Saturday Cartoon Fun: Chrysler Edition


We Tortured A Clerk And Drove Him Insane

We tortured him, and drove him out of his mind. And he was a lowly clerk.

From the LA Times:
Today, he suffers blinding headaches and has permanent brain damage. He has an excruciating sensitivity to sounds, hearing what others do not. The slightest noise drives him nearly insane. In the last two years alone, he has experienced about 200 seizures.

But physical pain is a passing thing. The enduring torment is the taunting reminder that darkness encroaches. Already, he cannot picture his mother's face or recall his father's name [emphasis mine]. Gradually, his past, like his future, eludes him.

McCain was right: It's about who we are. And we are not people who do this to another human being.
Is this what we've become? We must investigate, and let the investigation take us wherever it leads. It is not only the right thing to do, if we don't, we are in violation of the Geneva Conventions as well as the Torture Conventions. We are, right now, violating international law by not investigating.

Come on Attorney General Holder!


Andrew Sullivan Wept...

Religious people like torture. Republicans have more religious people than Democrats. Yes, both ways.

h/t Sully

Condoleezza Nixon

The Rice/Stanford student exchange:
How are we supposed to continue promoting America as this guiding light of democracy and how are we supposed to win hearts and minds in the world as long as we continue with these actions?

Well, first of all, you do what's right. That's the most important thing -- that you make a judgment of what's right. And in terms of enhanced interrogation, and rendition, and all the issues around the detainees. Abu Ghraib is, and everyone said, Abu Ghraib was not policy. Abu Ghraib was wrong and nobody would argue with...

Except that information that's come out since then speaks against that.

No, no, no -- the information that's come out since then continues to say that Abu Ghraib was wrong. Abu Ghraib was. But in terms of the enhanced interrogation and so forth, anything that was legal and was going to make this country safer, the president wanted to do. Nothing that was illegal. And nothing that was going to make the country less safe.

And I'll tell you something. Unless you were there in a position of responsibility after September 11th, you cannot possibly imagine the dilemmas that you faced in trying to protect Americans. And I know a lot of people are second-guessing now, but let me tell you what the second-guessing that would really have hurt me -- if the second-guessing had been about 3,000 more Americans dying because we didn't do everything we could to protect them.

If you were there in a position of authority, and watched Americans jump out of 80-story buildings because these murderous tyrants went after innocent people, then you were determined to do anything that you could that was legal to prevent that from happening again. And so I think people do understand that.

Now, as to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and so forth -- I agree with you. We have tried to use the trafficking in persons and all of those measures, human rights reports and so forth, to put a spotlight on the kinds of problems that you have in places like Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or Oman or other places. But you can't -- you don't have the luxury in foreign policy of saying, alright, I won't deal with that country because I don't like its human rights record. You don't have that luxury. So if you need Saudi Arabia to fight al Qaeda internally -- which is by the way where al Qaeda came from -- or if you need Saudi Arabia to be part of a coalition that's going to help bring a Palestinian state, you can't decide not to deal with Saudi Arabia because of its problems with human rights. Or, if you need to make sure that the Gulf is safe from Iranian influence -- you want to talk about human rights abusers? -- Iran.

I'm well aware.

Excuse me?

I'm well aware.

So, foreign policy is full of tough choices. Very tough choices. The world is not a bunch of easy choices in which you get to make ones that always feel good.

I'm aware, but...[I'm sorry, we have to move]

Let him finish, let him finish.

Even in World War II, as we faced Nazi Germany -- probably the greatest threat that America has ever faced -- even then...

With all due respect, Nazi Germany never attacked the homeland of the United States.

No, but they bombed our allies...

No. Just a second. Three thousand Americans died in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

500,000 died in World War II, and yet we did not torture the prisoners of war.

And we didn't torture anybody here either. Alright?

We tortured them in Guantanamo Bay.

No, no dear, you're wrong. Alright. You're wrong. We did not torture anyone. And Guantanamo Bay, by the way, was considered a model "medium security prison" by representatives of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe who went there to see it. Did you know that?

Were they present for the interrogations?

No. Did you know that the Organization -- just answer me -- did you know that the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe said Guantanamo was a model medium security prison?

