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On the Senate ESEA Reauthorization, from Politico

From Politico’s Morning Education for July 06, 2015:

By Maggie Severns
With help from Caitlin Emma and Kimberly Hefling
YOUR #NCLB PREVIEW, STRAIGHT FROM LAMAR ALEXANDER AND ARNE DUNCAN: Both the House and the Senate are planning to take up their versions of No Child Left Behind this week, so let’s not waste any time. Here are thoughts on the week ahead from education’s biggest players:
What’s ahead in the Senate? Both Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander are pleased with the bipartisan work that’s taken place this year on the Senate’s education bill – but this week they’re looking for very different changes. Alexander and his party will be looking for more school choice and local control in the bill, while Duncan and many Democrats want the opposite: stronger federal accountability. “There are a lot of contentious issues to deal with, and we’ll have those debates on the floor,” Alexander told Morning Education.
Alexander has spoken with most of his caucus and said most Republican senators are “pretty comfortable” with the bill. Some want to see more school choice provisions and more local control, he said – but there’s some support for more local control among Democrats right now, too. It’s “very unusual” for teachers unions and the National Governor’s Association to be in line with one another, Alexander noted. Overall his goal is to “have enough of a balance that it could pass the Senate and get President Obama’s signature,” Alexander said.
Duncan emphasized the Obama administration “has no interest in a bad bill,” like the one the House plans to vote on later this week. “This is really a civil rights law. We as a nation are grappling with some really tough issues,” Duncan said, such as the d ebate this week in South Carolina over whether the state should fly the Confederate flag. The “next question” that people should ask about minority children in states like South Carolina, Duncan said, is “are they receiving the quality of education that they deserve? And I think the answer is: It’s not even close.”
Odd couple alert: The Education Secretary and the HELP Committee Chairman are at odds politically, but rumor has it they get along. “I talk to Secretary Duncan regularly, had lunch with him the other day,” Alexander said. “He has a big heart and he cares about children.”
Not sure about that last statement.
For any adventurous folk, here is the 792-page Senate ESEA draft (amendments approved in committee included):
And my numerous posts on the previous draft and its 29 amendments can be accessed here.
capitol
__________________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books

US Presidential Democratic Hopeful, Bernie Sanders, Is Rapidly Gaining Popularity

I just read on The Hill an article entitled, “Team Clinton ‘Worried’ about Bernie Sanders Campaign.” Sanders is quickly becoming serious competition for Clinton in the Democratic nomination:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is “worried” about Bernie Sanders, whom a top Clinton aide described as a “serious force” in the 2016 battle.

“We are worried about him, sure. He will be a serious force for the campaign, and I don’t think that will diminish,” Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri said Monday in an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“It’s to be expected that Sanders would do well in a Democratic primary, and he’s going to do well in Iowa in the Democratic caucus.”

Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, has emerged as Clinton’s main foil in the Democratic primary.

While he’s still more than 40 percentage points behind Clinton in virtually all national polls, he’s greatly improved his stock in the early primary states. 

A new Quinnipiac University poll released last week found he doubled his share of Democratic supporters in Iowa in just seven weeks. Some polls in New Hampshire show Sanders less than 10 points behind Clinton.

Indeed, in the last several hours, Huffington Post columnist H.A. Goodman posted a piece entitled, “‘Bernie Sanders Can Become President’ Has Replaced ‘I Like Him, But He Can’t Win'”:

How many time have you heard the phrase, “I like Bernie Sanders, but he can’t win,” uttered by people who identify themselves as progressives? The facts, however, illustrate that “Bernie Sanders can win” and nobody in politics foreshadowed the Vermont Senator’s latest surge in both Iowa and New Hampshire. He recently raised $15 million in just two months, and his campaign reports that “Nearly 87 percent of the total amount raised during the quarter came from the donors who contributed $250 or less.” While Clinton’s team isn’t worried, they should be, primarily because Hillary Clinton already lost a presidential race (spending $229.4 million in the losing effort) and finished behind both Obama and John Edwards in the 2008 Iowa Caucus.

While Clinton is expected to amass $2.5 billion, Bernie Sanders has cut the former Secretary of State’s lead in New Hampshire from 38 percentage points down to just 8.

Goodman continues by noting that Sanders “snagged a key ally” in New Hampshire: Democratic activist Dudley Dudley. Why the rise in Sanders’ popularity? Well, a key reason seems to rest in the fact that the public can get a clear answer from him– on some issues. As Goodman notes:

…Sanders didn’t need billions of dollars to earn the trust of voters in New Hampshire, or cut Hillary’s lead to only 8 points. Since he voted against the Iraq War and has spent a lifetime championing progressive issues while others waivered (Hillary was against gay marriage until 2013, voted for the Iraq War, pushed for the TPP on 45 separate occasions, and supported Keystone XL), Bernie Sanders doesn’t need to prove he’s a progressive. Voters know what they’re getting with Vermont’s Senator. In contrast, Hillary Clinton rarely offers a direct answer on why she failed to champion certain causes when they weren’t popular.

Clinton might avoid the direct answer, but when it comes to hot-button education issues, such as Common Core, Sanders has not spoken publicly. (More to come on Sanders and education.)

