Lawrence Eagleburger, R.I.P.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The only career foreign service officer to rise to the position of secretary of state, was a straightforward diplomat whose exuberant style masked a hard-driving commitment to solving tangled foreign policy problems.

"As good as they come," recalled his immediate predecessor as America's top diplomat.

Eagleburger, who died Saturday at age 80, held the job late in George H.W. Bush's presidency, culminating a distinguished diplomatic career.
I'll reserve judgment.

Doug Noon: "As for me, I am done caring about reformist nonsense."

Doug Noon is tired of the nonsense, just like the rest of us in the trenches. Here is a snippet of his latest lament, and it's a sad state of affairs he is describing.

As for me, I am done caring about reformist nonsense. At a staff meeting earlier this year we were discussing our AimsWeb Data Boards put up around the room to show how many students in each grade level are below proficient, at risk, or proficient based on how well they handled an oral one-minute timed reading. To me, this was a disgusting display of a brain-dead method to evaluate reading. We were asked to say what we planned to do to improve our students’ scores. Since the data showed lots of kids scoring “below proficient” in first and second grade and very few in that category by the time they got to sixth, I observed that the trend was positive, and that at least as far as word-calling skills go, we seem to be doing all right. Teachers at each grade level announced what they planned to do, like focus on comprehension, vocabulary, decoding – the usual. When it was my turn, I said I’d be going with the happiness plan. What’s that? It’s getting the kids to enjoy reading so that they do it on their own. How does it work? Easy. Give them choices and time to read every day, and then celebrate their accomplishments. I got a round of applause. Kind of sad, really, when I think about what that might mean.

Saturday Cartoon Fun: GOP's Answer To Everything Edition


Jack Kevorkian, R.I.P.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, aka "Doctor Death" has died.
Jack Kevorkian — embraced as a compassionate crusader and reviled as a murderous crank — died early this morning.

Known as Dr. Death even before launching his fierce advocacy and practice of assisted suicides, Kevorkian, 83, died at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, where he had been hospitalized with kidney and heart problems.
Detroit Free Press


The Charter School Myth Take-down

School Finance 101 is good at explaining data, especially the lies used to misrepresent the data by those who would like to push their charter agenda. To wit:
The Offensively Defensive Ideology of Charter Schooling

There now exists a fair amount of evidence that Charter schools in many locations, especially high performing charter schools in New Jersey and New York tend to serve much smaller shares of low income, special education and limited English proficient students (see various links that follow). And in some cases, high performing charter schools, especially charter middle schools, experience dramatic attrition between 6th and 8th grade, often the same grades over which student achievement climbs, suggesting that a “pushing out” form of attrition is partly accounting for charter achievement levels.

As I’ve stated many times on this blog, the extent to which we are concerned about these issues is a matter of perspective. It is entirely possible that a school – charter, private or otherwise – can achieve not only high performance levels but also greater achievement growth by serving a selective student population, including selection of students on the front end and attrition of students along the way. After all, one of the largest “within school effects on student performance” is the composition of the peer group.

From a parent (or child) perspective, one is relatively unconcerned whether the positive school effect is function of selectivity of peer group and attrition, so long as there is a positive effect.

But, from a public policy perspective, the model is only useful if the majority of positive effects are not due to peer group selectivity and attrition, but rather to the efficacy and transferability of the educational models, programs and strategies. To put it very bluntly, charters (or magnet schools) cannot dramatically improve overall performance in low income communities by this approach, because there simply aren’t enough less poor, fluent English speaking, non-disabled children to go around. They are not a replacement for the current public system, because their successes are in many cases based on doing things they couldn’t if they actually tried to serve everyone.

Again, this is not to say that some high performing charters aren’t essentially effective magnet school programs that do provide improved opportunities for select few. But that’s what they are.
But rather than acknowledging these issues and recognizing charters and their successes for what they are (or aren’t), charter pundits have developed a series of very intriguing (albeit largely unfounded) defensive responses (read excuses) to the available data. These include the arguments that:
Read the rest, and the excellent point by point take-down (and links) here.


A Pretend Letter To Obama From This Brazen Teacher

I have mentioned This Brazen Teacher a few times because she is awesome, brilliant, fearless and kind.

I think her new video (she claims she is new at the video making) hits it out of the park. Spread the word. Share the vid.


Tuesday Bonus Cartoon Fun Bonus: Oh Yes We Can! Edition

Tuesday Bonus Cartoon Fun: Memorials Edition

Tuesday Cartoon Fun: The Debate Edition

Value Added Measures: Fail (Shanker Blog): Updated

Much of the criticism of value-added (VA) focuses on systematic bias, such as that stemming from non-random classroom assignment (also here). But the truth is that most of the imprecision of value-added estimates stems from random error. Months ago, I lamented the fact that most states and districts incorporating value-added estimates into their teacher evaluations were not making any effort to account for this error. Everyone knows that there is a great deal of imprecision in value-added ratings, but few policymakers seem to realize that there are relatively easy ways to mitigate the problem.

This is the height of foolishness. Policy is details. The manner in which one uses value-added estimates is just as important – perhaps even more so – than the properties of the models themselves. By ignoring error when incorporating these estimates into evaluation systems, policymakers virtually guarantee that most teachers will receive incorrect ratings. Let me explain.

Each teacher’s value-added estimate has an error margin (e.g., plus or minus X points). Just like a political poll, this error margin tells us the range within which that teacher’s “real” effect (which we cannot know for certain) falls. Unlike political polls, which rely on large random samples to get accurate estimates, VA error margins tend to be gigantic. One concrete example is from New York City, where the average margin of error was plus or minus 30 percentile points. This means that a New York City teacher with a rating at the 60th percentile might “actually” be anywhere between the 30th and 90th percentiles. We cannot even say with confidence whether this teacher is above or below average.

[Update! I forgot the following paragraph!!]

Now, here’s the problem: In virtually every new evaluation system that incorporates a value-added model, the teachers whose scores are not significantly different from the average are being treated as if they are. For example, some new systems sort teachers by their value-added scores, and place them into categories – e.g., the top 25 percent are “highly effective,” the next 25 percent are “effective,” the next 25 percent are “needs improvement,” and the bottom 25 percent are “ineffective.”
Read the whole thing @Shanker Blog

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