No, but I feel that changes nothing...

No -- Did you know that?

I did not know that, but that changes absolutely nothing.

Alright, no -- if you didn't know that, maybe before you make allegations about Guantanamo you should read.

Now, the ICRC also had access to Guantanamo, and they made no allegations about interrogations at Guantanamo. What they did say is that they believe indefinite detention, where people didn't know whether they'd come up for trial, which is why we tried with the military commissions system to let people come up for trial. Those trials were stayed by whom? Who kept us from holding the trials?

I can't answer that question.

Do your homework first.

I have a question...

Yes. The Supreme Court.

I read a recent report, recently, that said that you did a memo, you were the one who authorized torture to the -- I'm sorry, not torture, waterboarding. Is waterboarding torture?

The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations, under the Convention Against torture. So that's -- and by the way, I didn't authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency. That they had policy authorization subject to the Justice Department's clearance. That's what I did.

Okay. Is waterboarding torture?

I just said -- the United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. And so, by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Conventions Against Torture.

Thank you.
h/t FP

Update: Lawyers: I hear that the bolded text above constitutes conspiracy. Thoughts?

Wednesday Cartoon Fun: Arlen Specter Edition

Wednesday Cartoon Fun: War Criminals Edition


CST And Standardization

I sure do hope that all other 2nd grade classrooms in California had district gardeners weed whacking right outside their classrooms all during the Math CST today; otherwise, the "standardized" part of the test won't be standard!

The Failure Of NCLB


Contact Monty Neill 857-350-8207 or 8208 x 101
Lisa Guisbond 617-730-5445

for immediate release, April 28, 2009




Despite billions of dollars spent on a test-and-punish approach to school "reform," today's National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report provides more evidence that the federal No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) is a failure. With few exceptions, across three age groups and two subjects, the rate of improvement slowed compared with the previous period while gaps between blacks and white as well as
Hispanics and whites ranged from widening to unchanging to slightly

"NCLB is demonstrably unable to produce sustained and significant improvements even on a standardized test in the two subjects on which it focuses, reading and math. It also fails to make a real dent in the wide gaps between whites, African Americans and Latinos," said Monty Neill, Ed.D., FairTest's Deputy Director. "It is time to completely overhaul this educationally destructive law. The Forum on Educational
Accountability has produced a blueprint to rewrite the law to focus on improving schools not just inflating state test scores." Neill chairs the Forum, whose /Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB/ is endorsed by 150 national education, civil rights, religious, disability, parent, labor and civic groups.

Since NCLB, state test scores have typically increased, but NAEP results have failed to show similar increases. "This is a clear sign that schools are pressured to narrow curriculum and teach to the state tests. That inflates state test scores but the inflated scores don't mean real learning has improved," explained FairTest's Lisa Guisbond. "NCLB has proven to be counter-productive. The Obama administration and the
Congress must take the necessary steps to craft helpful, not harmful, federal legislation."

Numerous research reports have shown NCLB has led to narrowed curriculum, teaching to the test, organizational chaos, educator resentment, and other educational damage. Public opinion surveys have shown increasing public dislike of the law and strong opposition to the law's emphases on testing and sanctions.

*Summary of results from the NAEP 2008 Long Term Trend report, released April 28, 2009*

* Age 9 reading: reading scores did go up 4 points from 2004 to 2008, but they went up 7 points from 1999 to 2004 (more than 1.5 points/year). That is, the rate of improvement has slowed substantially since NCLB took hold compared to a period when at most NCLB might have had some impact at the very end of the period (2003-04). This tendency is common across subjects and age levels.

The black-white reading gap closed 3 points (statistically significant) while the Hispanic-white gap closed 4 points, also statistically significant. However, the Hispanic-white gap closed 7 points from 1999-2004, and the black-white gap closed 9 points from 1999-2004, about three times as fast. That is, while the racial gaps keep closing, the rate of closure has slowed dramatically. Similarly, there have been score gains for blacks and Hispanics, but the rate of improvement for both groups slowed in the 04-08 period compared with the 99-04 period.