Still, Sanders appears to have what money cannot fabricate– grassroots support:

What polls can’t measure, however, is the numbers Sanders is drawing in overflowing crowds. A Washington Post article titled Sanders draws more than 2,500 to Iowa stop — tops for this presidential cycle so far, explains how an energized base of voters is making what was once improbable a very real possibility. …

Money can’t buy enthusiasm or “eye popping crowds,” and while Clinton has the financial backing (she’s been referred to by POLITICO as Wall Street Republicans Dark secret), Bernie has the hearts and minds of Democrats. The Washington Post writes that he’s gaining larger crowds than anyone in the 2016 presidential race, so while Clinton has the top Democratic strategists on her team, Bernie Sanders owns the grass roots support among voters. …

While Sanders “drew both traditional Democrats and conservatives” in Iowa, it would be unthinkable to see conservatives in any state supporting Hillary Clinton. The ability of Sanders to address issues that both right and left find important (even Ted Cruz is talking about wealth inequality) is one of the many advantages Sanders has over any Democratic rival. This advantage could also catapult him to victory over any GOP challenger. …

Bernie Sanders is drawing record crowds and surging in the polls because his value system is worth infinitely more than his opponent’s ability to generate billions of dollars.

As concerns his views on education, an April 2015 Forbes article notes that Sanders wants to “end the practice of the government making billions in profits from student loans taken out by low and moderate income families.” Also, according to Forbes, Sanders posted the following on Facebook regarding teacher pay:

The great moral, economic and political issue of our time is the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing. Something is very wrong when, last year, the top 25 hedge fund managers earned more than the combined income of 425,000 public school teachers. We have got to get our priorities right.

Sanders is a member of the Senate Ed committee that produced the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, which will go before the Senate on July 7, 2015. (I have written extensively on the Senate ESEA draft and approved amendments.) Yet is seems that Sanders views this revision of what was originally the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 and commonly called by the name of its last revision, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), as a piece of legislation that needs to go. As noted in the June 2015 US News and World Report:

Sanders is the only candidate so far to focus on problems with No Child Left Behind in his remarks to the unions, according to excerpts provided by the NEA and AFT.

Sanders, who serves on the Senate education committee, said there are few others as opposed as he is to the sweeping education law – which Congress is attempting to update – and to “this absurd effort to force teachers to spend half of their lives teaching kids how to take tests.”

“If I have anything to say in the coming months, we would end [No Child Left Behind],” Sanders told Eskelsen Garcia.

However, Sanders has yet to publicly take a position on issues of Common Core, teacher tenure/evaluation, and school choice. The Senate ESEA draft defers to states on teacher evaluation issues and prohibits the US Secretary of Education from exercising decision making power over state standards and assessments, prohibiting the federal promotion of Common Core by name. But the Senate ESEA draft also preserves annual testing and is incredibly generous to establishing and expanding America’s under-regulated and over-scandaled charter schools.

 

The details behind Sanders’ statement about “ending” NCLB remain to be seen. Those wishing to press Senator Sanders for details on his education platform can reach him here, on his Senate website, or can tweet him: @SenSanders.

(As for the Senate ESEA draft, those wishing to contact specific members of congress may do so by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.)

Indeed, Sanders is an emerging Democratic favorite on Twitter, with the hashtag, #feelthebern, garnering an average of 6,800 tweets per day between June 25 and July 1. The Clinton hashtag, #hillary2016, averaged 2,700 tweets.

And now, for some personal background on Sanders from the April 2015 Forbes article cited above:

Born in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish immigrants from Poland, Sanders, 73, went to public school from kindergarten through 12th grade. He attended James Madison High School in Brooklyn at the same time as singer/songwriter Carole King and Judge Judy Sheindlin. He spent one year at Brooklyn College, graduated from the University of Chicago in 1964 and then moved to Vermont. His second wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, was president of Burlington College in Vermont from 2004 to 2011.

And, as I close this post, I offer the following information on the 2016 presidential candidates, compliments of Ballotpedia:

Presidential candidate announcements.png

Top potential and declared candidates

Based on media attention and public comments on the 2016 election, Ballotpedia expects the following candidates to be involved in the 2016 presidential election. When a candidate officially declares, it is noted on the list below.

Democrats

Declared
Lincoln Chafee
Hillary Clinton
Martin O’Malley
Bernie Sanders
Jim Webb

Possible
Joe Biden
Andrew Cuomo
Kirsten Gillibrand
Amy Klobuchar
Dennis Kucinich
Brian Schweitzer
Mark Warner

Declined to run
Elizabeth Warren

Republicans

Declared
Jeb Bush
Ben Carson
Chris Christie
Ted Cruz
Carly Fiorina
Lindsey Graham
Mike Huckabee
Bobby Jindal
George Pataki
Rand Paul
Rick Perry
Marco Rubio
Rick Santorum
Donald Trump

Possible
Kelly Ayotte
Mitch Daniels
Nikki Haley
John Kasich
Susana Martinez
Brian Sandoval
Scott Walker

Declined to run
Peter King
Mike Pence
Mitt Romney
Paul Ryan

__________________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books

A Second New York Math Teacher: Regents Exam Was “One of the Best” (??)

On June 24, 2015, I posted an email that a New York State algebra teacher wrote to parents regarding the Regents algebra exam. In short, the teacher wrote that the exam “did a serious disservice to your child,” and he/she included several examples of test questions that he/she judged to be problematic.

On July 1, 2015, a reader who identified him-/herself as also being a New York State math teacher wrote a comment to the first teacher’s email on another blog where my post had been reblogged. The second teacher judged the exam to be fine and concluded that the problem was with the first teacher, not the test questions the first teacher highlighted. The second teacher concludes his/her comment with, “In summary, teachers who can’t teach should not be allowed to complain about Common Core.”

