdotes make nice stories to tell at workshops, and great fodder for the people sections of newspapers, but Reformers were realizing they needed their own “evidence based research” reports to tout the miraculous claims they were making to lawmakers, legislators and civic organizations not already sold on the privatization movement and the dubious narrative that schools and student performance as declining (especially compared to international standards) and that “bad” teachers, uncaring teachers unions and inflexible traditional education venues were responsible for this decline.

CREDO received its first set of data from Louisiana January of 2012. I was responsible for helping pull all their data together, but I left the Louisiana Department of Education shortly after this data was sent to them. When I left, I took a lot of institutional knowledge with me – specifically much knowledge about flaws in this data, what this data contains, and what it doesn’t, and some of the limitations of using this data to evaluate different aspects of our student populations. I contacted the head of the research team, Devora Davis, not long after leaving DOE to offer my help and insight, but was rebuffed at the time.

From: devdavis@stanford.edu
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2012 09:26:04 -0700
Subject: Re: Louisiana Education Data
To: jasonfrance@hotmail.com

Hi Jason,

Thank you for reaching out to us. Collaboration isn’t a possibility, since our agreement with the L-DOE does not permit us to share data with other researchers.

Best regards,
Dev


Dev Davis
CREDO at Stanford University

I assumed this was because CREDO was simply trying to observe the letter of the MOU they had signed with the LDOE as they claimed (however despite their assertions at the time, I discovered later that there were no exclusions to consulting with outside sources about the dataset.) When I contacted Devora, or “Dev”, as she told me she preferred to be called, this was not a cold call. Dev and I had discussed the possibility of working out a data sharing project for several years, but the logistics and legal framework was not there. Additionally quite a few resources would have to be committed for some time and at no small expense to satisfy their needs. It came as a quite a surprise then that John White, someone who has become notorious for refusing to release any data to anyone (except where there was money or free positive publicity involved) had agreed to such a large, resource intensive project before even officially signed on as the State Superintendent of Education. Nevertheless “Dev” confidently informed us that “arrangements” had been made and “John” was happy to share the state’s data with them as soon as we could get it. Devora called us weekly to see if we’d made any progress and a task force was set up of 5 or 6 folks to work on pulling all the data CREDO wanted from all of our different databases. I was consulted to link the data all together with a random identifier and to make sure the most sensitive FERPA protected elements like name and SSN were removed from the final dataset.

However what is even more interesting is this blurb I found on Devora’s boss, the director at CREDO and the “project director” of this study, is none other than Margaret E. Raymond:

Margaret E. Raymond is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. At Hoover, Raymond serves as director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), which analyzes education reform efforts around the country. CREDO’s mission is to improve the quantity and quality of evidence about the impacts of education innovations on student achievement in public K–12 education. Raymond, who has done extensive work in public policy and education reform, is currently researching the development of competitive markets and the creation of reliable data on program performance.

In partnership with the Walton Family Foundation and Pearson Learning Systems, Raymond is leading a national study of the effectiveness of public charter schools. The public-academic-private partnership helps public charter schools adopt information technologies as a means to both support their operations and generate information required by the study design. More than 250 public charter schools have joined the study to date.”

And moreover Mrs. Raymond is married to another more famous (infamous) senior fellow at the Hoover institution:

Eric Alan Hanushek (born, 1943) is a Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. He is an expert on educational policy, and the economics of education. His research spans both the economics of school policy and the impact education on individuals and on economies. Major lines of research have focused on controversial areas of education policy including class size reduction, high stakes accountability, and the importance of teacher quality. He is perhaps best known for the controversial assertion that “money doesn’t matter”—that is, he says that the amount of money spent in an American school district is not related to the amount of student learning in that district—and he is often called to testify in court about school funding schemes

Hanushek is famous for his bizarre claims that class size doesn’t matter and money doesn’t matter in terms of educational gains for children that has made him a favorite of the Walton Family Foundation, individual Waltons, and Pearson Learning systems and Michael Bloomberg who have donated funds (usually the maximum allowable by law) to pro-charter state and local school board candidates and organizations like New Schools for New Orleans.

And if that weren’t enough to question the credibility of CREDO on charter school evaluations there’s also the situation that CREDO runs a charter school leadership institute in conjunction with many major charter school associations.

The PMI was initially developed as part of Building Charter School Quality, a three-year National Leadership Activities Project funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program. Under this grant, CREDO, in partnership with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and the Colorado League of Charter Schools, identified and developed best practices in the measurement of student and school performance, the management of performance data, and the use of performance measures to increase school and student accountability. The PMI has attracted more than 100 participants to date, and an interactive online version of the Institute was launched in June 2009.

