Saturday Cartoon Fun: Dow Jones Edition


Don't Forget To Back Up

So I've been reinstalling everything due to a hard drive failure.  That's why I have not been posting any delicious tidbits. 

Yes, I back up my computer regularly!  It was just time consuming putting everything back on the new drive. 

Please remember to back up your stuff!


"We Lie When..."

A comment over at Bridging Differences gets to the heart of everything NCLB. Please post this everywhere, often.
A few of the many lies of NCLB, in no particular order:

We lie when we speak of proficiency as if it were an objective standard when really it is just a number guessed at by a dozen teachers at a meeting one weekend. And half of the teachers thought the number was far too low and half thought it was far too high.

We lie when we say that a high score on a minimum-skills NCLB test means a student is "Advanced" when really it only indicates that the child has mastered mediocrity. A perfectionist, perhaps. But well-educated? Not even close.

We lie when we say we need more data and expensive software to understand that a child who has not passed the third grade test will not pass the fourth grade test and a child who has not passed either will never catch up and will not graduate. We don't need more data to know what we already know. Giving the child the fifth grade test the next year doesn't count as an intervention.

We lie when we say that a "year's growth" is equal to moving from 50th percentile to 50th percentile when we know that the number of scaled score points between the two tests will change from year to year to year.

We lie when we restructure our for-profit education company as a not-for-profit company knowing that Arne Duncan will hand out innovation grants to districts who partner with not-for-profit companies.

We lie when we say that too many children are unprepared for college-level work and then tell schools to spend more time focusing on NCLB tests when we know that prepping for NCLB tests in no way prepares students for college-level work.

We lie when we tell parents we have a guaranteed intervention that will save a child's future, but we do not lie to investors when our education company files legal papers for a public offering and we say that our methods are not guaranteed to work.

We lie when we pretend that the No Child Left Behind accountability system measures all children. As the Associated Press revealed long ago, NCLB has so many exclusions that millions of children are never counted.

We lie when we report NCLB test scores separated by race knowing it would be illegal to assign students to schools or programs using race.

We lie when NCLB data use race as a proxy for poverty.

We lie when we say that NCLB raised academic standards knowing that every comparison of state NCLB tests to external measures shows a decline.

We lie when we say that a test for which you can guess your way to a passing score is a valid test because it is built using complicated statistics that defy common sense.

We lie when we say a school is doing well when it failed to reach simple proficiency and failed to make AYP and only became a success when it had a third chance with a growth model which showed that it might be doing well at some point in the future. We lie when we say that an entire school district is a failure because some of its many schools are struggling. We are lying when we say that NCLB can accurately identify schools as a successful or failing.

We lie when we take a picture of a mentally challenged child pointing to the nickel and not the dime on a Friday afternoon because we need evidence of "applied number sense" for her NCLB portfolio, even though we know that by Monday morning she will have forgotten which is which.

We lie when we tell parents of mentally challenged children that we want them to get the best education so we will give them a small financial voucher to leave the public schools without telling them that removing their child from our rolls will help us to make AYP.

We lie when we keep very-high-functioning children in special education programs because they are the ones we intend to use when we decide whose test will be included in the 2% we are allowed to count under NCLB for our special education reporting.

We lie when we keep students who have learned to speak English in language learner programs because if they didn't take the language learner version of our NCLB test our scores might drop.

We lie when we report teacher value-added scores although we know we could not accurately identify the "teacher of record" for too many students. We lie and tell ourselves that it is okay because the scores cannot be used to hire or fire teachers. We lie when we say that an inaccurate negative report will not be used against a teacher because every lawyer knows that you cannot un-ring the bell.

We lie when we say releasing test items just like the ones on the next test doesn't hurt the validity of the next test. We lie when we say that statistics can adjust for institutionalized cheating.

We lie when we say we have a system that can use test scores to identify highly-skilled teachers, but the same teachers don't show up as highly-skilled from one year to the next even when they are teaching the same level of students in the same school.

We lie when we say that we are measuring whether a student is on grade level (using proficiency), determine that some students are not on grade level, but then advance those students to the next grade when we have just said that they were not ready for the next grade -- grade after grade until the 8th grade student is still stuck at a 5th grade level. Even the proponents of NCLB testing aren't confident enough in the tests to use the data to make a decision that might have some real impact.