I forwarded the first teacher the comment written by the second teacher and asked the first teacher if he/she would like to respond.

The answer was yes.

In this post, I first reproduce the algebra teacher’s original email. Following that, I provide the second, dissenting teacher’s response. And, finally, I post the original teacher’s response to the second, dissenting teacher.

Also, those interested in viewing the Regents Algebra I exam are able to access the exam by clicking here.

Let’s get started.

Here is the first teacher’s original email, a communication to the parents of her/his algebra students:

Dear Algebra Parents, 

The results from this year’s Common Core Algebra exam are now available and have been posted on the high school gymnasium doors. They are listed by student ID number and have no names attached to them. The list includes all students who took the exam, whether they were middle school students or high school students.  

I’ve been teaching math for 13 years now. Every one of those years I have taught some version of Algebra, whether it was “Math A”, “Integrated Algebra”, “Common Core Algebra”, or whatever other form it has shown up in. After grading this exam, speaking to colleagues who teach math in other school districts, and reflecting upon the exam itself, I have come to the conclusion that this was the toughest Algebra exam I have ever seen.

With that in mind, please know that all 31 middle school students who took the exam received a passing score. No matter what grade your son or daughter received, every student should be congratulated on the effort they put into the class this year. 

Although everyone passed, many of you will not be happy with the grade that your son or daughter received on the exam (and neither will they). While I usually try to keep the politics of this job out of my communications, I cannot, in good conscience, ignore the two-fold tragedy that unfolded on this exam. As a parent, you deserve to know the truth.

I mentioned how challenging this exam was, but I want you to hear why I feel this way.

Let’s start with question #24, which was a multiple choice problem. 30/31 of my students missed this problem. Why? Because it was a compound inequality question, which is neither in our curriculum nor is it found anywhere in the modules. As a matter of fact, this is a topic that was previously taught in Trigonometry.

Or how about #28, the open response question that required students to subtract two trinomials, then multiply by a fractional monomial? While that may sound like Greek to some of you, what it means is that there were several steps involved, and any slight miscalculation on any step would result in a one-point deduction on a problem that was only worth two points in total. 

Additionally, the only 6-point problem on the test was a graph that used an equation so ridiculous that it didn’t even fit well on a graphing calculator. The list of examples like this goes on and on.

Additionally, students were met with the toughest curve I’ve ever seen on a Regents exam as well. Typically you think of a curve as something that will add a few points onto every student’s exam to account for the difficulty level of that exam. All Regents exams have some version of a curve or another, and while this curve did help the lower-performing students, it also HURT the highest-performing students. For example, a student that knew 94% of the exam received a grade of 93. A student that knew 86% of the exam received an 84. When you look at the class as a whole, only two students met the “85 or above” that they were striving for all year long.

As if that isn’t alarming enough, let’s look at the difference between a grade of a 70 and a grade of a 75. You may look at those two and think that they are just five points apart, right? Well the way the scale works, a student who knew just 47% of the material got a grade of a 70, while a student who knew 71% of the material got a 75. Therefore, a student who got the 75 may have actually gotten almost 25% more of the exam correct than the student who got the 70! This creates one of the worst bell curves I have ever seen. 

Now let’s put that into perspective. The old-style (Integrated) Algebra exam was also given this year to a small subgroup of students. None of the middle school students were eligible to take this exam. However, were I to apply the curve that was assigned to that exam (which was a MUCH easier exam), a student who knew 78% of the exam would be given a grade of an 85. All in all, over half of the class would have gotten an 85 or above had that scale been used instead!

Let me sum up what the last three paragraphs really say: the exam did a serious disservice to your child and will be reflected in their grade. It’s not a fair representation of what students knew, what they did all year, or what they were capable of. There is nothing that your son or daughter could have done to have been better prepared for this exam. Words cannot describe what an injustice this truly is to your child.

So instead of just sitting back and accepting it for what it is, I’d like to offer you the best that I have. I’m willing, I’m ready, and I will be running review sessions free of charge this summer prior to the August administration of the Common Core Algebra Regents. This will be open to any student who wishes to retake the exam. We will take a look at every question that students missed on their individual test and talk about why they missed them, in addition to reviewing topics from the school year. We will also take a look at some of the wording that showed up on the exam for the first time that likely threw off many students. It’s the least I can do for students that worked so hard during the year. They should not be penalized for the state’s ridiculous examination.

I know that this has been an extremely long email, but I hope you understand the importance of what I had to say and that you can be proud of your son or daughter no matter what grade they received. Although I had promised that this would be my last email to you, expect one more with information about tutoring and the date of the August administration of the Regents. Thank you for listening.

Sincerely, 

NMS Math Teacher

Now, here is the second teacher’s response, written as a blog comment on July 1, 2015:

As a New York State High School teacher of mathematics, I am appalled at the  inaccuracy of much of what this particular teacher says.

#24 – Students are not expected to solve the compound inequality.  They are simply asked to calculate an average over an interval.  The question basically says that if the cost of an event is $750, how many students must attend if the average cost per person is to be between $0.50 and $1.00.  The “compound  inequality” is simply the range of students.  This type of inequality has been presented many times over the course of the year in nearly all the modules, including the 6 point graph question.  

#28 – The teacher forgot to mention to the parents that the big, scary fraction was 1/2.  I think most kids, especially those equipped with a calculator that can provide answers in fractional form, could handle this.  