* Age 13 reading: scores rose modestly but were approximately level with the scores of the early to mid 1990s.

o The black-white gap closed 4 points from 2004-2008, but that gap closed 7 points from 1999-2004. The Hispanic-white gap actually widened by 2 points from 2004-08 after widening one point in the 99-04 period. Actual scores have improved for blacks, but not for Hispanics.

* Age 17 reading: again, scores gained modestly, but in this case they have not returned to the higher levels reached from the late 1980s through the 1990s. o The black-white gap widened by 2 points from 2004-08 after narrowing 2 points from 1999-2004; and the Hispanic-white gap widened by 4 points from 04-08 after widening by 5 points from 99-04, with NCLB failing to reverse a negative trend. The black-white gap remains far wider than it was at its narrowest, in 1988, and black scores are still below their 1988 peak. The same is true for Hispanics, with 1999 their peak year and the smallest gap with whites.


* Age 9 math: the largest gains in the past were from 1986-90 (8 points) and 1999-2004 (9 points) – both 2 points per year gains. However, the 4-point gain from 2004 to 2008 averages only 1 point per year, showing that improvement rates have declined in age 9 math since NCLB took hold.

o From 2004-08, the black-white gap widened by 2 points and the Hispanic-white gap remained unchanged, with no changes being statistically significant.

* Age 13 math: in the five-year span from 1999 – 2004 NAEP rose 5 points, or 1 point per year. In the four years under NCLB, from 2004 to 2008, NAEP gains were only 2 points, or half the rate of improvement in the previous period.

o From 2004 to 2008, the black-white score gap closed 2 points and the Hispanic-white score gap remained unchanged, with no changes being statistically significant.

* Age 17 math: score have been essentially flat and are now slightly lower than the previous high point in 1999, prior to NCLB.

o The black-white gap closed one point from 2004-2008, while the Hispanic-white gap widened by two points, with no changes being statistically significant.


Beware The NAEP!

Bracey Offers to Tutor Sandy Kress on the NAEP Numbers

It is not unexpected to see the defenders of the testing factories to see sunshine in the headlights of the locomotive that is bearing down from the other end of the NCLB tunnel.

Here is little corrective from Jerry Bracey, posted at Assessment Reform Network listserv:
From: gerald bracey
Date: 4/28/2009 12:41:29 PM
To: Kelly Flynn
Subject: Re: NAEP?

Ms. Flynn,

You say that you are not a statistician. Clearly, neither is Mr. Kress. In fact, his own statement disproves his conclusion. He points to "big gains over the past 16 years." That cannot be a typo because there is no six year period--the period of the existence of NCLB up to the time of the latest testing--in the data. So he's giving NCLB credit for improving scores for a full 10 years when it did not exist.

Looking at the reading data, I see a one-point---one point!--gain for 17-year-olds between 2004 and 2008, a score that leave this age 4 points below their highest scores which occurred in the late 80's and early 90's.

I see a one-point--one point!--gain for 13 year olds, leaving them with precisely the same score as they had in 1992.

I see a one-point--one point!--gain for 9-year-olds. This is an all-time high, true. But most of the gain occurred between 1999 and 2004. As I have pointed out, NCLB came into existence only in 2002, experienced great implementation chaos early on--most states didn't even have their plans in to USDOE for the 2002-2003 school year, leaving only the fall of 2003 for NCLB to work its magic. Thus, most of the gains would have occurred during the Clinton administration, pre NCLB.

Looking at math, I see a one-point DECLINE for 17-year-olds from 2004 to 2008. This leaves them two points behind their all-time high in 1999.

Thirteen-year-olds show no change from 2004. Note that except for the extrapolated period between 1973 and 1978, scores for 13-year-olds had been rising since 1978.

Nine-year-olds show a 2-point gain. Again an all-time high, but for 9-year-olds math scores had been rising since 1982 and had risen 13 points by 1999. A jump occurs from 1999 to 2004, again, mostly occurring during the Clinton years for the reasons given above.

Bob Linn once observed that given the existing NAEP gains, it would take 166 years for 100% of the students to reach proficiency. We can see by the most recent data that Bob underestimated the duration needed.