We lie when we say that we have a system of rating teachers that is more rigorous than the old principal evaluations, but somehow a far majority of teachers are always better than average and almost every teacher willing to participate gets a bonus check of some size.

We lie when we say that we have a way of analyzing test scores that is not biased by race and hide the data showing that race is still an overwhelming predictor of the final results.

We lie when we claim that tests are designed by large groups of educators when only one or two people will make the decision about which test items will be on an actual test.

We lie when we speak of impossible theoreticals as if they were facts. If the worst students had the best teachers for three years in a row, then those would not be the best teachers any longer. And two of three teachers would have left the school after the first year of the program.

We lie when we don't report that the statisticians asked about the validity of growth models were just given a multi-year million dollar grant to study their use, so they probably won't have a definitive answer until that money runs out.

We lie when we say that there are no bad teachers and no bad students and no bad parents. Some bad parents have bad students who even graduate and somehow become bad teachers and go on to sire bad students of their own. We should stop hiring bad teachers, right after we stop hiring racist cops and firefighters who turn out to be arsonists and computer programmers who just sit there in their cubicle surfing for porn. We should find out who claims to have the perfect system for hiring teachers and fire that liar.

We lie when we say that what was learned from NCLB was never known before NCLB, but that is understandable. Every generation believes that it invented sex. No wonder these young ed reformers and the recently converted think they are the first to use "data" or the first to document differences between groups. Please, read a book published before you were born. Talk to someone who doesn't own an iPhone. If you're not careful, you might just learn something.

We lie when we report studies in which researchers have massaged data, edited samples, and applied statistical controls over and over again until they can say that charter schools are sometimes slightly better in some way than regular public schools.

We lie when we say that what gets measured gets done and then say that what doesn't get measured (history, science, the arts) is still getting done. Some people aren't very good at lying.

We lie when we say that the teachers' union IS NOT the problem. The teachers' unions have been selling out their younger members' futures by "working with" education "reformers" -- all to fund the coffers of the old guard in a ponzi scheme that will never pay off for today's starting teachers. Compromise decisions reached by the teachers' unions today will hurt teachers and students for decades to come.

We lie when we say that the teachers' union IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM in education because you know who pays you to say that, day after day, year after year, no matter what the issue. And cigarettes don't cause cancer.

We lie when we say that we need to pursue what is in the best interests of the children and not the adults because the real goal of education has always been to create a healthy, productive, creative, civilized society and that has always been in the best interests of adults. Adults, the far majority of society, benefit more from having well-educated children than the children do. We lie when we criticize some adults for being motivated by self-interest while suggesting that we, ourselves, are above that. The best lies are the ones we tell ourselves, aren't they?

We lie when we say that test-based accountability using these deeply flawed measures is the best system we have because it implies that the system is good enough and we know that getting and using so much misleading or wrong information cannot improve education. Having more misleading data and powerful computers to allow us to get to the inaccurate information faster will not help. It can't, it hasn't, and it won't.

And that's the truth.


Public Option Now!


My Jewish Son Doesn't (Yet) Know The Seven Sacraments (Thankfully): Updated

My son is in 7th grade in California, at a public school. I don't normally read the state standards, but when my son told me about his upcoming test and that he is not sure he knows all "7 sacraments" I got concerned (I don't know what they are--yet). After all, he is an atheist Jew, like me, and studying for his bar mitzvah.

When he mentioned the 7 sacraments my stomach turned. Is the class going to learn about the 600 or so mitvot? Fuck no! And there is no reason for them to learn this shit.

So, my foul language out of the way, I know many of you will say I am over-reacting to a rather benign bit of information. But look what I found among the History Standards for California's 7th graders:
7.10 Students analyze the historical developments of the Scientific Revolution and its lasting effect on religious, political, and cultural institutions.

1. Discuss the roots of the Scientific Revolution (e.g., Greek rationalism; Jewish, Christian, and Muslim science; Renaissance humanism; new knowledge from global exploration).

2. Understand the significance of the new scientific theories (e.g., those of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton) and the significance of new inventions (e.g., the telescope, microscope, thermometer, barometer).