#37 “The graph” – Any good instructor always shows their students how to use the tools at hand.  Yes, the equation was messy, but the students, by law, must have a graphing calculator.  One of the first things we teach our students is that when an interval (i.e. compound inequality) is given (in this case 0 < x < 150) you enter that domain as the bounds of the graph in the graphing window (usually called xMin and xMax).  Then they can use the ZFit function on the calculator which sets the range (y-values) for the given domain (x-values).  My guess is that this instructor is not aware of this function and probably had his/her students graphing everything in a standard -10 < x < 10 window, which is odd since the modules are littered with examples of these “messy” functions.

Now, I have only been teaching for 22 years, but in my limited experience, I have found this exam to be one of the best that New York State has administered. It was challenging, fair, and expected a high level of rigor.

Having said that, what all of us MUST BE CONCERNED ABOUT is the ABSOLUTELY  ABSURD curve the state dictated regarding this exam.  According to New York, the  following is a true statement:

35 = 65 

You see, sum of the points on this exam was 86, but ONLY 30 POINTS WERE NEEDED TO PASS (i.e earn a grade 65).  Now, I realize everyone hates percents, but go on your calculator and do 30 / 86 * 100 and you will see that by scoring 35% correct, you earned a 65%.

So, I really disagree with this teacher on their point about, “every student should be congratulated on the effort they put into the class”, and “students were met with the toughest curve I’ve ever seen on a Regents exam”.  If your child passed this exam with anything less than an 80  (which, incidentally was actually 80% correct of the exam), they probably don’t know any algebra at all and will definitely struggle through geometry and algebra,  Don’t congratulate them, but instead make them learn the algebra they were supposed to.

In summary, teachers who can’t teach should not be allowed to complain about Common Core.

And, finally, the first teacher’s rebuttal to the second teacher’s comment:

The original letter that you read was meant for an audience of parents, not mathematicians.  Full mathematical justification for the examples I gave them was not necessary to get across the message I was trying to send.  Since the “teacher” missed (or chose to ignore) the point on several portions of the email, please allow me to expand on my previous message.

#24:  regents algebra question 24 

The problem can be found directly at this link: https://roundtheinkwell.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/image2.jpg

My first gut instinct looking at the problem is to first find the average cost, and then to make sure that the average is between the two acceptable numbers given (2.75 and 3.25). The average can be found by using the expression (750 + 2.25p)/p. Since this needs to be sandwiched in-between the acceptable numbers, that then creates the inequality 2.75 <  (750 + 2.25p)/p < 3.25.  That is a compound inequality with a variable in the denominator (which is the real sticking point here).  The type of compound inequality that the “teacher” claims can be found throughout the modules (and in problem #37) does exist as a range of values, however, he/she ignores the fact that students are GIVEN that range of values in those problems, not asked to solve for them!  Could a student have broken this down and done it in two separate steps, looking at the “at or above 2.75″ first and then, as a separate problem, “at or below 3.25?” Sure, but that’s exactly how you solve a compound inequality!   Even if a student were able to come up with an average between $.50 and $1.00, as the “teacher” claims, they would still be left with the compound inequality .50 < 750/p < 1.00, which still needs to be solved and still has a fraction in the denominator. For reference to previous inequality questions of a much easier (and appropriate) caliber, see the Jan 2015 exam, questions #7 and 13. 

#28:  I never said the fraction was tough.  The whole point of that paragraph, had this “teacher” bothered to read it, is that there are way too many steps involved (and portions of standards being assessed) for this to be considered a two-point question, in my opinion.  A student needed to A) subtract two trinomials, B) multiply by a monomial (that also happens to have a fraction) and C) put the answer into standard form.  If you look at previous exams, say for example January 2015, question #28 (ironically enough), just subtracting the two trinomials was worth the exact same number of points.  The same could be said about the June 2014 exam, problem #3.

#37:  At least we can agree on the first sentence; knowledge of how to use the graphing calculator is integral to success on this exam!  I’m not sure why the “teacher” assumes that I wasn’t aware of the functions on the calculator, however, I can assure you that we, as a class, have needed to use “zoom fit” on many, many occasions throughout the school year.  That being said, you still needed to create an appropriate scale for both the x-axis and the y-axis, where the x-values needed to cover at minimum of 151 numbers to show the full path of the football, and yet the y-values only needed to go up to 25.  Even if you use zoom-fit and change the scale of your graph, the majority of the points you will try to graph are still not whole-number values, so you’re still left to estimate (as best as possible) where to plot those values.  I never said that this was impossible, however, the majority of the questions like this throughout the modules used “nicer” equations that typically follow the numbers found in gravity/motion problems that students will see when they get to physics (ie. using -9.8 or -16 as leading coefficients, and working with trinomials to boot).  See Module 4, Mid-Module Assessment, question #3 for a perfect example of this.

As for the “teacher’s” sarcastic opinion on the exam as a whole, I respectfully disagree entirely (which was why I wrote my letter to begin with).  It was TOO challenging, TOO rigorous, and NOT fair to the students.  I guess we will have to agree to disagree on that one.  Additionally, since you have never been in my classroom, and you are not a parent of any of these students, you have no standing to judge how much effort these students put into the course.  I have at least 31 sets of parents that I’m sure would dispute your claim.