It must also be remembered that while it is de rigueur currently to demean state standards, states had been raising their standards for some time, shortly after the appearance of A Nation At Risk. Such efforts render it tricky indeed to attribute any gains to NCLB

My statements are all predicated on data from the original format, but the conclusions would hold even if we used the revised format--the gains are tiny over the period considered. They are especially disappointing given the attention given to NCLB by the feds, the states and the media. I don't know why the USDOE didn't shift to the revised format reporting in 2004. Probably because it would have completely discredited Secretary Spellings' hyperbolic claims for the efficacy of NCLB at the time. Until I see some technical reports from disinterested parties, I'm treating it as statistical sleight of hand.

Actually, the national NAEP data are not all that meaningful because of the changing demographics of the nation. In 1975, 80% of 9-year-olds taking the test were white. In 2008, it was 58%. This leaves NAEP vulnerable to Simpson's paradox in which the who group shows one pattern, the subgroups a different one. The only ethnic subgroup to show stability is 17-year-old whites. All the others are up, some a lot, but they all started their rise well before they had to suffer under NCLB.

Incidentally, NAEP can be gamed. The easiest way is in terms of the percentage of students excluded from the sample for a variety of reasons.

Please feel free to share this in its entirety with Mr. Kress or, if you prefer, provide me an email and I will forward it.

Jerry Bracey

Why Is There An Achievement Gap?

Diane Ravitch on the McKinsey report:
But Klein and Sharpton use it [the McKinsey Report] to say something that the report itself does not say, which is that the only reason that the gap exists is because of subpar teachers and principals. Thus, if a school system can change its teachers and principals, the gaps should close. Klein has been in charge of the New York City public school system for the past seven years. He has replaced 80 percent of its principals during this time; the number of teachers he has replaced has not been reported. Yet according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, there has been no decline in the achievement gap among racial and ethnic groups in New York City since Klein took charge. [emphasis mine]
All data points to poverty as the main reason for the achievement gap. But when moneyed interests get to pay for biased research, anything can be the cause of the gap!

Resist the temptation to blame teachers and schools. Blame poverty. Then end it.


2nd Graders And Bell Curves

We started the "test" today. It was very formal. Second graders and "formal" are not a great combination. But I digress. I had to explain bell curves to 2nd graders today so they would understand that the fact that some of them finished the test with time to spare, still others had to be sent to the library during recess to finish (yes, they missed recess to finish a test that has little to do with them), but they are all intelligent.

Bell curves are awesome things. They illustrate how "normal" is not one place, but s series of places on a continuum, and most of us fit under that curve.

I had to explain because the slow kids felt like shit, and the fast kids thought they were "all that". So I knocked the pompous off their high horses, and lifted the distraught with my kindly scaffold.

My job is to teach the driest of the dry to little, interested, curious, wonderful, cute, talkative, rambunctious kids, then test them, and then explain to them the test doesn't mean anything in terms of their college acceptance.

Its a mixed, convoluted, confusing, ambivalent message we are sending to the students, their parents, and the public.

Do away with the test in elementary school, at least. It causes pain, and little else.

Monday Cartoon Fun: Sesame Street Edition

Lizza On Stewart Pwning Orszag

From Ryan Lizza's New Yorker piece:
Stewart was not satisfied. “Is it hard to talk to someone who doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about?” he said. “Because I’m watching you calculate, like, ‘Am I gonna go second grade on this guy? Do I have to go seventh grade on this guy? How do I do this?’ ” He asked Orszag why the government didn’t just bail out borrowers who have defaulted. “The problem is, if you just focussed on the people who defaulted you create this huge incentive to default,” Orszag replied. Stewart looked at Orszag with an astonished grin. Before Stewart could finish pointing out that the government is creating an equally huge incentive by bailing out the financial firms Orszag realized that he had been backed into a corner: “Yeah, none of this is perfect!”
John Stewart has a point. If all that bailout money had been given to the citizens who were in danger of default, the default danger would have been averted. Yes, some morons would decide that default is a great idea if the government is going to be bailing folks out. But isn't bailing out a guy like me, for the astronomical sum of say, a couple hundred thousand dollars, better than bailing out a bank where folks expect to get paid that much each year?

It was a mistake to bail out the greedy bastards. It should have been us, citizens, who got bailed out, and Orszag pretty much admitted as much in the quote above.

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