3. Understand the scientific method advanced by Bacon and Descartes, the influence of new scientific rationalism on the growth of democratic ideas, and the coexistence of science with traditional religious beliefs.
The coexistence of science with traditional religious beliefs isn't possible.  A scientist may be able to reconcile holding both religion and science as co-existential, but they--the notions on their own--aren't.  Are they?  Isn't science about tossing out the old when new information deems/proves the old wrong or useless?  Doesn't religion make holy old books and ideas in exactly the opposite fashion--never tossing anything even though it's been shown to be erroneous?  Isn't faith the opposite of reason?

I cannot understand this standard.  How are religion and science able to coexist except as segregated, nearly mutually exclusive disciplines?

I want comments!

Update: Here are the Seven Sacraments:
The Seven Catholic Sacraments

The Latin word sacramentum means "a sign of the sacred." The seven sacraments are ceremonies that point to what is sacred, significant and important for Christians. They are special occasions for experiencing God's saving presence. That's what theologians mean when they say that sacraments are at the same time signs and instruments of God's grace.

If you learn more about the sacraments, you can celebrate them more fully. To learn more about the individual sacraments, please follow the links below. You'll find easy-to-understand articles and a good sample of common questions and answers.

Holy Orders
Anointing of the Sick
Now I am even more livid. And doing a word search for "sacrament" in the Standards produces not one result. The word sacrament is not there. I know, I know, there are lots of things we teachers teach that are not in the standards. But RELIGION?! Of all the choices a teacher can make, and she chooses religion?

I can't wait to see how my son's learning of Catholicism's idiosyncrasies and "sacraments" helps him in life, or school. Hopefully it will reinforce his demand for reason, evidence and facts.

I sure do love him, my little atheist Jew.

Update II: His teacher sent me an explanation:
Because the sacraments are an accessible and understandable part of the Catholic religion, they are taught as a part of our understanding of Medieval Europe. Medieval Europe was a highly religious society that centered around the Catholic church. Furthermore, much of the political and economic activity was run by the church. In order to understand the motivations of the people who lived during that time, we study the sacraments as they affected the choices people made in their every day life as well as people's understanding of their world (i.e.: the black plague was viewed as punishment from God- people turned to the sacraments to try and figure out what they had done to deserve punishment). Understanding the sacraments helps us understand WHY people made pilgrimages, why they participated in the Crusades, why they repented sin, why the Pope had such far reaching power and ultimately leads us into the reformation and age of reason when people began to question the church.

We will be studying Islam intensely in our study of the Middle East during medieval times (and the five pillars of the Islamic faith - as they tell us why people do what they do in Islamic societies), Buddhism in our study of China and Japan, Islam again in our study of West Africa, animalist religions, religions of the Maya, Aztec and Inca as well as changes in the church (reformation) and so on.

As a historian who is NON-religious, I find the study and understanding of religions to be fundamental in understanding a society as they permeate so much of daily life and activity. In fact, I find that by understanding the sacraments, I can better understand why people did what they did during Medieval times- they were very powerful motivators in the choices people made. In fact, in one story we looked at (Pope Gregory VII and Henry the IV) we can see how the sacraments had huge power- Henry (the King) begging Gregory to allow him back in the church because he feared he would be sent to purgatory.

If you would prefer that [your son] not be a part of these lessons, I would recommend that you speak to the district as to an alternative curriculum that would not contain religion.

If your concern is that Catholicism is somehow being "taught", I can assure you this is not the case. My classroom is a place where all views, religions, ethnicities, etc are celebrated, shared and explored. Nobody is expected to "believe" anything- but I do think that there is tremendous value in understanding as much about different views/religions as we can.

thank you,

Ms. [Teacher]
I don't know. I'm not convinced that she is NOT teaching religion. She is explaining this part of history not as people reacting to an oppressive church, but as believers who buy completely the whole of their religion. There needs to be, in my opinion, some push-back against the notion that behaviors were organic due to belief as opposed to forced due to fear of the Church.

I just think there ought to be a bit more skepticism and a bit less deference paid to the power of religion and more deference paid to power of fear.

But what the hell do I know?

Happy Columbus Day

TFA Takedown

Corporate Missionaries vs. Professionals

Denise Gelberg cuts right to the chase in this essay about TFA and the role of fast-track temps with Ivy League degrees. Gelberg is also the author of, "The 'Business' of Reforming American Schools," a worthwhile read detailing education reform efforts of the business community during the past century. From The Cornell Daily Sun:

h/t Schools Matter

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