Finally, to your point about me not being able to teach…I’d like to see the statewide results from this Regents exam and put my students scores up against everyone else that took the exam before jumping to any conclusions.  If that doesn’t satisfy you, let’s take a look at two years ago, which was the last true group of students that took the Integrated Algebra Regents exam (the old standards prior to the common core).  That year, my class had a 96% MASTERY rate (85 or above), and the only student who did not achieve mastery got an 84.  Either I lucked out and everyone in that class was a genius, or I might know a thing or two about teaching.

apple with a bite out

_____________________________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books

 

 

 

Questor Marketing Research Advises Pearson Investors to SELL

In May 2014, I wrote a post about Pearson’s February 2014 earnings call, in which Pearson CEO John Fallon spoke with market analysts about Pearson’s education investments.

Here is an excerpt from that post:

One of the analysts (Whittaker) raises the question of Pearson’s dependence upon 2015 CCSS implementation for future profits. Fallon uses editorials on CCSS as evidence that CCSS will move forward (such sophisticated research, eh?) and comments that before CCSS, “local, stand-alone operating companies” were an impediment to not being able to “scale at anything.” …

Whittaker has asked once about an alternate plan of action if CCSS doesn’t work as anticipated. Fallon responded initially that all of CCSS need not work in 2015, just some of CCSS. Whittaker insists upon hearing of Fallon’s alternate plan of action; Fallon offers no substantive alternate plan. [Emphasis added.]

Now, cut to June 30, 2015, and an article in the UK Telegraph regarding financial advice from UK-based market research firm, Questor entitled, Questor Share Tips: Sell Pearson on US Education Weakness.

Sell Pearson??

Uh-oh…

Some excerpts from the Telegraph article:

Pearson
£12.05 -24p
Questor says SELL

PEARSON [LON:PSON], the media group that owns The Financial Times newspaper, has taken a big gamble on the education sector, while a slowdown in the US has left the shares looking overvalued. …

…The increased testing of children is also coming under scrutiny in North America. The standard test for maths and English – the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) – that Pearson administers across 11 states is also being looked at in more detail. …

Shares fail the test

The shares are now almost exactly where they were at the start of 2013, after they have steadily recovered from a shock profit warning at the start of last year.

However, given the difficulties in their largest education market in the US, a rating of 17 times forecast earnings looks far too optimistic.

The shares may offer an attractive dividend yield of 4.3 pc (percent), but the dividend payments don’t look all that secure, as they are only covered 1.4 times by earnings.

The profit recovery that is expected this year could also falter in the second half.

The shares don’t pass our test. Sell.

And a bit more, from Politico’s Morning Education on June 29, 2015:

PARCC SUFFERS BUCKEYE BLOW: Ohio state lawmakers sent Republican Gov. John Kasich a budget [http://bit.ly/1IicfiH] late last week that provides more money for schools, freezes tuition rates at public colleges for two years – and abandons the PARCC test. Kasich could line item veto the PARCC measure, but he’s widely expected [http://politico.pro/1e8ICUP ] to sign it without doing do so. Ohio has been a governing state in PARCC and the loss of the Buckeye State is a big blow to the testing consortium. “The PARCC brand name has been so badly damaged that even though people are more comfortable and familiar with it, the anger and the angst over it would still be there and that just wouldn’t be a good environment for things,” said state Education Committee Chairman Peggy Lehner, a Republican. Lehner told Morning Education that the decision to leave PARCC came down to the backlash against it, with teachers concerned about the use of test scores in hiring and firing decisions, the length of the test and the Common Core standards themselves.

– Following complaints from Ohio and elsewhere, PARCC announced [http://politico.pro/1FFVW98 ] last month that it was shortening the test and consolidating two testing windows into one. Lehner said she was open to trying PARCC for another year, but the testing group didn’t shorten the test enough to satisfy critics. “I could see the writing on the wall that PARCC just wasn’t going to be viable, maybe for the wrong reasons, but at the end of the day it just wasn’t going to be viable,” she said. Late last week, spokesman David Connerty-Marin said he was confident in the future of PARCC’s work. “PARCC is the highest-quality assessment on the market and … we will maintain current competitive pricing into the future.” His statement: http://politico.pro/1Nkfq9a.

– ‘Ohio has a big task in front of it,” said Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Fordham Institute. “It needs to adopt and implement a high-quality, aligned assessment for next school year. It’s imperative that this transition be handled in a way that isn’t disruptive to students and teachers.’

– As for PARCC’s other governing board members: The test is in trouble in Arkansas; Massachusetts hasn’t fully committed and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has questioned the test; and a fellow Republican, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, has said he’s a Common Core and PARCC skeptic: http://bit.ly/1LwwwCb.

And one more, from Politico’s Morning Education on June 30, 2015– the day that Questor advised Pearson investors to SELL:

Elsewhere, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, is expected to sign a budget today that abandons the PARCC test. Kasich has to sign the budget, which would also provide more money for schools and freeze tuition rates at public colleges for two years, by today so it can take effect on Wednesday. It’s a big blow to PARCC, which has already seen a number of state members drop or question the test. But PARCC is working on ways for additional states, districts and other entities to get involved in the testing group, CEO Laura Slover wrote in a recent letter. Those new players could include Catholic schools and charter school organizations, she wrote. More: http://politico.pro/1U1XRjj. (Archived June 30, 2015, link available here)

Sounds like Pearson CEO Fallon should have spent more time on US K-12 Education Plan B at least two years ago. At least.

That’s okay. Former Common Core insider Laura Slover is going to drum up some PARCC business from parochial and charter schools.