I think this explains why CREDO was able to convince John White to turn over Louisiana’s complete dataset for a secretly pro-charter school organization to do their best to draft a propaganda piece masquerading as a credible study. CREDO is a complete sham. These are the same folks that promote TFA, John White, elimination of public education, for profit charters, and that poverty is irrelevant to academic performance.

Would you like to see how this played out in this pathetic study? The sad part is with all the gerrymandering of the data, the best they could come up with is a modest endorsement of charter schools with a low confidence of reliability.

Even if concerns over the study’s analytic methods are set side, however, Maul and McClelland point out that the study itself shows only a tiny real impact on the part of charter schools: “less than one hundredth of one percent of the variation in test performance is explainable by charter school enrollment,” they write. Specifically, students in charter schools were estimated to score approximately 0.01 standard deviations higher on reading tests and 0.005 standard deviations lower on math tests than their peers in traditional public schools.

“With a very large sample size, nearly any effect will be statistically significant,” the reviewers conclude, “but in practical terms these effects are so small as to be regarded, without hyperbole, as trivial.”

CREDO came out with a report that said charter schools do better than traditional schools, but the schools they compared to are RSD schools, state run schools, and taken collectively the worst district in Louisiana filled with all the students charter schools rejected, and even so, many of the charters did no better than the worst schools in the state, and many did even worse than the average of the worst district.

CREDO did not disclose that many of the charter schools that did better have selective admissions processes, specifically related to performance and test scores like Benjamin Franklin or socio-economically favorable geography and an admissions test like Lusher.


Benjamin Franklin High School Admissions Policy

PROCEDURE

1. Complete applications with all required documents must be submitted to the Admissions Office. • You may print it from the website (www.benfranklinhighschool.org and click the Admissions tab), or pick one up from the school. • Applications are accepted during school hours beginning in October. • Applications may be submitted in person, by mail, email, fax, or online (when available). The timely application deadline will be in January and the date specified in the Admissions Calendar. We will continue to accept applications after that date as long as space is available.

2. If the student does not have Iowa test scores, they will be scheduled to test when the application is submitted.

3. Test scores are mailed to the applicant when they are available (approximately a month after testing).

4. Acceptance letters are sent beginning in February of the year of application when we determine that the applicant is qualified to enter Benjamin Franklin High School and will continue on a rolling basis.

5. The final admission letter is sent from the principal when all required documents have been submitted including final report cards and LEAP scores where applicable.

VISITS TO THE SCHOOL

• Our Admissions Open House is held in the fall every year; check the Admissions Calendar and/or the website for the date and time. Our students, teachers, and administrators will be here to provide tours of the school, explain our academic and extracurricular programs and to answer questions.

• Families may schedule tours of the school by calling or emailing the Admissions Office. We are happy to provide guided tours but we do not provide for student “shadow” days.

ADMISSIONS REQUIREMENTS

Applying for 9th grade:

1. Residency in Orleans Parish.

2. 88 points on the admissions matrix which come from the reading, language, and math portions of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills taken in 7th or 8th grade and the 1st trimester or mid-year report card from 8th grade.

3. Promotion by the current school to 9th grade with no failing grades in academic subjects.

4. Passing score on the LEAP exam if you reside in Louisiana.

Applying for 10th grade:

1. Residency in Orleans Parish.

2. 88 points on the admissions matrix from the reading, language, and math portions of the Iowa Test of Educational Development taken in 8th or 9th grade and the grades from the 1st trimester or mid-year report card from 9th grade.

3. Promotion by the current school to 10th grade with no failing grades in academic subjects.

4. One credit each in English, math, science, social studies, and foreign language from your 9th grade school.

Applying for 11th grade:

1. Residency in Orleans Parish.

2. 108 points on our matrix from the reading, language, and math portions of the Iowa Test of Educational Development taken in the 9th or 10th grade and the student’s transcript showing all high school grades.

3. Promotion by the current school to the 11th grade with no failing grades in academic subjects.

4. Two credits each in English, math, science, social studies, and foreign language.

Applying for 12th grade:

Applications are not accepted for senior year.

Lusher Admissions

In-District Admissions
The in-district (neighborhood) process is available for those families who live within the Lusher school district (neighborhood).  To view the In-district address list, please visit our website at http://www.lusherschool.org – forms and downloads page.  In-district applicants must complete the application packet, provide the required documentation, and provide proof of residency.  

The in-district (neighborhood) process runs from February 18th to March 14th from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on March 15th from 9 a.m. until noon. Lusher strongly encourages parents living in the neighborhood district to complete a community application as well.