Wonder if she can do so before Pearson investors listen to Questor.

Kind of like sweeping up crumbs to reshape a cookie of desperation.

cookie crumbs

 

_______________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015. Questor said to buy it**

**Not really, but let’s pretend they did.

both books

 

When Offered the “Choice,” Who Enrolls in a “Failing School”?

On June 27, 2015, I posted a piece entitled, 37 Percent of New Orleans Students Attended Excelling Schools in 2014, in which I take the news byte of the dramatic, “67-to-7-percent” drop in “failing schools” in New Orleans and flip it to produce three more modest news bytes regarding the number of students in “excelling schools.” My goal was to confront the potential assumption that “not a failing school” and “excelling school” are one and the same– and to communicate as much in the corporate-reform-preferred delivery of a marketing-friendly news byte.

However, I veered form typical corporate reform delivery in that I linked to documentation of my calculations behind the news bytes as well as to the data used in my calculations.

All of the above work was the result of my attending the Education Research Alliance (ERA) of New Orleans conference and hearing former Recovery School District (RSD) chief of staff and current Educate Now! consultant Nash Crews publicly toss off the “67-to-7-percent-in-failing-schools” statement without also publicly and clearly defining the term, “failing school.” (See my post above for details.)

My colleague Herb Bassett– who teaches music in LaSalle Parish; who also holds a minor in mathematics, and who is well-versed in the history of Louisiana school performance score (SPS) calculations– read my June 27, 2015, post, including the links.

On June 29, 2015, Bassett sent me the following observations, which constitute much of the remainder of this post:

Mercedes-

I would like to explain some curious methods used to low-ball the figure for Orleans students enrolled in failing schools.

Nash Crews states that since Katrina, the percentage of New Orleans students enrolled in failing schools has dropped from 62 to 7 percent. LDOE excludes a “T” school and claims that it dropped from 62 to 6 percent. (The school had a failing SPS but its “transitional” status kept it from receiving an “F”)

1) Sounds great, but what do they mean, “enrolled in a failing school”? I thought New Orleans had school choice. Who chooses to enroll in a failing school?

Let me impersonate a reformer for a moment.

“We must empower students!  At the end of each year, close all the failing schools and let the children choose other schools. In the fall, every child will attend a non-failing school! And at the end of that year, close all the schools that fail and let the children choose other schools. As long as we rigorously close all the failing schools each year, no student will ever ENROLL in a failing school in the fall!”

See what I did there?

Crews states that 3174 students enrolled in failing schools in the fall of 2014.

Now, in 2013-14, 3938 students attended schools that earned failing scores in 2013-14. Three of the failing schools closed; most of their students switched to schools that did not fail in 2013-14. Viola! Those students disappeared from the count because they enrolled in non-failing schools in the fall of 2014. (see my spreadsheet for details)

In 2013-14, just over nine percent of students attended a school that failed in 2013-14.

2) Let’s curve the Letter Grades to keep schools from failing!

Louisiana’s state tests were modified in 2013-14 and it was feared that proficiency rates would drop. That didn’t happen because the cut scores were adjusted to compensate, but LDOE still curved the school letter grades as promised. Kipp New Orleans Leadership Academy missed the passing mark, but was given a passing grade thanks to the curve.

If that school is called failing, then 11 percent of students attended failing schools.

3) What is failing?

The definition has been tweaked over the years, but failing is having a high concentration of non-proficient students. To pass, a school had to have about half of its students score Basic on the state tests both in 2005 and 2014. If anything, I think it was a little harder to pass in 2005 than 2014. The number of failing schools statewide enrolling students dropped from 170 to 94 by Crews’ methodology.

Closing schools is all about spreading the non-proficient students around so that there are never too many in any one school. Take the schools with high concentrations of non-proficient students (aka – “failing schools”), close them and spread the students among other schools with fewer non-proficient students. As long as the receiving schools do not reach too high of a concentration of non-proficient students, then they still pass.

In Kipp NO Leadership Academy’s case, they took on just a few too many non-proficient students and just missed the passing mark.

At some point, all the non-proficient students are evenly distributed throughout the system and there is nothing more to gain from the shell game. If only there was a way to pull non-proficient students out of the system entirely… hmm…

4) Let’s give out vouchers! (oops, I meant to say scholarships)

It appears that when a child is given a voucher, the child no longer counts in OPSB/RSD statistics.

Vouchers were to save students from failing schools, so I give OPSB/RSD the responsibility for those students who were “failed” by the system.

(Crews and LDOE lump all the students of OPSB and RSD together into a Orleans figure. Since the two systems jointly are responsible for the children of Orleans parish, I have no objection, as long as we also include the children who take vouchers.)

Voucher program data are closely guarded by LDOE. While I could not find solid numbers, I will make some thoughtful deductions here.

In her email correspondence, Crews cited enrollment numbers for OPSB and RSD that do not match LDOE-published data for 2013 and 2014.  Her enrollment counts are about 2400 over the LDOE data.  That aligns closely with the scant information published about the voucher program.  I believe those are the voucher numbers.

We also know that proficiency rates in the voucher program are 41-44%.  This would be failing if it were a school.

So I include the voucher program as a failing school.  This raises the percent of students attending failing schools to just under 16 percent.

I see her figures as immaterial. Who enrolls in a failing school?

A more realistic version would be: in Orleans, students attending failing schools dropped from 62 to 16 percent while the number of failing schools statewide dropped dramatically. Most of the drop in percentage here came from spreading weak students more evenly throughout the system.

Yes, I believe that OPSB/RSD has improved from rock-bottom over the years, but I see no miracle here.

I do see one of the most bogus metrics ever put out by LDOE, and that is a high honor, because LDOE is so masterful with bogus metrics.

Herb Bassett

There are other ways to get rid of the food on a plate than by eating it.

Just spread it around, for example.

playing with food

 

_____________________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books

37 Percent of New Orleans Students Attended Excelling Schools in 2014

On Friday, June 19, 2015, I attended the Education Research Alliance (ERA) of New Orleans conference, entitled, The Urban Education Future? Lessons from New Orleans 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina. One of the participants in the first panel session was Nash Crews, who had no bio information in the conference program but who does have bio info as part of the Net Charter High School board of directors:

Nash Crews, Board Member

Consultant at Educate Now!

Ms. Crews is a consultant for the non-profit Educate Now! and previously served as the Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Policy for the Recovery School District.  Prior to that, Ms. Crews worked as the Associate Director of the Scott S. Cowen Institute and the Health and Education Legislative Assistant for Senator Mary Landrieu.  Ms. Crews holds a master’s degree in non-profit management from the University of Mississippi and a bachelor’s degree in English from Furman University.

During the panel discussion, Crews made a statement similar to one that I have read and about which I have been asked more than once:

Before the storm, we had 62 percent of students in failing schools. Now we have 7 percent.

The audience was allowed to submit questions to the panel participants. So, I submitted a question: I asked Crews to define “failing schools.”

There are a few definitions of “failing schools” floating around the Big Easy. In 2003, a “failing school” in Louisiana was one with a school performance score below 60. In November 2005, a “failing school” was one with a school performance score below the pre-Katrina state average of 87.4. In 2012, the Louisiana “scholarship” (voucher) program defined “failing school” as one with a C, D, or F school letter grade.

Then there are the numerous changes in school performance scores, including calculations and scaling.

So, I wanted to know what was behind a statement that makes an amazing news byte. There is no fine print to a news byte, but I wanted some fine print.

In response to my question, Crews stated that “failing school” before Katrina and after was “not defined the same way” and that failure was “below the 50 percent mark.”

“Below the 50 percent mark” of what? 

At the end of the panel presentation, I approached Crews to find out the details behind the “failing school” definition, and Crews stated it was too complicated to get into on the panel but that she would email the details to me.

I emailed Crews; she responded, and I wrote again, twice. (Read our entire email exchange here.)

In short, the 67-percent-to-7-percent definition of “failing school” for “before the storm” was a 2005 rating of “academically unacceptable” based upon a school performance score below 60. Current definitions of “failing school” related to Crews’ statement involved schools with an F letter grade. (Read email exchange for more detail.)

People hearing the 62-percent-to-7-percent news byte would not only not get any detailed explanation– they could also easily assume that “not attending a failing school” readily translates into students attending schools with high letter grades– like A or B schools.

The beauty of marketing by news byte rests in the assumptions that listeners easily make. In this case, a listener hears that most New Orleans students used to be in “failing schools” but are no longer, and that listener could easily assume that not being in a “failing school” means that almost all (93 percent of) New Orleans students are now in excelling schools.

Not so.

I wanted to offer the public information to help balance out the sensationalism evoked by the 62-to-7-percent-in-failing-schools news byte. So, I created my own news bytes.

Instead of focusing on New Orleans students attending “failing schools,” I used the logic behind Crews’ statement to create brief, easy-to-communicate (and more realistic) statements focused upon “excelling schools”:

Before the storm, in 2005, 7 percent of New Orleans students were in excelling schools. Nine years later, in 2014, the proportion of New Orleans students in excelling schools is 37 percent.

 Before the storm, in 2005, 7 percent of Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) students were in excelling schools. Nine years later, in 2014, the proportion of OPSB students in excelling schools is 88 percent.

 Before the storm, in 2005, no New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) students were in excelling schools. Nine years later, in 2014, the proportion of New Orleans RSD students in excelling schools is 16 percent.

Moral of the story: The “failing schools” news byte makes for better miracle marketing of New Orleans schools than does the “excelling schools” angle.

st louis cathedral

Now, for my “fine print”:

In my news bytes, I defined 2005, pre-Katrina “excelling schools” as those with four or five stars. (Before Louisiana had letter grades, it had a star rating system, with no stars as “academically unacceptable” and five stars as the best schools.) As concerns 2014 “excelling schools” and school letter grades, I defined “excelling” as having an A or B school letter grade.

And since the New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) is the marketed, turn-around product, I produced three news bytes: one for all New Orleans schools; one for non-state-run Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) schools, and one for RSD schools in isolation.

Those considering emulating the New Orleans model of state takeover need to understand that the state did not take over OPSB– that OPSB remains a local-board-run district– and that several OPSB schools are selective admission.

The state only took over RSD schools. Moreover, RSD is not a district required to return schools to OPSB. RSD is a permanent district, and RSD is supposed to “turn around failing schools.”

To date, RSD has “turned around” no schools as A schools and only a handful as B schools. And that is what gets lost in Crews’ “failing schools are really just F schools” news byte: A “non-failing” school is not automatically an “excelling school.”