Community Admissions

The Community process is open to all those living in Orleans Parish. All community applicants must complete an application packet, take an admissions test, attend a curriculum meeting (K-1 only), and submit other required documentation.  Community applicants, who also live within the Lusher district, may submit an in-district application in addition to the community application.  

Lusher Middle School (6-8) first admits current 5th grade Lusher students. Remaining seats are filled with candidates who have applied through the community application process.

Lusher is close to 50-60% White while RSD averages 98% poor and African American.

Of course many of the remaining schools that perform better have stricter “unenrollment” criteria which filter out the lower performing students. For instance, charters can decide that any disciplinary problem warrants expulsion, but they can offer the students a chance to leave the school voluntarily to avoid an explusion.


These factors were not considered by CREDO, nor were they even mentioned which is completely absurd. CREDO went into a big spiel about trying to find “matched pairs” of students based on identical demographics to mask this glaring deficiency. It sounds good, but one of the characteristics they did not match on is the fact that many of these students were segregated by test scores and performance. How could there not be a difference in achievement learning when charters are already pre-selecting and de-selecting based on the very metric CREDO is measuring?

Another laughable claim that CREDO makes relates to SPED achievement.

Special education students in New Orleans charter schools progress significantly more than their counterparts in New Orleans TPS in both reading and math. This amounts to 65 additional days of learning in reading and 43 more days in math for special education students in New Orleans charter schools. These results are slightly higher than were found statewide.

I would say that this study finding borders on the criminal and strongly caution parents not to pay attention to this finding. Charter schools do not take on the more significantly impaired students. Even though the CREDO folks has access to the severity of disabilities, the CREDO study relied on the most basic of Special Education indicator for their study. SPED = Y/N. This indicator also included gifted “Special Education” students in many years. Most of the disabled students charter schools do accept are the mild/moderate classification with speech and hearing impairments, not the severe profound students that may even be hospital bed bound that traditional schools must serve.

I sent multiple questions to CREDO for an detailed explanation of how they accounted for these issues, the charter schools that filter students based on high test scores, the SPED indicator, the disparity of severity in SPED enrollment, but they have refused to reply to me to date. Here is a copy of my most recent inquiry that has gone unanswered.

Date: Wed, 28 Aug 2013 01:55:35 -0500
Subject: CREDO and New Orleans Charters
From: jasonfrance@hotmail.com
To: devdavis@stanford.edu

Dev,

From the article I saw posted locally it appears you used a number of selective admission charter schools that select students based on high test scores. Were you aware of this and how did you account for this?

Did you do any studies on differences in severity of SPED diagnosis between charter schools and traditional schools. Our charters tend to turn away the more severe profound and serve more mild moderate disabled students.  Did you examine or account for this difference in student population or simply classify them all as SPED or not SPED?

Did you account for data being wildly inaccurate and incomplete for many charters and RSD schools in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007?

I’ve seen a rebuttal that whether simply being a charter school only accounted for one half of 1 % of differences on Colorado’s NEPC site.  Do you have a response?

The Louisiana Department of Education has likewise refused to release this data to any non-pro-charter front organizations to conduct true independent research (they have been fighting the release of this data in the courts for the last 18 months), but this has not prevented newspapers from pushing this propaganda paid for by the Walton’s as independent research. If I was a journalist I would be ashamed that I allowed myself to be fooled by such an easy thing to research and such a glaring conflict of interests.

CREDO is simply not credible, they are not a research institution, they are pro-charter propaganda churner and should be classified as such by anytime anything they produce is quoted in an newspaper or news program that claims to be unbiased and impartial. If you are a parent, please do not pay CREDO any more attention than you would a miscellaneous propaganda pamphlet handed out at neighborhood grocery store, or stuffed under you front door handle. You can see CREDO as a joke, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a PR firm or a charter school pimp, but an independent research organization they are not.

Are charter schools being milked by the Louisiana Department of Education?

Are charter schools being milked by the Louisiana Department of Education?

A funny thing happened at a community organizing meeting I attended earlier this week. I was going there to meet with someone who was supposed to help me organize and mobilize an anti-student-data-sharing campaign, although I missed that person I made a few interesting contacts. I also heard a story that made me wonder if many charters are getting a bad rap, and being coerced into abusive relationships by the Louisiana Department of Education.

I have no proof this is happening. I’m simply releasing a story I heard at the meeting. I’ve changed the name of the person who spoke with me. I do not have their contact info (and will not confirm if they are male or female although I have given this person a male name.) I gave them my contact info and encouraged them to contact me or federal authorities, and that they could do both anonymously.

If what they told me is true, Bruce Greenstein will not be the only Jindal agency head appointee going to jail.

Will came in late, later than me, and pulled up a chair next to mine. He didn’t seem to fit in as a parent or community organizer, and he brought a note pad, like myself, and took notes throughout the presentation, occasionally mumbling under his breath. At a stopping point between speakers I introduced myself.