For those interested in even “finer print”:

The details of my calculations can be found here:

New Orleans Excelling Schools Data Summary

And the data sources for my calculations can be found here:

2004-2005-sps

2014-school-performance-scores (4)

Orleans-RSD enrollment-counts-(2004-05-2006-07-to-2013-14)

____________________________________________

m_schneider

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books

 

New York Algebra Teacher Writes Parents about the “Serious Disservice” of CC Tests

The following text is from an email that New York parent Scott Strong received from his twins’ eighth-grade teacher. It concerns the Pearson-crafted, allegedly Common-Core-aligned algebra exam administered in New York in 2015.

(New York continues to be listed as a “PARCC state,” but New York has not yet administered the Pearson-PARCC exams. ADDENDUM 06-25: The exam referenced below is not for grades 3 through 8 though some middle-schoolers did take it; so, it was likely written by teachers.)

In the text, the teacher refers to the New York Board of Regents conversion of raw scores to scaled scores. That conversion can be found here: Regents 2015 Algebra Exam Scoring Chart. The test itself had a possible raw score of 86 points, which Regents “curved” to a 100-point scale. But the Regents curve has problems– and it is only one issue that makes this algebra test educational nonsense.

Read on.

Dear Algebra Parents, 

The results from this year’s Common Core Algebra exam are now available and have been posted on the high school gymnasium doors. They are listed by student ID number and have no names attached to them. The list includes all students who took the exam, whether they were middle school students or high school students.  

I’ve been teaching math for 13 years now. Every one of those years I have taught some version of Algebra, whether it was “Math A”, “Integrated Algebra”, “Common Core Algebra”, or whatever other form it has shown up in. After grading this exam, speaking to colleagues who teach math in other school districts, and reflecting upon the exam itself, I have come to the conclusion that this was the toughest Algebra exam I have ever seen.

With that in mind, please know that all 31 middle school students who took the exam received a passing score. No matter what grade your son or daughter received, every student should be congratulated on the effort they put into the class this year. 

Although everyone passed, many of you will not be happy with the grade that your son or daughter received on the exam (and neither will they). While I usually try to keep the politics of this job out of my communications, I cannot, in good conscience, ignore the two-fold tragedy that unfolded on this exam. As a parent, you deserve to know the truth.

I mentioned how challenging this exam was, but I want you to hear why I feel this way.

Let’s start with question #24, which was a multiple choice problem. 30/31 of my students missed this problem. Why? Because it was a compound inequality question, which is neither in our curriculum nor is it found anywhere in the modules. As a matter of fact, this is a topic that was previously taught in Trigonometry.

Or how about #28, the open response question that required students to subtract two trinomials, then multiply by a fractional monomial? While that may sound like Greek to some of you, what it means is that there were several steps involved, and any slight miscalculation on any step would result in a one-point deduction on a problem that was only worth two points in total. 

Additionally, the only 6-point problem on the test was a graph that used an equation so ridiculous that it didn’t even fit well on a graphing calculator. The list of examples like this goes on and on.

Additionally, students were met with the toughest curve I’ve ever seen on a Regents exam as well. Typically you think of a curve as something that will add a few points onto every student’s exam to account for the difficulty level of that exam. All Regents exams have some version of a curve or another, and while this curve did help the lower-performing students, it also HURT the highest-performing students. For example, a student that knew 94% of the exam received a grade of 93. A student that knew 86% of the exam received an 84. When you look at the class as a whole, only two students met the “85 or above” that they were striving for all year long.

As if that isn’t alarming enough, let’s look at the difference between a grade of a 70 and a grade of a 75. You may look at those two and think that they are just five points apart, right? Well the way the scale works, a student who knew just 47% of the material got a grade of a 70, while a student who knew 71% of the material got a 75. Therefore, a student who got the 75 may have actually gotten almost 25% more of the exam correct than the student who got the 70! This creates one of the worst bell curves I have ever seen. 

Now let’s put that into perspective. The old-style (Integrated) Algebra exam was also given this year to a small subgroup of students. None of the middle school students were eligible to take this exam. However, were I to apply the curve that was assigned to that exam (which was a MUCH easier exam), a student who knew 78% of the exam would be given a grade of an 85. All in all, over half of the class would have gotten an 85 or above had that scale been used instead!

Let me sum up what the last three paragraphs really say: the exam did a serious disservice to your child and will be reflected in their grade. It’s not a fair representation of what students knew, what they did all year, or what they were capable of. There is nothing that your son or daughter could have done to have been better prepared for this exam. Words cannot describe what an injustice this truly is to your child.

So instead of just sitting back and accepting it for what it is, I’d like to offer you the best that I have. I’m willing, I’m ready, and I will be running review sessions free of charge this summer prior to the August administration of the Common Core Algebra Regents. This will be open to any student who wishes to retake the exam. We will take a look at every question that students missed on their individual test and talk about why they missed them, in addition to reviewing topics from the school year. We will also take a look at some of the wording that showed up on the exam for the first time that likely threw off many students. It’s the least I can do for students that worked so hard during the year. They should not be penalized for the state’s ridiculous examination.

I know that this has been an extremely long email, but I hope you understand the importance of what I had to say and that you can be proud of your son or daughter no matter what grade they received. Although I had promised that this would be my last email to you, expect one more with information about tutoring and the date of the August administration of the Regents. Thank you for listening.

Sincerely, 

NMS Math Teacher

Somehow, all of this is supposed to guarantee that America win a contrived “global competitiveness” contest.

My heart goes out to you, New York teachers, parents, and students.

2+2=5

_______________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books

 

 

 

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