He shook my hand and hesitated. Then said, call me “Will.”

“Just Will,” I asked?

“Yeah.”

I said “ok nice to meet you. . . Will.”

At this point he whispered to me “You know, charter schools don’t get all that MFP money people think they do.” (This was during a presentation on the MFP funding changes brought by John White and approved by BESE for the 2013-2014 schools year)

I gave him a quizzical look and he continued.

“RSD takes a large chunk of it. If you want to do business, you let them. I’ve reviewed the budgets they release. You can’t see the real amount from the budget they release. When you apply they tell you about it, and if you agree you get approved, and if you don’t they turn you down or close you down.”

Will paused. He seemed a little upset. I let him gather himself and then he continued.

“A lot of charters are struggling financially, closing, because RSD is taking so much to pay for all those large salary people he [White?] hires at DOE. They get paid from RSD’s budget. Then DOE blames the charters for fiscal mismanagement. . . We tried to do a charter. . . ” he trailed off.

I told him, “I’m not surprised. I used to work there and left because of all the tricks and dishonesty I saw. They didn’t need a data person when they didn’t want to release real data anymore. “

Will nodded “So you know. They also take federal grant money explicitly earmarked for startup charters and run that through RSD to pay for special contracts and people. They take most of the money from the grants that flow through RSD. . . A lot of charters don’t even know they applied and got the grants and never see a penny. All the money from those federal grants goes to RSD. . . to pay those people. That money is supposed to go 100% to new charters, but none of it does. Meanwhile charters are struggling and closing, but not getting the support, or the money. . . and no one knows.”

While I have no way to ascertain if this story is accurate, (at this time) it would not surprise me if it was. Charter schools are being opposed by many people, including me because of the way they are being rushed through, often unwanted, and poorly monitored. In many cases their only perceived saviors may be departments of education who lobby so hard to bring them in, often over the objections of local community leaders.

This may be a piece of the puzzle I was missing in the great reform scam. This sounds a lot like situations I’ve heard where illegal immigrants are lured by promises of prosperity and citizenship only to end up as sex slaves or abused by employers who pay them less than minimum wage, house them in substandard conditions, and threaten to turn them and their families over to ICE if they object. This type of situation makes charters vulnerable to abuse and depredation. It may also be creating an artificial demand for charters from the perspective of money hungry DOEs. This would explain why Louisiana has so many empty and virtually empty charter schools in EBR and New Orleans and why DOE is pushing for even more; I heard we had a school with 7 students and several with fewer than 30 students. This would explain the great mystery of how LDOE is paying for so many 6 figured salaried folks that don’t seem to do anything, and for all of media consultants like, Diedre Finn, who had a 12,000 dollar a month DOE contract for part time public relations work.

I don’t agree with the unsupervised, willy-nilly expansion of charter schools, but I think charters can have a productive role to play if they are properly monitored, properly governed, and employ certified teachers and approved curricula. However I may feel about how they’ve been allowed to expand (without what I would consider reasonable checks and oversight) I can’t condone enslaving or harvesting them for the federal dollars they can bring in. Unfortunately our state has had experience with similar racketeering operations, such as in the issuing of river boat casino licenses perpetrated by those in the highest positions of power.

Could charter schools be Bobby Jindal’s River Boat casinos?

If you are a charter operator who has experienced the type of treatment I described I urge you to the FBI and report this situation. If you want to contact me first I will work with you to report this situation on your behalf.

Thank You

CCF

milk

Empty educational calories

Its not about the quality or nutritional value of the fare offered, its about “choice.” Here are some more empty educational calories for parents to “choose” from.

CenLamar

Superintendent John White Qualifies Six More Creationist Voucher Schools for 2012-2013 School Year, Bringing the Total to 26.

On Tuesday, March 19, the Louisiana State Supreme Court will finally consider whether Bobby Jindal’s school vouchers scheme violates the Louisiana State Constitution. Things aren’t shaping up too well for Team Jindal. Surprisingly (at least to me), District Court Judge Tim Kelley ruled that Jindal’s vouchers scheme was unconstitutional, because it relied entirely on funding through the State’s Minimum Foundation Program, which is specifically established to fund public schools in Louisiana.

Despite the fact that Judge Kelly is a well-known conservative who is married to Jindal’s former Commissioner of Administration, Angelle Davis, and who recently received $1,000 in campaign contributions from Jimmy Faircloth, the attorney representing Jindal in the dispute, Kelley issued a remarkably straightforward ruling and thorough analysis of Jindal’s voucher program, carefully assuring some so-called “reformers” that the plan itself…

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